This article was released in the ICOM Canada September 2019 e-newsletter on Cultural Diplomacy. See more articles from this issue here.
Lynda Jessup (Queen’s University at Kingston) and Dr. Sascha Priewe (Royal Ontario Museum)
ICOM Canada joins partners in Canada, US and Mexico for a new multi-partner research project to study cultural diplomacy.
There is ample evidence that we are living in an increasingly adversarial moment: a world of global terrorism, refugee crises, and divisive partisan and nationalist politics. While mitigating cultural conflict through traditional diplomatic channels remains an urgent focus of governments, efforts are failing. They are failing not only because the re-emergent, polarizing forces of protectionism, xenophobia and extremism are “wicked problems” – complex issues that do not offer a clear or apparent solution – but also because the practice of diplomacy itself has shifted.
In response to these concerns, the North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative (NACDI) is thrilled to announce a new multi-partner research project to study cultural diplomacy with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and NACDI’s numerous Canadian and Mexican partners. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Development Grant program, the project will bring students, scholars and practitioners together to critically examine cultural diplomacy as a means to mitigate global cultural conflict.
As scholars and practitioners have established, global relations are no longer the exclusive domain of a privileged “club” of nation states as it was in the Cold War era – a club that set the agenda, dictated the policies, picked the players, and made the rules of the rules-based international order. Diplomacy now takes place in a technologically and socially diverse “networked” environment, based on horizontal communication, dialogue and multidirectional flows of information. In this era of networked diplomacy, states vie for authority with non-state actors, such as non-governmental and non-profit organizations, transnational institutions and activist groups: what many scholars have identified as the so-called “new” diplomats. In effect, diplomacy based in state-centered practices and protocols has given way to diplomacy as an orientation – as a set of behaviors, dispositions and attitudes within a broader spectrum of cultural relations.