Dr. Neal Rosendorf (CPD Blog Contributor & Independent Scholar of US & International History Blog Contributor, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California; USA)

18.12.2011 - Interview conducted by the ICD News Team

Q1: Should there be an increase in Cultural Diplomacy programs in the public sector? (i.e should we include the programs as an integral part with in the ministries of defense, education, interior and etc´)

A1: First thing that I would say is that there is no situation in which one size fits all. If we are thinking in terms of the state system which is what we have right now; then what is going to be appropriate for one country in terms of programs is very likely going to be different for another country. If we look at the goals of cultural diplomacy programs we can try to look at what an individual country has in terms of context and situation. As far as the current framework of a country, this has to do with political and cultural background. For example the United States, I will be diplomatic and say it’s arguably still sort of the cultural behemoth of the world. In other words it has a preponderance of cultural power which is a tricky term but we use it nonetheless. It does not say that the United States generates all the culture of the world. It also does not mean that all the attractive culture of the world comes exclusively from the United States. But the United States produces quite a lot of things: American culture, industries, tri-culture or even special ones among popular/consumer culture. Traditionally the American government not had a particular good goal in the promotion of that culture. We can talk about moments in American history, especially in the early 1940’s and the Second World War where there was outreach to Latin America in order to counter Nazi/Fascist penetration of the region to come together as good neighbors; Donald duck etc etc. Yet as far as there have been attempts by the State Department and the CIA when you look at specific episodes where the US government has taken a particular role. They have tended to be brief and they tend to go away, and I don’t mean that to be nefarious.
You can also look at Britain, whose role has been to a greater extent to use the government to promote culture than the US. But it’s not the same thing as Europe where there are ministries of culture, and ministries of tourism and the like. That is why I am very hesitant in terms of answering the question, because I think the next question has to be where?

Q2: Should the private sector adapt to include cultural diplomacy programs into their corporate social responsibility initiatives?

 A2: First we have to ask which part of the private sector we are talking about. Are we talking about the private sector in terms of cultural industries, are we talking to about only those that are answerable within the private sector. Or could it simply be that we can have any number of businesses that give money out to save time. “we make fertilizer but we believe in cultural diplomacy so here is a million pounds”. I would like to see every private sector give something in. So I think it’s important to ask whether industries that are involved in some way in cultural promotion and dissemination. So the short answer is yes.

Q3: As a historian have you discerned differences within international relations and cultural diplomacy during the last decades?

A3: That’s a very good question actually. I will use the United States as an example, because the US really did go through this very traumatic period. You have a country that began the 21st century with some economic problems who before had a very vibrant economy and had the idea of unitary world with the US at the center. You had pretty much admiration and acceptance of globalization.

By and large there was general promotion of globalization because the US was way ahead of the pack. Then globalization came along with very different terms. Let’s look at September 11. This attack was carried out from 11 thousand miles away into the heart of the United States. So thinking in terms of the culture of the United States, you had a traumatized country. Before, there was this sense of leadership among many circles of where the United States was going to sit in the world. This changed very rapidly one early morning in 2001. What I would look at is what the Bush administration was attempting to do with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes. She really came in attempting to sell America as a product. But there was no music to it at all. This was simply its official position using its private industry to churn out products. If you take the Sopranos mafia series which has been distributed all over the world like the show Dallas in the 1980’s. Or Brittney Spears and all those advertisements of American culture in the world. I would say that this traditional American soft power is an asset when the US was doing unpopular things in the world. Following September 11 as a result, American cultural promotion was taking a bit of a hit which was adversely affected due to American hard power. Even with the symbolism of an African American president making a difference, the US is still garbling with this. Yet the US is in a different place than it was 5 years ago. And it’s just the case about one country, and it is because it is the most i know about. We can look at china as well. Sometimes they get it right sometimes they get it spectacularly wrong, controlling business, controlling information.