Winning a War of Ideals: The Neglected Use of Artistic Expression in Cultural Diplomacy

Tess Duncan


Bombsand soldiers are not the only option when “terrorism” is the enemy. The artsoffer another type of diplomatic resource. In February 2013, former Secretaryof State Hillary Clinton observed that art, “reaches beyond governments, pastthe conference rooms and presidential palaces, to help us connect with morepeople in more places. It is a universal language in our search for commonground, an expression of our shared humanity.” This power to connect topeople’s humanity can alter international perceptions. The authors of the 2005Report of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy noted that thepower the arts have in shaping hearts and minds is so significant that theytermed cultural diplomacy the “linchpin of public diplomacy.” Thispaper critically analyzes this U.S. Advisory Committee’s recommendationsthrough a contemporary global lens, weighing applications to current diplomaticsituations and introducing the need for a new era of arts-driven publicdiplomacy. It examines programs launched during the Cold War that highlight theU.S. ability to spread knowledge, wisdom, and empathy through culturalexchanges. Historical context and application to modern day relations reveal aprecedent for reform. TheU.S. had historically made arts diplomacy a major component of public policy,but that priority has slipped. This paper contends that as “soft weapons”, thearts should be deployed more effectively to win the war of ideals. In much the same waythat scholar and anthropologist Benedict Anderson (1983) studied thedevelopment of print capitalism and the national print-language in ImaginedCommunities, this paper advances the concept of an international art-languageand asserts that a new step in the adoption of human rights and democraticgovernance can occur through the promotion of artistic works.


Cultural Diplomacy, Imagined Communities, Art Language

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