Cultural Diplomacy: Latest trends? Or how to make it
Hello. My name is Tetiana Filevska. I’m a creative director of the Ukrainian Institute. We are talking about cultural diplomacy and cultural relations. And I will focus on the latest trends in this field.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about cultural diplomacy? Probably, you think of the concert, film or exhibition brought from abroad that you have visited or seen in your home country.

We are used to the practice of cultural diplomacy when art is used to represent national culture worldwide. This is traditional concept of cultural diplomacy used for decades. And it was initially practised by major European nations to promote their culture. But today this approach is revised and a new idea is presented.

The EU Council proposes a notion of Strategy of Cultural Policy instead of cultural diplomacy to avoid the idea of “cultural imperialism” traditionally associated with the latter. The new concept stands on the equality of all cultures (meaning there are no “great” cultures and minor cultures) and the importance of inter- or transcultural cooperation. And recent research conducted by the British Council and the Goethe-Institute preferred to use the term “cultural relations”.

Intercultural means that two or more cultural actors across national boundaries in the traditional understanding of nation take part in cooperation. For example, Polish-Ukrainian play or Brittish-German film. While transcultural refers to the interactions that go beyond national boundaries and reflect contemporary state of the world where identities are more complex and many people belong to more than one culture, borders are more open and mobility increases. With contemporary technology, especially the Internet, people can be parts of different cultures no matter where they are at the moment.

Within both of these approaches, cultural cooperation can be implemented using the following tools:

  • Mobility for actors of culture (it can be cultural exchange or residency programs). Today we have more and more residencies opening in Ukraine in different fields of culture while it is widespread in the world. To name just one: Culture Bridges – mobility program of European Union operated by the British Council allows cultural actors from across Europe travel to meet partners, make research or present their work. Practical tip: if you need to bring an international expert or an artist to your project, ask the embassy or cultural institute of that country.

  • Organizing cultural events like exhibitions, concerts, festivals, conferences and long-term celebrations. This allows to share knowledge, expose artistic tradition and exchange ideas. Biennials go along here. For example, Manifesta is a nomadic European biennale of contemporary art that stands for European values and is one of the most important art events worldwide.

  • Bilateral Years of Culture stand out on this list as a complex tool to bring intercultural cooperation. For example, 2019 is a year of cultural exchange between Austria and Ukraine. Dozens of events and programs are initiated and implemented within the Year making connections and building understanding between two nations.

  • Another tool is the exchange of expertise that can be seen as technical assistance and capacity building in different sectors of culture from heritage to cultural enterprise. This can be in shape of professional training or assistance up to establishing a new cultural institution. And in this case, we can talk about cultural institutes like the Goethe-Institute, British Council, Institute Français and others that are implementing cultural policies of their countries. On the other side, there are international cultural institutions like UNESCO that are aimed to raise knowledge in culture and foster mutual understanding through culture.

  • Promotion of education and teaching of languages or certain cultural practices or art forms. Language courses is a very efficient instrument. This could also be something like calligraphy, for example.

  • And last but not least, negotiations regarding difficult or conflict areas, such as repatriation or quotas. In this regard see the interesting example of the case of the Rijksmuseum, which is initiating talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia about the possible return of some 1,000 objects from its collection that may have been looted under colonial rule.

Development of new technology and global changes in the life of mankind have an effect on cultural diplomacy, its meaning and ways of implementation.

The new world has new challenges and it leads to rethinking the role of culture. Its soft power allows building bridges and connecting sides where other powers fail.

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