.
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ore than 60 individuals from 28 different countries came together from July 5-8 at Salzburg Global Seminar’s “Currents of Change: Redefining Cultural Diplomacy for the Future we Need.” Participants included artists and policy makers, funders and activists, members of civil society and international organizations, academics, and futurists. Many of the fellows approach cultural diplomacy differently, even in terms of what is meant by “cultural diplomacy,” but they still agreed on important insights which can help us to better understand the potential of cultural diplomacy and how to employ it in order to create a better world.  

“As a curator of Currents of Change we invited cultural, government, and institutional leaders from twenty-eight nations to envision a new inclusive model. We learnt that if Cultural Diplomacy is to have a future, then, we must emphatically embrace the diversity of perspectives of nations and peoples… Cultural diplomacy can no longer be considered as an addendum. It is an imperative to bridging divides.” -Dr. Xenia Hanusiak, cultural diplomat  and Co-Curator of “Currents of Change.”

Centering the Artist in Cultural Diplomacy

Art—whatever the medium—has the potential for immense political power. It can bring people together or highlight the challenges that a society faces. However, for art to reach its potential, we must not only look at the role of the art itself. We must also ensure that artists are centered within the conversation. Ensuring spaces in which artists can openly create without fear their art may be misused can help the power of art to flourish and for cultural relations to expand. 

Furthermore, artists can do things traditional diplomats cannot. Traditionally, diplomats must carefully articulate points to avoid harming their government’s interests. Cultural diplomacy allows for discussing difficult topics while bypassing bureaucratic, political hurdles faced by other forms of diplomacy.  However, this can only be done when art and artists are adequately valued, which is only possible by centering the role of the artist in the process.

Countries Must Represent and Leverage their Diversity

Countries should embrace their own diversity in their cultural diplomacy to highlight the similarities that they share with countries across the globe as well as the values of pluralism. For large countries this could mean highlighting the diversity of their domestic populations. For smaller countries, this could often be done by highlighting their diaspora communities situated elsewhere. By recognizing the diversity of one’s own population and actively highlighting this within their cultural diplomacy, countries move from trying to present a homogenous “national culture” toward one that is more inclusive and representative of the array of lived experiences of their country. This creates more critical art that can speak to the reality of lived experience and bring people together in more meaningful ways. 

Cultural Diplomacy Goes Local

While we often focus on the international aspect of cultural relations in framing discussions around the power of cultural diplomacy, cultural relations at the domestic level are important as well. Although it is important for countries to recognize the diversity of their populations in their own cultural diplomacy, many countries continue to ignore and marginalize portions of their own societies. These can include ethno-racial minorities, indigenous peoples, or immigrant populations.

In pushing to ensure that the voices of these groups are heard and recognized within the national political and cultural scene, cultural actors—whether chefs, musicians, or artists—and cultural institutions can play a critical role in amplifying these voices and their stories. Such amplification is critical not only for representing the shared humanity of societies and the role that all play in the “national culture,” but for reducing polarization evident in countries across the globe. 

Moving Beyond Borders 

For some, state-led cultural diplomacy is primarily about propaganda. As societies become increasingly interconnected and realize that the most pressing challenges often cross borders, it is important to lean into the important role that cultural relations—as conducted by non-governmental actors—can play in bringing people together in meaningful ways. Non-governmental actors are uniquely positioned to create communities of practice that challenge contemporary modes of thinking and recognize shared humanity and experiences across the globe.

“I am even more convinced that the future of Cultural Diplomacy is about relinquishing power and the need for a radical rethinking of the structures we currently know and work with… With the next generation, as well as various non-Western cultures, thinking radically differently about structures, power, and silos/borders, it might be time for them - artists and civic actors -to lead us into entirely new ways… systems-thinking for the future they, and all of us, need.” –Erwin Maas, Theatermaker and Co-Curator of “Currents of Change.”

The Power of Technology

Technology has the power to both bring together communities across borders as well as expose individuals to cultures other than their own. While we have seen the polarizing potential of technology, it also has immense potential in the cultural diplomacy space to alter the conduct and reach of cultural diplomacy. By creating spaces that allow artists and creators to engage with audiences across borders, we can radically increase the ability of cultural relations to reach new audiences and a larger global impact. This has the power to pressure governments as art transcends borders through the internet and individuals call for change across the globe.

Technology also serves another important purpose. For many “digital natives,” the world of national borders is rapidly becoming an out-of-date concept. As young people engage with one another across borders, new communities of practice—both within sub-cultures like gaming as well as artistic communities—can create new worlds in which national origin matters less than their shared digital connection. 

Conclusions

While there are many important lessons that can be drawn about cultural diplomacy and how we can improve it, the first step is to ensure that the different actors that are involved in the process of cultural diplomacy and relations are talking to one another. All have important ways of thinking about the future of cultural diplomacy and only by looking at the way forward collectively will we be able to “redefin[e] cultural diplomacy for the future we need.”

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is 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.

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The Future of Cultural Diplomacy

Image via Pixabay.

July 11, 2022

Salzburg Global Seminar last week wrapped up its Redefining Cultural Diplomacy series. Attendees reconsidered the roles of artists, governments, and tech in cultural diplomacy, coming to some moving conclusions for the future, writes DC Editor and event rapporteur Adam Ratzlaff.

M

ore than 60 individuals from 28 different countries came together from July 5-8 at Salzburg Global Seminar’s “Currents of Change: Redefining Cultural Diplomacy for the Future we Need.” Participants included artists and policy makers, funders and activists, members of civil society and international organizations, academics, and futurists. Many of the fellows approach cultural diplomacy differently, even in terms of what is meant by “cultural diplomacy,” but they still agreed on important insights which can help us to better understand the potential of cultural diplomacy and how to employ it in order to create a better world.  

“As a curator of Currents of Change we invited cultural, government, and institutional leaders from twenty-eight nations to envision a new inclusive model. We learnt that if Cultural Diplomacy is to have a future, then, we must emphatically embrace the diversity of perspectives of nations and peoples… Cultural diplomacy can no longer be considered as an addendum. It is an imperative to bridging divides.” -Dr. Xenia Hanusiak, cultural diplomat  and Co-Curator of “Currents of Change.”

Centering the Artist in Cultural Diplomacy

Art—whatever the medium—has the potential for immense political power. It can bring people together or highlight the challenges that a society faces. However, for art to reach its potential, we must not only look at the role of the art itself. We must also ensure that artists are centered within the conversation. Ensuring spaces in which artists can openly create without fear their art may be misused can help the power of art to flourish and for cultural relations to expand. 

Furthermore, artists can do things traditional diplomats cannot. Traditionally, diplomats must carefully articulate points to avoid harming their government’s interests. Cultural diplomacy allows for discussing difficult topics while bypassing bureaucratic, political hurdles faced by other forms of diplomacy.  However, this can only be done when art and artists are adequately valued, which is only possible by centering the role of the artist in the process.

Countries Must Represent and Leverage their Diversity

Countries should embrace their own diversity in their cultural diplomacy to highlight the similarities that they share with countries across the globe as well as the values of pluralism. For large countries this could mean highlighting the diversity of their domestic populations. For smaller countries, this could often be done by highlighting their diaspora communities situated elsewhere. By recognizing the diversity of one’s own population and actively highlighting this within their cultural diplomacy, countries move from trying to present a homogenous “national culture” toward one that is more inclusive and representative of the array of lived experiences of their country. This creates more critical art that can speak to the reality of lived experience and bring people together in more meaningful ways. 

Cultural Diplomacy Goes Local

While we often focus on the international aspect of cultural relations in framing discussions around the power of cultural diplomacy, cultural relations at the domestic level are important as well. Although it is important for countries to recognize the diversity of their populations in their own cultural diplomacy, many countries continue to ignore and marginalize portions of their own societies. These can include ethno-racial minorities, indigenous peoples, or immigrant populations.

In pushing to ensure that the voices of these groups are heard and recognized within the national political and cultural scene, cultural actors—whether chefs, musicians, or artists—and cultural institutions can play a critical role in amplifying these voices and their stories. Such amplification is critical not only for representing the shared humanity of societies and the role that all play in the “national culture,” but for reducing polarization evident in countries across the globe. 

Moving Beyond Borders 

For some, state-led cultural diplomacy is primarily about propaganda. As societies become increasingly interconnected and realize that the most pressing challenges often cross borders, it is important to lean into the important role that cultural relations—as conducted by non-governmental actors—can play in bringing people together in meaningful ways. Non-governmental actors are uniquely positioned to create communities of practice that challenge contemporary modes of thinking and recognize shared humanity and experiences across the globe.

“I am even more convinced that the future of Cultural Diplomacy is about relinquishing power and the need for a radical rethinking of the structures we currently know and work with… With the next generation, as well as various non-Western cultures, thinking radically differently about structures, power, and silos/borders, it might be time for them - artists and civic actors -to lead us into entirely new ways… systems-thinking for the future they, and all of us, need.” –Erwin Maas, Theatermaker and Co-Curator of “Currents of Change.”

The Power of Technology

Technology has the power to both bring together communities across borders as well as expose individuals to cultures other than their own. While we have seen the polarizing potential of technology, it also has immense potential in the cultural diplomacy space to alter the conduct and reach of cultural diplomacy. By creating spaces that allow artists and creators to engage with audiences across borders, we can radically increase the ability of cultural relations to reach new audiences and a larger global impact. This has the power to pressure governments as art transcends borders through the internet and individuals call for change across the globe.

Technology also serves another important purpose. For many “digital natives,” the world of national borders is rapidly becoming an out-of-date concept. As young people engage with one another across borders, new communities of practice—both within sub-cultures like gaming as well as artistic communities—can create new worlds in which national origin matters less than their shared digital connection. 

Conclusions

While there are many important lessons that can be drawn about cultural diplomacy and how we can improve it, the first step is to ensure that the different actors that are involved in the process of cultural diplomacy and relations are talking to one another. All have important ways of thinking about the future of cultural diplomacy and only by looking at the way forward collectively will we be able to “redefin[e] cultural diplomacy for the future we need.”

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is 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.