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Cultural Diplomacy

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“The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.” -Senator J. William Fulbright


Cultural diplomacy is a key type of public diplomacy strategy, including various aspects of language, theater, dance, art, literature, music, religion, history, food, and more as a method for building understanding between the people of different countries.


American bluegrass band Della Mae plays with local musicians in Uzbekistan. Photo Credit: American Voices

The U.S. has long-upheld a tradition of cultural diplomacy, employing a variety of techniques over the course of the 20th Century: from Jazz ambassadors to photographic exhibits. Some scholars have argued that cultural diplomacy won the Cold War, as freedom of expression demonstrated through cultural aspects like rock and roll helped shape mindsets beyond the Iron Curtain.

Today, American films, music, food and other cultural exports dominate much of the international scene—but commercial success cannot be the sole indicator for cultural understanding. While some identify this success as proof of the mass appeal of American culture, others have cited it as a cause of contention for certain populations around the world. Although there is merit to both arguments, good cultural diplomacy must go beyond industrial mass marketing, and instead seek to build relationships and connections between the American people and those of other countries at fundamental levels.

Like other forms of public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy is best when it is part of a dialogue, not a monologue. America has an interest not only in spreading its culture abroad, but learning of other cultures and bringing that understanding back to the homeland.

ASP seeks to educate the American public about cultural diplomacy, bringing it to life so the public can see it, and generate strong support for its use as a strategic tool in strengthening our nation’s partnerships and image abroad.


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