Reviewed Elsewhere: Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music in America's Cold War Diplomacy.

Lars Fischer Discussion
Danielle Fosler-Lussier. Music in America's Cold War Diplomacy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015. 344 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-28413-5. 
In 1954, the U.S. State Department launched the Cultural Presentations program, an ambitious endeavor to improve the image of the United States abroad through cultural diplomacy. Over the next two decades, hundreds of performers toured locations across the globe under its auspices, one of the largest undertakings of its kind during the twentieth century. The program's history is told in a stockpile of government papers, foremost among which are reports embassy staff dispatched to Washington documenting tour activities and their perceived effectiveness among local audiences. With few exceptions, this documentary record gathered dust on archive shelves until Danielle Fosler-Lussier undertook the imposing task of piecing together the Cultural Presentation program's history from its inception through the early 1970s, its most active years. The result, Music in America's Cold War Diplomacy, is a masterful and insightful contribution to the burgeoning field of Cold War studies. More than a simple institutional history, Music in America's Cold War Diplomacy nuances the very concept of cultural diplomacy, challenging long-standing narratives about the roles of cultural identity, race, religion, and soft power in Cold War diplomatic efforts.
Fosler-Lussier shows that the Cultural Presentations program was far more than the policy-driven unidirectional “flow” of cultural information imagined by the program's Washington architects. She argues that the program is best understood in terms of its myriad human interactions and the numerous individual agendas and contextual matters that shaped them. ...
Acknowledging this complexity, Fosler-Lussier avoids judging the program by the extent to which it influenced audiences’ views of the United States. Although she concludes that the visits of American musicians were generally “both appreciated and useful” (9), she argues that the indirectness of cultural diplomacy makes it “difficult to measure any changes in attitude or increases in prestige due specifically to musical performances” (19). Remaining attentive to the range of responses recipients of diplomatic efforts experienced, from “trust and admiration” to “anxiety and inferiority” (21), she suggests that “both face-to-face relationships and those that existed only in the participants’ imaginations built affective bonds among people,” bonds that Fosler-Lussier argues are “the essence of ‘soft power’” (21). ...
Among Fosler-Lussier's most insightful contributions are those concerning jazz, concerts of which were added to program tours in 1956. Although some planners sensed an opportunity to present U.S. race relations in a positive light, others bristled at the addition of music they perceived as non-elite. ... Fosler-Lussier also challenges the assumption that many African American performers saw opportunity for subversion in the diplomatic tours they joined, a view popularized by Penny von Eschen and Harilaos Stecopoulos. Rather, African American performers most often presented the United States in a positive light, a strategy that promised good press for jazz at home. The notion of resistance to government cooperation was largely a 1970s development retroactively applied to the 1950s and 1960s, as Fosler-Lussier shows through a careful examination of tour records and contemporary press reports.
... In Fosler-Lussier's analysis, cultural diplomacy emerges as a force that shaped opinions and identities on multiple levels, at home and abroad.
Nowhere was that force more important than in U.S.–Soviet diplomatic relations. Here Fosler-Lussier challenges some of the mustiest of Cold War era narratives. The most pervasive of these—that U.S. cultural diplomacy hastened the fall of the U.S.S.R. and led to “victory” in the Cold War—breaks down in light of the evidence Fosler-Lussier presents. ...
In the end, Music in America's Cold War Diplomacy’s greatest contributions are methodological, and will undoubtedly shape further inquiry into Cold War cultural diplomacy. With luck, the book's attractively designed companion website ( will also be a model for other studies. Here readers will find valuable resources, including a searchable database of Cultural Presentations concerts and a cache of key primary sources dating from 1957–70.