Workshop on US Cultural Diplomacy after the Cold War
In April 2021, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that "America’s arts and culture are a major source of our national strength… I can’t wait until it is safe again for American artists to hit the road". As the Biden administration seeks to implement a more activist and internationally acceptable foreign policy following Trump's highly controversial term in office, and set against the backdrop of domestic political strife as well as the global power shift that has witnessed the US decline from its former unipolar status to a power increasingly faced with challengers in a multipolar world, now is a convenient time to reflect on the role of cultural diplomacy as a means to advance American interests. As this subject has not received systematic coverage in any other recent academic publication, with most studies only covering the Cold War period, this workshop aims to bring scholarship on the topic up to date. The major output will be an edited book to be published in 2023. We therefore invite paper contributions of 8,000-10,000 words, with drafts circulated to the participants in advance of the workshop.
As the workshop intends to examine US cultural diplomacy through a diverse array of prisms, we encourage paper proposals on the following themes:
- The place of cultural diplomacy in US foreign policy in terms of strategy, leadership, funding, bureaucracy, and high-level interest. In what ways did different Presidents/Secretaries of State view the importance of US cultural diplomacy and actively encourage it versus denigrate and deprive it of support?
- Theoretical prisms. What types of theories can be used to evaluate American cultural diplomacy in relation to US foreign policy and international power relations more broadly?
- Challenging standing assumptions about Cold War vs post-Cold War cultural diplomacy. Was Cold War cultural diplomacy more effective than in the post-Cold War?
- Evolution. How did the US approach to cultural diplomacy evolve in the 1990s vs 2000s vs 2010s, what were the major themes, and how did it change in reaction to important pivot points, e.g. 9/11, the Trump era, the rise of China, the Covid crisis? What types of cultural programs have featured in the post-Cold War that didn’t earlier?
- Regional strategies. In addition to the Middle East after 9/11, in what ways has US cultural diplomacy focused on particular regions and been configured accordingly? With increasing American interest in the Asia-Pacific region, has this had any impact on cultural diplomacy initiatives?
- The role of Congress. In what ways has the US Congress supported or impeded cultural diplomacy?
- Changes in US culture. To what extent does US cultural diplomacy adapt to changes in US culture and pick and choose what sort of themes it wants to represent America to the world? How are these choices made, and who makes them?
- Impact. Are there any notable cases of exhibitions, performances and other cultural programs during the post-Cold War that have been viewed by the State Department, local audiences and critics as being particularly successful or controversial? On what basis are these judgements made?
- Private-public partnerships. What has the contribution of private sector partners been in US post-Cold War cultural diplomacy?
- Emerging themes. In what ways has US cultural diplomacy in the post-Cold war reflected themes such as race, sexuality, gender, climate change and religion?