Cultural Diplomacy: What role for Cities and Civil Society Actors?

May 21, 2019 all-day Europe/Rome Timezone

Organisers : Yudhishthir Raj Isar | American University of Paris and Anna Triandafyllidou | European University Institute

Cultural diplomacy as discourse and practice looms large today in both cultural policy studies and international relations. In effect, the term cultural diplomacy is very widely used, so much so that it has become a floating signifier, commonly deployed by foreign policy establishments and the arts and culture sector alike. Many of the ways in which the term itself is used go well beyond its original meaning, namely the processes that occur when formal diplomats, operating at the service and in the name of their governments, use cultural resources to help advance national interests. Earlier, analysts made a distinction between such governmentally driven cultural practice and the far less instrumental processes of international cultural relations, which are still based on flows of cultural exchange that take place naturally and organically, without government intervention. While ever increasing numbers of political scientists and cultural analysts are researching cultural diplomacy, their attention is directed mainly at phenomena and processes taking place at the governmental level, between and among nation-states. This form of ‘methodological nationalism’ has led to two major lacunae, both of which merit further debate and further research. The first of these is that there is very little direct analysis of the motivations, values and efforts of civil society actors in the field. The second is the relative absence of research on how cities are now practicing international cultural relations and diplomacy among themselves – and they are often doing this via the agency of civil society actors. The intention of this workshop is to begin to fill both of these gaps. It will do so through panel discussions on the following two topics: Civil Society Actors in Cultural Diplomacy and Cities as Cultural Diplomacy Actors.


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