All posts by Emi

Can the US government genuinely engage with foreign public?

Comor&Bean state that the American government’s embrace of engagement in PD is delusional because it is virtually an “effort at manipulation” to get foreign audience empathize with American policies, rather than “genuine dialogue.” They suggest the government revise this to “a rhetorical approach based on ethical communication,” which gives people “the right and prospective ability to obtain and judge messages and make decisions that affect them.”

 

This reminds of an interview I had with Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Senior VP for the Arts at Meridian International Center. He emphasized he always makes sure to deliver programs in the way audience can make their own decision, and tries not to tell audience to think in a certain way.

 

Moreover, last semester, for my “Cultural Leadership” class, I conducted interviews with leaders in intercultural field. One of the interviewees was Ms. Aimee Fullman. Ms. Fullman mentioned, when she wants to motivate people, she believes it is always important to ask questions, trying to figure out the significance of what they are doing together, in light of “where does this fit into their journey?” Although this interview itself was not about PD, I think her approach is very close to “genuine dialogue” Comor&Bean suggesting, rather than trying to manipulate others to agree with own value.

 

Comor&Bean say this approach is difficult to achieve since it is “a direct challenge to entrenched US foreign policy norms,” which implies it will take quite a long time for the government to make the shift.

 

Dr. Sandberg stated one of their advantages over the government is their flexibility. I’m now wondering whether the government really needs to apply this approach by itself? It might be better (or easier) to have more partnerships with non-governmental actors, which can operate with flexibility and independence in carrying out the initiatives?

 

-Emi

What is “neutrality”? How does it play in cultural diplomacy context?

http://www.companye.org/turkmenistan.images.1.html
http://www.companye.org/turkmenistan.images.1.html

Last month, I participated a symposium organized by arts management students’ group, and attended a break-out session “Arts&Diplomacy.” During the session, the panel speakers from Meridian International Center and CompanyE, both non-governmental/non-profit organizations that create cultural exchange/diplomacy programs, emphasized “neutrality” as one of their strengths. I’ve become interested in this word and what it exactly means.

In fact, the website of Meridian uses this word several times:

Meridian stands at a neutral intersection of the public, private and diplomatic sectors, giving our public programs and events a depth and scope that is unique.

Provide a neutral forum for international collaboration across sectors

…by creating neutral environments where people can appreciate each other at all levels of society.

I found this study by Zatepilina, which also talks about NGOs’ “neutrality” in PD but questions it:

 A few participants questioned NGOs ’neutrality or perceived neutrality. Regardless of whether or not an NGO receives government funding, once in a host country it cannot completely separate itself from its government, argued some interviewees. […] As a result, NGOs are not always seen as ‘good guys’ – that is, as independent and impartial – rather they are seen as actors in the power struggle.

That is, even if NGOs think themselves as “neutral”, that does not mean their foreign counterparts perceive in the same way, or in a favorable meaning. Rather, “neutrality” might be seen negatively, or convey the fuzziness of their position.

This reminds me of Pamment’s words: “these audiences are now considered active, and greater emphasis is placed on how they make meaning.”

“Neutrality” is much more complex than I’d thought. Since Zatepilina  does not include any arts organization in his study, I wonder how “neutrality” plays differently/similarly, in cultural diplomacy context especially where they engage people through arts?

Emi

Setting conditions for cultural exchange?

I found this article by Seiichi Kondo, the former Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan, about his view about cultural diplomacy.

He was the first diplomat who turned into the commissioner, and had also worked as the first Director-General at Department of Public Diplomacy in Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kondo states that the government should “create an environment that enables and encourages the free development of culture, while removing obstacles to the exchange with other cultures” but “should not intervene in cultural affairs nor set conditions for cultural exchange.” He also says “Cultural activities take on diplomatic meaning in consequence as they spread; no culture is and should be designed for diplomacy from the beginning” and that “it is a good thing that culture results in promoting national interests, and there is no problem in the government encouraging this.”

This resonates with Gienow-Hecht’s view about the characteristic of successful cultural diplomacy: distance between the agent of a cultural diplomacy program and a political agenda.

Yet, Kondo believes “the most effective way to disseminate Japanese culture is to invite talented artists rather than sending art works and artists abroad.”

In fact, the Agency is now providing a grant for international artists-in-residence program in Japan. Its guideline specifies that it should be used to cover the cost for foreign artists to stay in Japanese arts residencies but not for that of Japanese artists.

The foreign artists would have opportunities to interact with Japanese people during their stay and it is mutually beneficial. Still,  I think this is rather one-way and more about telling than listening.

As Deos, and many other authors of our reading says, successful diplomacy requires two-way or “bi-directional communication of listening.”

I think the grant should fund the cost for Japanese artists as well.

Emi

 

Conflict Kitchen: Dialogue Through Food

http://conflictkitchen.org/photos/
http://conflictkitchen.org/photos/

This is a very interesting TED talk about “gastrodiplomacy,” cultural diplomacy through a country’s culinary delights. Among the several gastrodiplomacy examples she raised during the lecture, I’d like to focus here on “Conflict Kitchen.”

Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant in Pittsburg, which only serves food from countries that the United Stated is in conflict with. Previously, they served food from Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela, and now they are serving North Korean food.
What is appealing about this project is how they prepare and serve the food. They worked collaboratively with North Korean defectors to create the menu and to develop the recipes. And the food is served packaged in wrappers, which include interviews with North Korean people on the food, culture, and politics of their country. Each interview section includes multiple perspectives and sometime they contradict to each other; it also includes criticisms about their government. That is, the customers not only get a tasty meal from little-known countries but a chance to get a broader view about the country “outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines,” and to start discussion.

Both their planning process and the way the food is served involve interactive activities. Although they rotate the menus every few months in relation to current geopolitical events, the project itself seems to have no or very little governments’ involvement.
Distant from political control and interactive structure are the two characteristics described in Gienow-Hecht’s argument about successful cultural diplomacy.

-Emi

Transforming Arms into Art

Transforming Arms into Art

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

After the Mozambique civil war, millions of weapons left in the country. In 1995, the Christian Council of Mozambique started Transforming Arms into Tools project, which offered people farming equipment and tools in exchange for guns. Then a group of Mozambican artists turned them into sculptures.

I wonder this is a part of the ‘new’ public diplomacy Pamment describes.

Firstly, it says the project is supported by the Mozambique government. Exhibitions of the sculptures were held in twelve countries. Furthermore, I found that an exhibition came to Japan last summer, which was realized by a Japanese professor of African studies, who learned about this project and asked the artists to create new artworks to display.
In the BBC website, Carey from British Museum says the sculpture speaks the will to “overcome violence through practical and creative means which resonates with people at a personal and collective level.” Also, the article describes the sculpture, “unusually for such a commemorative piece,” it “speaks to us of hope and resolution.” Moreover, an audience of the exhibition made a comment on the website that he was so impressed that he’d like to help teach people to make sculptures in Africa.

According to Pamment, while the ‘old’ public diplomacy has been a “one-way flow of information”, a ‘new’ public diplomacy” is “two-way engagement with the public.” He also mentions that audiences are now “active and greater emphasis is placed on how they make meaning and how they feed back into the communication process.”

This project seems to have been quite successful in physically transforming the weapons into artworks, and changing the negative image of violence into peace. The project also generated two-way engagement of the public, which eventually brought new artworks to Japan, and might bring an audience to Mozambique to teach people to make sculptures.

Emi

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Other related articles I referred to:

-“Transforming Arms into Tools”, ALMA,

http://www.almalink.org/transtool.htm

-Mescla, the website of a furniture designer Carla Botosso, who have been involved in the projects.

http://www.mescla.dk/projects.html

-The article about the exhibition of the sculptures in Japan

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201307110071

-“A History of the World: Throne of Weapons,” BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/97OnxVXaQkehlbliKKDB6A