Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Prof. Francois Nectoux (Professor of Contemporary European Studies, Kingston University; UK)

17.02.2011 - Interview conducted by Jason Dudhee

Q. How relevant do you think art is as a form of accessible cultural diplomacy?

A. My answer will be a little ambivalent.  Art is everything which is in life in many respects, Art is a way of bringing people together but it is also a way of revolting against or opposing ways of life. As we know art has been in the past a way of bringing in something from other cultures, building bridges and also a way of destroying relationships with other cultures. Often art breaks with traditions or previous practices, breaking ties with other communities so we have to be very cautious about saying that art is automatically playing an important role in cultural diplomacy.

Q. How do you think art exchange can foster and encourage future multiculturalism?

A. in the moden world at least art is always having a dose of syncretism and is always participating in a kind of hybrid setup, Artists have always borrowed from other cultures and that started from the 18th/19th century. If you think about the Renaissance French and even British culture borrowed Italian art, so in such a way in the global world automatically art borrows from a variety of cultures. We can often see that art that has not borrowed or taken ideas from other cultures are dead arts, think about the socialist/realist art that we saw in some eastern euopean countries during the 60s and 70, they are dead art, there were not very interesting and didn’t work towards creating peace or anything.   Borrowing ideas can be seen as a positive way of creating dialogue between different cultures.

Q. What is your opinion on cultural diplomacy in international and inter-cultural relations?

A. Here you have to be very cautious in differentiating between cultural diplomacy and inter-cultural relations. CD is a tool of power of nation states politics which can be carried out for different ideological or strategic reasons and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work but it is something, which must be very clear, CD is a very strong power and is sometimes seen as a tool of furthering your influence in another country.  

Inter-cultural relations/communications is something completely different. Some governments specifically seek to give opportunities for inter-cultural communications either domestically or internationally through specific set-ups like the European Union or the Commonwealth.  Inter-cultural relations usually have a very big impact on strands of the population in the different countries. In England lots of experiments have been carried out on inter cultural communications by sending groups of impoverished youngsters to Africa, India and other developing countries and that had a huge impact in the UK and the receiver countries.