Tag Archives: #week12

The J-Wave

 

This week I had the pleasure of leading a class discussion on Anne Allison’s piece, “Attractions of the J-Wave for American Youth.” I have to admit that this article did resonate with me personally because I myself am fascinated with Japanese pop culture. My brother has been a fan of anime since before I can remember. My interest stemmed from stories and pictures that family members living in Japan shared with me. I began collecting everything Hello Kitty, researched geisha history and even visited Japan myself where I was able to see Harajuku first hand where I came across young women dressed similar to the ones in the photo above.

I have to agree with Allison when she states that the attraction to Japanese pop culture products is stemmed from attractions to what is different. Harajuku fashion, anime and geisha are something of a fantasy and it’s something about the unknown that always seems to draw you in.

These new models of global imagination do carry a lot of attractive power. My interest in Japan lead me to visit the country myself. I loved my experience! I was able to visit and see firsthand all of the magical places I had read about or seen on T.V. I do not mean to romanticize an entire country–but I do think that Japan is very fascinating. However, the author of the article suggests that their cultural products aren’t necessarily translating into soft power. Allison proposed in her article that soft power should be re-imagined. She thinks that it should be assessed not just in terms of interests it has for the producing country, but on how their cultural products are imagined. What do you think?

Does the U.S. have something to learn from Japanese PD in the M.E.?

Tonight I lead the class discussion on Tadashi Ogawa’s article, “Origin and Development of Japan’s Public Diplomacy.” While most of the chapter was a historic overview of Public Diplomacy in Japan from the 1860’s to present day, there were some nuances that I pointed out which I would like to reiterate.

While reading the chapter, I couldn’t help but think about the significance of the fact that global publics mistrusted Japan the more the nation excelled in and promoted its hard power (in their case in reference to economic power). Because of this criticism and misunderstanding, Ogawa explained that Japan ramped up their public diplomacy efforts, creating the Japan Foundation (which operated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to foster cultural exchanges and Japanese language studies.

I also found Japan’s approach to PD in the Middle East to be quite fascinating. Ogawa explains that the Japanese approach advocates for allowing a period of healing for the countries in the M.E. in order for them to regain their dignity as a group of citizens. The Japanese believe that only then can you begin to guide the M.E. with culturally appropriate PD programs (especially in cases when these programs are being lead by nations strong in hard power).

Another thing I thought was worthy of note was Japan’s program to educate the Japanese people on the homeland about the cultures of the M.E. I thought this showed a lot of cultural sensitivity and was a good long-term way to foster connections and respect between the two cultures.

We had a very good discussion in class on the question I posed of whether or not we can draw comparisons to between Japan’s PD and the future of U.S. PD in relation to what we have done in the middle east. The responses were a bit divided, but I would love to continue the discussion here. So what do you think? Do we have something to learn from the Japanese approach, once we have had a chance to look back and access, and move forward with PD programs?

Seeing through the eyes of the audience

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The article below tells the story of a perplexing ad posted to the New York Times, which seems to promote nothing more than the consumption of bulgogi (Korean barbeque) at your local Korean restaurant:

http://n.pr/1lC9A5y

What is going on here? The NPR write who sees this ad digs a little deeper and finds that the ad—along with several equally strange ones—are linked to a website supported by a Korean fast food chain. At face value, the campaign seems to be related to food, but the website contains information about all kinds of Korean foreign policy matters, including the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands.

Firstly, I must first admit that this is technically not a public diplomacy effort- it is being pursued by a company rather than the government of Korea. However, there appears to be at least a gentle degree of support from the Korean government- state-operated TV channel Arirang ran a reportage on the ‘PD’ campaign in a very positive light.

However, I think this misguided application of PD techniques teaches an important knowledge: Think about how it will look to your audience. While the idea of food diplomacy and putting a soft touch to Korean PD sounds like a good idea, its execution left Americans more confused than persuaded. Another example of a PD ‘own goal’ is the naming of China’s English language network: CCTV, an acronym shared with closed-circuit television (aka video surveillance) in many English-speaking countries.

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

‘Doctor Zhivago’: A double-edged sword in Cultural-Literary Diplomacy

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As we navigate Japan’s cultural diplomacy this week, the “cultural” aspect of diplomacy is underscored once more. We think about how we perceive initiatives meant to captivate audience’s attention towards a certain nation and their policies, convictions, and norms. Usually, we focus on what a specific government or organization within a country is trying to transmit. But we rarely look at how other powerful institutions in competing nations frame other’s diplomatic assets. Indeed, that is the subject of an article in the Washington Post published on April 5, During Cold War, CIA used ‘Doctor Zhivago’ as a tool to undermine Soviet Union”.

As the novel, written by a Russian poet, was banned in the Soviet Union, the UK and the US seized the opportunity to use it as a soft power weapon to portray the USSR as the freedom-enemy it was, and to provide legitimacy and garner support for the war. In words of a CIA memo, “This book has great propaganda value, not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature, but also for the circumstances of its publication: we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.” The CIA’s active involvement in helping distribute the novel clandestinely throughout Eastern-bloc circles echoed its efforts to use literature as double-edged swords for propaganda against communism and in favor of the Western position. Thanks to this, the novel won a Nobel Peace Prize- with all of the implications this had for the diplomatic wars of the time. Along with “1984”, “Animal Farm”, and “Dr Zhivago” the article states, “over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.” In a concerted move by Western allies, the book was distributed widely to Russian citizens and caught global attention, as the US intended- even from the Vatican, which also helped disseminate it. It was a savvy move in the “Communism vs Freedom” Western diplomacy.