[CFP] Cultural diplomacy in the world since 1945: prestige, influence, cooperation

Lauriane Simony's picture

Call for Papers

Paris, 17 May 2019


Cultural diplomacy in the world since 1945: prestige, influence, cooperation.


In France, studies on cultural diplomacy, at the crossroads between the fields of cultural history and the history of international relations, are relatively recent and still marginal. A few collective works have attempted to look at cultural diplomacy from a global perspective since the 2010s [Dulphy, et al., 2010; Dubosclard, et al., 2002] but research on cultural diplomacy remains fragmentary and mostly based on case studies. The historiography of the United States is more comprehensive and includes many analyses of soft power [Nye, 2004], the use of culture during the Second World War (through the United States Office of War Information agency) and the Cold War (anti-communist propaganda and promotion of the Western democratic model). Elsewhere, the lack of a comparable historiography in this field may be linked to the various forms cultural diplomacy can take, the challenges it represents, its fairly recent development (during the second half of the 20th century) or the difficulty of defining it.


Raymond Williams gave two definitions of the phrase “cultural policy”. According to him, it is both a process of support, regulation and use (for economic or social purposes) of culture by the State, and the way in which the State chooses to represent itself through culture, self-promotion being the main goal [Slaby, 2010]. Cultural policy thus refers to the strategy and the means used when promoting culture, but is also closely linked to the notion of identity. From the interwar period, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in various countries started creating cultural departments (France and Germany were the first ones to do so), but it was only after 1945 that culture became a systematic element of international relations. After the Second World War, the development of State-run welfare systems in several Western countries established culture as a new sector for the state, through the creation of semi-public institutions or Ministries of Culture as early as 1946. While within countries access to culture was increasingly considered as a right, in foreign affairs culture became one of the three branches of soft power, along with political values and foreign policies, according to Joseph Nye [Nye, 2004]. Cultural diplomacy appears as a sub-category of cultural policy, as it exclusively concerns foreign countries. The issues it deals with are of a different sort from those of cultural policy: in many countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has retained a monopoly over it, even after the creation of a Ministry of Culture. The notion of “diplomacy” thus seems to overshadow that of “culture”.


Certain recent processes, such as decolonisation, have challenged traditional diplomatic models and the resort to coercive force, and have given further legitimacy to cultural diplomacy, as a self-promotion tool and as a means to influence other countries. The line between cultural relations and a political use of culture is thin: in times of crisis, the political, or even ideological dimension of cultural diplomacy can lead to a shift towards propaganda, as illustrated by the cultural arsenal developed by both the Soviet and Western blocs during the Cold War. Indeed, if the notion of “cultural relations” refers to neutral exchanges, that of “cultural diplomacy” implies strategies of power and influence, though its use is not limited to authoritarian regimes.


Cultural diplomacy encompasses very diverse actors, from both the public (States, national cultural institutions, regions, cities...) and the private sector (private organisations, religious associations...). It participates in developing cultural networks at different levels (international organisations such as UNESCO, transnational or transregional exchanges...). Cultural diplomacy does not always take place between “equal” actors. It mainly concerns relations between developed countries or relations involving developed and developing countries, in what may be seen as a postcolonial stance in the second case [Trimbour, in Dubosclard, et al., 2002]. Moreover, the relations between developing countries are a phenomenon which has been studied increasingly in the past few years. Finally, cultural diplomacy also entails reciprocity [Frank, 2003]: the idea is for States to engage in fertile cultural exchanges based on cooperation and mutual comprehension, for instance by encouraging academic partnerships. The rise of a horizontal cultural diplomacy, with States disappearing in favour of direct contact between regions and cities, has characterised the evolution of the field in the last twenty years.


This conference therefore intends to look at the different aspects of cultural diplomacy, and more particularly the notions of “prestige”, “influence” and “cooperation”, in relation to the national and international political context of the cases studied.



Papers may consider the following topics:

-The different models of cultural policy

-Cultural diplomacy and the Cold War

-Cultural diplomacy and propaganda


-Cultural diplomacy and decolonisation

-Official culture, anti-establishment culture

-Cultural diplomacy and reconciliation

-Popular culture and the State

-Majority languages, minority languages

-International academic partnerships

-International organisations and their role in cultural diplomacy

-Cultural diplomacy and multilateral cooperation

-Horizontal cultural diplomacy, cultural diplomacy at local and regional levels


The conference will include papers focusing on diverse geographical areas (developed and developing countries), so that different contexts, models and trends may be confronted. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches (history, sociology, political sciences, art and media studies...).


500-word paper proposals (English or French) and short biblio-biographies may be submitted to the conference organizers, Lara Cuny (lara.cuny@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr) and Lauriane Simony (lauriane.simony@univ-paris3.fr) by January 7th, 2019.


The conference will be held on the 17th of May, 2019 at the Maison de la Recherche of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, 4, rue des Irlandais in Paris, Salle Claude Simon. It is organized by Lara Cuny and Lauriane Simony with the support of the Ecole Doctorale 514, PRISMES (Paris 3), CREW (Paris 3) and LARCA (Paris 7).





-Dubosclard, Alain and Laurent Grison, Laurent Jean-Pierre, Pierre Journoud, Christine Okret, Dominique Trimbur.Entre rayonnement et réciprocité : contributions à l'histoire de la diplomatie culturelle. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002

-Dulphy, Anne and Robert Frank, Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci, Pascal Ory (dir.). Les relations culturelles internationales au XXème siècle : de la diplomatie culturelle à l'acculturation. Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin: P. Lang, 2010

-Gienow-Hecht, Jessica C. E. and Mark C. Donfried (eds.). Searching for a Cultural Diplomacy. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010

-Haigh, Anthony. La Diplomatie culturelle en Europe. Strasbourg: Conseil de l'Europe, 1974

-Hixson, Walter L. Parting the Curtain, Propaganda, Culture and the Cold War, 1945-1961. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998

-Kennedy, Greg and Christopher Tuck (eds.). British Propaganda and Wars of Empire: Influencing Friend and Foe, 1900-2010. Farnham et Burlington (Vt.): Ashgate, 2014

-Nye, Joseph. Soft Power: the Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs, 2004

-Singh J. P. (ed.). International Cultural Policies and Power. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

-Slaby, Alexandra. L’Etat et la Culture en Irlande. Caen: Presses Universitaires de Caen, 2010

Categories: CFP