.
A

rt has the power to change the world. It can change how individuals see and experience the world, it can be a symbol of protest, or it can simply bring people together. Due to its power, it can serve as a force for good and bringing people together or a force for evil if used to tear people apart. For years, international relations scholars have examined how a nation’s culture and ideas can play in promoting their national “soft power” while others have sought to bring together the world beyond borders. To ensure that the best possible future is contemplated and steps taken to achieve this goal, Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) is hosting its latest session, “Current of Change: Redefining Cultural Diplomacy for the Future we Need.” As an organization whose mission is to “challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world,” SGS has brought together over 60 artists, policy makers, and academics to think about the potential for art as a tool for improving the world and the role that cultural diplomacy can play in bringing us closer to the future we need.

Whither Cultural Diplomacy?

But what does this term “cultural diplomacy” mean? Who are cultural diplomats? Different actors use the terms to mean different things depending on their context and role within the cultural exchange process. For some, cultural diplomacy is the manner in which the state (through a foreign ministry or different agency) leverages cultural assets to present itself abroad or to support artistic expression in other countries. However, the term cultural diplomacy is also used much more broadly to discuss the ways in which artists from different countries engage with one another or even to artists of different cultures within different countries engage with one another.

Given the connotation between diplomacy and inter-state relations, some prefer to adopt the phrase cultural relations to discuss the relations between artistic actors and organizations while reserving the term cultural diplomacy for the intentional use of culture by states to pursue their goals—both those that are purely about supporting artistic expression or about promoting their image abroad. For others, artists engaged in the exchange of culture with others are advocates or cultural translators. Fellows at this SGS session are considering all of these actors and actions, asking the key question – how can state-centric and artist-driven approaches – synergistically or separately – amplify impact to make a better world? 

The Agents and Impact of Cultural Diplomacy

Artists from across the globe have often formed communities of practice and shared artistic performance across national borders. These collaborations can lead to better understandings of the cultural differences and similarities that exist around the world. This can take the form of artists collaborating with artists in other countries, performing or showcasing their art in other countries, or working to share their artistic knowledge with those in other countries. This process can create linkages across societies that both embrace the diversity of international art while recognizing the similarities and shared sentiments that art can create. 

Given the power of art to transform politics— both domestically and globally—states have also sought to expand their foreign policy agendas by leveraging cultural diplomacy to shape perceptions and to provide opportunities to artists at home and abroad. This form of cultural diplomacy can focus specifically on creating narratives for the state or simply focus on presentations of one’s culture to audiences aboard, but it can also serve to create meaningful connections between artists and communities. While some artists may fear that this undermines their artistic integrity (or at least shapes art in the eye of the beholder), others see how art can promote peace and reduce the probability of conflict even when it may be for geopolitical reasons. For their part, government officials often see cultural diplomacy as an opportunity not only to support the arts and human rights abroad, but as a medium through which they can engage with countries with whom relations are complicated or address topics that would otherwise not be able to be discussed. 

As this session progresses, one thing is increasingly clear; participants of all stripes feel that cultural diplomacy and cultural relations can be leveraged to a greater degree to promote a better society. Engaging the connections between the state and artists from across the globe requires recognizing the different ways in which artists and diplomats see the world and finding ways not only to talk across cultures, but to talk across professions. While the world views of the artist and the diplomat may differ, both can be activists for changing cultural diplomacy and relations in ways that promote a more just and peaceful world.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Artists, Activists, and Diplomats

Image via Shutterstock

July 6, 2022

What is cultural diplomacy, who are (and should be) the agents of cultural diplomacy, and how can we maximize impacts for a better future? Over 60 experts are convening at Salzburg Global Seminar's latest program to consider these questions, writes DC Editor and session rapporteur Adam Ratzlaff.

A

rt has the power to change the world. It can change how individuals see and experience the world, it can be a symbol of protest, or it can simply bring people together. Due to its power, it can serve as a force for good and bringing people together or a force for evil if used to tear people apart. For years, international relations scholars have examined how a nation’s culture and ideas can play in promoting their national “soft power” while others have sought to bring together the world beyond borders. To ensure that the best possible future is contemplated and steps taken to achieve this goal, Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) is hosting its latest session, “Current of Change: Redefining Cultural Diplomacy for the Future we Need.” As an organization whose mission is to “challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world,” SGS has brought together over 60 artists, policy makers, and academics to think about the potential for art as a tool for improving the world and the role that cultural diplomacy can play in bringing us closer to the future we need.

Whither Cultural Diplomacy?

But what does this term “cultural diplomacy” mean? Who are cultural diplomats? Different actors use the terms to mean different things depending on their context and role within the cultural exchange process. For some, cultural diplomacy is the manner in which the state (through a foreign ministry or different agency) leverages cultural assets to present itself abroad or to support artistic expression in other countries. However, the term cultural diplomacy is also used much more broadly to discuss the ways in which artists from different countries engage with one another or even to artists of different cultures within different countries engage with one another.

Given the connotation between diplomacy and inter-state relations, some prefer to adopt the phrase cultural relations to discuss the relations between artistic actors and organizations while reserving the term cultural diplomacy for the intentional use of culture by states to pursue their goals—both those that are purely about supporting artistic expression or about promoting their image abroad. For others, artists engaged in the exchange of culture with others are advocates or cultural translators. Fellows at this SGS session are considering all of these actors and actions, asking the key question – how can state-centric and artist-driven approaches – synergistically or separately – amplify impact to make a better world? 

The Agents and Impact of Cultural Diplomacy

Artists from across the globe have often formed communities of practice and shared artistic performance across national borders. These collaborations can lead to better understandings of the cultural differences and similarities that exist around the world. This can take the form of artists collaborating with artists in other countries, performing or showcasing their art in other countries, or working to share their artistic knowledge with those in other countries. This process can create linkages across societies that both embrace the diversity of international art while recognizing the similarities and shared sentiments that art can create. 

Given the power of art to transform politics— both domestically and globally—states have also sought to expand their foreign policy agendas by leveraging cultural diplomacy to shape perceptions and to provide opportunities to artists at home and abroad. This form of cultural diplomacy can focus specifically on creating narratives for the state or simply focus on presentations of one’s culture to audiences aboard, but it can also serve to create meaningful connections between artists and communities. While some artists may fear that this undermines their artistic integrity (or at least shapes art in the eye of the beholder), others see how art can promote peace and reduce the probability of conflict even when it may be for geopolitical reasons. For their part, government officials often see cultural diplomacy as an opportunity not only to support the arts and human rights abroad, but as a medium through which they can engage with countries with whom relations are complicated or address topics that would otherwise not be able to be discussed. 

As this session progresses, one thing is increasingly clear; participants of all stripes feel that cultural diplomacy and cultural relations can be leveraged to a greater degree to promote a better society. Engaging the connections between the state and artists from across the globe requires recognizing the different ways in which artists and diplomats see the world and finding ways not only to talk across cultures, but to talk across professions. While the world views of the artist and the diplomat may differ, both can be activists for changing cultural diplomacy and relations in ways that promote a more just and peaceful world.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.