Culture and International History IV

Culture and International History IV

Jessica Gienow-Hecht, Lehrstuhl für Internationale Geschichte, Universität zu Köln; Institute for Cultural Diplomacy Berlin
From - Until
20.12.2009 - 22.12.2009
Conf. Website
Carolin Fischer, Lehrstuhl für Internationale Geschichte/Historische Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Universität zu Köln

The Lehrstuhl für Internationale Geschichte of the University of Cologne and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy Berlin hosted the fourth symposium dedicated to the study of the role of culture in international relations. The conference addressed scholars from the fields of history, art, musicology, political science, international relations and cultural studies. Its purpose was to investigate the dimension of cultural relations in the history of international relations, to review the most recent trends in the field and to expand the network among scholars and cultural administrators. The papers of the conference pointed to four central themes: the relationship of culture the state; culture as milieu; culture as predisposition and perception; and music as a topic and an analytical tool in the history International Relations.

I. Culture and the State
By far the most prominent topic at “Culture and International History IV” was the relation between culture and the state. A number of papers focused on education and exchange and investigated the nexus between the transfer of knowledge and state influence. NIELS KLABUNDE (Humboldt Universität Berlin) undertook an ambitious look at the global development of international exchange programs across time. Highlighting case studies from ancient times to the present, he argued that international education was persistently used as a powerful vehicle to achieve foreign policy goals. YOKO KAWAMURA (Seiki University) likewise commented on the “reproduction effect” of youth exchange programs as long-term investments for cultural understanding among nations.

Several papers addressed the issue of European-American cultural relations after World War Two. In his keynote lecture, DAVID ELLWOOD (University of Bologna) introduced the notion of a “revolution of rising expectations” throughout Western Europe in the course of the encounter with American GIs. FRANK MEHRING (Freie Universität Berlin) offered a multi-layered presentation on re-educational film programs sponsored by the Marshall Plan. HOLGER LÖWENDORF (Temple University), in turn, portrayed the ideas, images and conversations of American officials in their effort to “re-build” the German nation, now commonly described as “nation building.”

Memory and the state also played a significant role. ANDREAS LUESCHER’s (Bowling Green State University Ohio) paper on Checkpoint Charlie argued that a “culture of architecture,” – that is, a culture that responds to architecture – emerged alongside the escalating cold war tensions where actors protested the division of Berlin in various ways. Ironically, today almost nothing of the original border crossing remains, however the site continues to be a contested space, grappling with the question of how to memorialize the crossing. DONG WANG (University of Turku) investigated the significance of landmarks in international history by looking at the role of UNESCO in the China's Longmen Grottoes: UNESCO’s World Heritage List constitutes a new and influential international and local institution, forming an important asset of China’s continued internationalization in China.

Finally, recent turns in cultural diplomacy informed this section as well. NIKOLAS GLOVER (University of Stockholm) showed how the Swedish Institute has been historically torn between two objectives: the promotion of Swedish art; and the promotion of Swedish economic interests, for example Sweden as a “brand” associated with products. JEAN-MICHEL TOBELEM (Option Culture) explored the ways in which non-governmental cultural organizations have offered competing visions of cultural diplomacy through the example of the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi. His presentation provided a glimpse into the ways in which other nations and cultures have plugged into the dominant European models for cultural dissemination. ANDREW WULF (University of Leicester/University of Southern California) looked at cultural diplomacy under Ronald Reagan and argued that exhibitions can be most effective means of cultural diplomacy, especially when matched with personal contacts between hosting and visiting people. MARK DONFRIED (Institute for Cultural Diplomacy) concluded the analysis of the relation between culture and the state with an overview of the historical development of cultural diplomacy. To Donfried, 1989 was the turning point of cultural diplomacy thanks to the strengthening of civil society in the post-Cold War era, when national governments cut budgets for culture and focused on “advertising” rather than mutual exchange and understanding.

II. Culture as Milieu: Environmentalism
Coming but days after the end of the tumultuous Copenhagen climate change conference, papers in this section made a pioneering contribution to what is likely to be a major topic for international historians in future years. Using environmentalism and international organizations as case studies for the milieu in which cultural relations manifest themselves, the three papers focused on emergence of international environmental politics in the 1960s-1980s. THORSTEN SCHULZ (Universität zu Köln), spoke about environmental security in a transatlantic perspective 1969-75. Here Richard Nixon emerged as a far-sighted politician, demanding that NATO start thinking about social and environmental questions in a fashion that broadened prevailing conceptions of security. BILL MCALLISTER (US Department of State) concentrated on specific environmental issues – the Antarctic and space – and their increasing relevance to international organizations and the US government when satellite imaging began to reveal changes in the world’s ecosystem. JAN-HENRIK MEYER (University of Portsmouth) discussed bird protection, notably actions against the mass killings of migratory songbirds by hunters in south European countries. The three papers complemented each other well in theme, chronological reference and method. The role of agency emerged as a key question demanding further exploration in the history of environmental politics.

III. Culture as Predisposition and Perception
Papers grouped under this theme focused on the ways in which culture conditions actions and expectations in international relations. One key question concerned the issue whether culture is constitutive of the state or whether the state is constitutive of culture. Presenters posited culture as a malleable variable, susceptible to (re)definition by actors interested in promoting preferred versions of ‘la patrie’. BRIAN FOSTER (Carleton University) utilized the writings of Henry James to assert that, rather than viewing government as a cultural practice, culture serves as a tool in the armamentarium of governmentality. ANDREW JOHNSTON (Carleton University) examined the late 19th century trend toward recourse to non-elected expertise, exemplified by the professionalization of economics and the gathering of statistics, as illustrative of the battle for the soul of the U.S. federal government. Both authors asserted that attempts to harness culture for state ends comprise a Foucauldian “technique of governmentality.” Rather than treating culture as a constant, both authors argued, international historians should consider culture as a discourse in and of itself.

Culture as a predisposition likewise informed MATT STANARD’s (Berry College) essay on Interwar European Visions of Modernity in the Colonies’ and CHAD PARKER’s (University of Louisiana) paper on the Arabian American Oil Diplomacy. Both unveiled the construction and use of a narrative of modernity in the context of imperialism. Stanard’s paper examined how during the interwar years Europeans crafted surprisingly similar contrasts of European modernity and African backwardness in images of colonies used for propaganda purposes in Europe. Parker demonstrated how the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) used a narrative in the Saudi Kingdom that straddled a fine line between advocating modernization and promoting traditionalism. In both cases, sites overseas were used as canvasses to create cultural products, namely images of modernity, that were used for diplomatic advantage: ARAMCO, to uphold its privileged relationship with the Saudi monarchy; European nations to maintain imperialistic claims in Africa.

Cultural preconceptions relating to modernity likewise informed JURI BOTTURA’s (Northwestern University) comparison of the ideology of two right-wing parties, the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico and the Ação Integralista Brasileira. Both shared an appeal for a moral regeneration that should have comprised the entire Americas. Significantly, that aspiration was based on the concept of an “Ibero-American Civilization”, conceived as the ultimate heir to the Graeco-Roman, Catholic civilization in sharp contrast to the United States. That visionary plan informed succeeding ideological elaborations on which Latin American military regimes were grounded from the 1960s.

For ROB KROES (University of Amsterdam), cultural preconceptions played an ambiguous role in the transatlantic relations, depending on how one sees its national interest. Whereas analysis is often biased by either "Eurocentrism or Americanocentrism in the writing of cultural history", to him, on the contrary, we should rather stress the "essentially interwoven cultural universe". This might be even truer in the near future, with cultural products being marketed for a global mass market where their national origin is hard to trace. This will eventually make more visible the "cultural capital shared among Europeans and Americans". RICHARD PELLS (University of Texas) gave a salient example by recounting the history of method acting in the United States. Pells traced its roots to Russia, then described the ways in which it was transformed in the United States, leading to a crossfertilization of European and American acting.

IV. Music and International Relations
If the relation between culture and the state proves to be an evergreen for scholars of culture and international history, music is moving in fast as a new radical topic. In his second paper, Pells had a keen eye for the many ironies and paradoxes on the globalization of Jazz. Its roots were never solely African, but shaped by styles and forms of music played by American whites, and instruments coming from Europe not Africa. Used in American cultural diplomacy in the Cold War era as proof that America's blacks were duly respected in their own country, black jazz musicians were sent on international tours, turning jazz music into an international musical vernacular. MARGARET MEHL (University of Copenhagen), in turn, showed how the violin assumed a central position as an avatar of Western civilization, carrying with it a power symbolic of the larger story of the historical expansion of the West. One form of reception concerns the adoption of the performative culture in Japan. Another relates to the adoption of the instrument as an addition in native Japanese music. Today the violin is used in Japan in the production and performance of vernacular forms of popular music, drawing on international styles of musical entertainment and resonant with domestic musical modes. DAVID SCHOENBAUM (University of Iowa) looked at the violin as unambiguously carrying with it the ways of Western civilization, ways of giving children a musical education in the Western bourgeois style, ways of cultural appreciation by audiences as the West knows them, ways of performing a musical repertoire as it has grown over centuries in the West. “Following the violin” provides a way of following the process of westernization as it has spread from Europe to the United States and the nonwestern world.

Three other papers focused on complexity of American musical diplomacy during the interwar period and the Cold War. JENNIFER CAMPBELL (Central Michigan University) demonstrated in her paper about the Office of Inter-American Affairs Music Committee 1940/41 that many of the cold war parameters were set during the preceding decade. As EMILY ANSARI (Universiy of Western Ontario) showed in her paper on William Schuman, individuals involved in such efforts followed their own agenda as well as that of the government bodies they worked for. The complexity of cultural diplomacy is also evident in the varying agendas on the side of the receivers as well as the senders, as DANIELLE FOSLER-LUSSIER (Ohio State University) illustrated in her paper about Cold War politics and the Globalization of Music. As well as having music ‘pushed’ upon them, the receivers also ‘pulled’ the music into their home contexts. It appears that we are still groping for the appropriate vocabulary to describe these complex processes. Neither ‘imperialism’ nor ‘transfer’ or other commonly used terms seem to adequately describe them. An even broader issue raised during the discussion was the question of the significance of music for our understanding of international relations in the past and present.

The papers on music and international relations merged the various core topics of the conference and highlighted the multifarious importance of culture in the international relations.

Conference Overview:

Opening session: The Future Has Arrived: Questions for International Historians Upon the Advent of the “Documentary Big Bang” and the Digital Records Revolution (William McAllister, Office of the Historian, US Department of State)

“A Phenomenal Cultural Event”: The 20th Century Encounter Between American Armies and Local Populations as Presented by the Cinema (David Ellwood, Johns Hopkins University/ University of Bologna)

Panel I: Culture, Territoriality and Government

Political Economy and Governance in American Internationalism 1880-1912 (Andrew Johnston, Carleton University)

Culturing the Nation: Situating National and Trans/International Culture within Discourses of Governmentality (Brian Foster, Carleton University)

Panel II: Images of Modernity

Clearing the Jungles: Interwar European Visions of Modernity in the Colonies (Matthew Stanard, Berry College)

Parallel Development: The Traditional and the Modern in Arabian American Oil Company Diplomacy (Chad Parker, University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Panel III: US Politics in Europe after 1945 Revisited

“Our Subjects”: History, Identity and American Nation-Building in Postwar Germany (Holger Löwendorf, Temple University, Philadelphia)

Cultural Policy of the Allied Forces and Postwar International Cultural Exchanges in West Germany (Yoko Kawamura, Seikei University)

Visions of Multicultural Modernity and Democratic Re-education: Colour Blindness in the Marshall Plan Program (Frank Mehring, FU Berlin)

Panel IV: Culture, Diplomacy and Education

The role of UNESCO in preserving China’s Longmen Caves (Dong Wang, University of Turku, Finland)

International Education – A New Vehicle for Cultural Diplomacy? (Niels Klabunde, HU Berlin)

Panel V: Cultural Hegemony in Europe and Latin America in the 1930s

A Moral Regeneration for the Americas and the World: The Leading Role of the “Ibero-American Civilization” in the Formulation of Puerto Rican Nationalism and Brazilian Integralism in the 1930s (Juri Bottura, Northwestern University)

“Inter-Nationalism” and Europeanism: The Nazi-Fascist Model of International Cultural Relations, 1935-1945 (Benjamin Martin, San Francisco State University)

Panel VI: Music and International Relations

The Globalization of American Jazz (Richard Pells, University of Texas at Austin)

How the Violin did not and did Go Native in Japan: A Case Study of Western Cultural Power and Japanese Traditions (Margarete Mehl, University of Copenhague)

Culture and International History: A String Theory (David Schoenbaum, University of Iowa)

Panel VII: Environmentalism in Global Affairs

„… are we prepared to see New York underwater?“ – Nixon’s Third Dimension of the NATO and »Environmental Security« in a transatlantic historical Perspective 1969-1975 (Thorsten Schulz, University of Cologne)

Protecting the Environment: Transnational Networks in the Emergence of a new EC Policy in the 1970s (Jan-Henrik Meyer, University of Portsmouth)

Defining Environments: New Understandings about Interdependency Arising from Exploitation of Oceans, Atmospheres, Outer Space, and Antarctica, 1960-1980 (William McAllister, Office of the Historian, US Department of State)

Panel VIII: Echoes from the Cold War

Afterlife: The Checkpoint Charlie's Continuing Cultural Presence (Andreas Luescher, Bowling Green State University, Ohio)

Panel IX: Art and International Politics

The Louvre Abu Dhabi Project: Cultural Diplomacy or Business Issue? (Jean-Michel Tobelem, Option Culture)

A Method They Couldn't Refuse. The Art of Method Acting (Richard Pells, University of Texas at Austin)

Panel X: From the Micro to the Macro Level: Culture an Identity in International Relations

Defining & Defending “Culture”: The Problem of the Swedish Institute 1945-70 (Nikolas Glover, Stockholm University)

Belaboring the Obvious? Transatlantic Culture: Its History and Future (Rob Kroes, University of Amsterdam/ University of Utrecht)

Panel XI: American Music, American Government, and the International Stage

William Schuman and an ‘Epistemic Community’ of Cold War American Composers (Emily Ansari, University of Western Ontario)

Music Pushed, Music Pulled: Cold War Politics and the Globalization of Music (Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Ohio State University)

Creating Something Out of Nothing: The Office of Inter-American Affairs Music Committee (1940/1) and the Inception of a Policy for Musical Diplomacy (Jennifer Campbell, Central Michigan University)

Panel XII: Cultural Diplomacy since the 1980s

American Attempts at Cultural Diplomacy through International Exhibitions during the Reagan Presidency, 1981 – 1989 (Andrew Wulf, University of Southern California/University of Leicester)

Post-Cold War US Cultural Diplomacy in the European Context. The Changing Role of the Public Sector. (Mark Donfried, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, Berlin)

Piano Recital and Presentation ‘Look Homeward, Angel – but Walk Forward’: The Story of the Camp Catawba and its Founder Vera Lachmann (Jens Barnieck, Pianist, Wiesbaden and Frank Mehring, FU Berlin)

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