Suitable for Western Audiences: UNESCO and the Self-fulfilling Prophecy of Cinematic Cultural Diplomacy
Through a reading of cinematic cultural diplomacy in the post-World War II UNESCO context, this study focuses on the potential cinema holds for speaking to the politics of difference. Traditionally seen as problematic and conflictual, this study suggests that for UNESCO, difference is not the source of war and conflict, but of peace. It provides an analysis of Orient: A Survey of Films Produced in Countries of Arab and Asian Culture, a 1959 film catalogue published by UNESCO and the British Film Institute with the aim to “stimulate the presentation of films which might give audiences in the West a fuller and more informed idea of the ways of life of Eastern peoples”. This study treats the catalogue as research material on three different levels: the catalogue itself; the documents leading to its publication; and the films included in it. It approaches the catalogue as a multilateral cinematic cultural diplomacy initiative, which, somewhat surprisingly, aimed to improve understanding between the East and the West through emphasising the differences between the two. The study positions the Orient catalogue as marking a critical turning point in UNESCO’s take on world affairs from the explicit recognition of difference as con-flictual to an implicit understanding of it as a necessary factor within the UNESCO system. It turns to intertextual analysis to locate the interfaces where the catalogue intersects with the post-war world order and UNESCO’s constitutionally embedded mandate to promote peace through the means of culture. It proposes that cultural differences are a necessary precondition for cultural diplomacy itself and suggests that cinematic cultural diplomacy can be understood as a result of a process of trans-ferring meanings between political realities and imaginary worlds. This study puts forward three arguments. First, it proposes that UNESCO’s treatment of cultural and political polarisations holds promise for a critical interven-tion in the ways difference is understood as a mechanism of cultural diplomacy. Sec-ond, it suggests that with the Orient catalogue, UNESCO turned to cinema to prop-agate its message of peace, directly addressing the global population as a whole and bypassing the confines of the state centric understanding of doing politics. Third and finally, it emphasises the need to explore the ways cinematic representations can be used to speak to the politics of difference in global governance and stresses how such explorations both widen our understanding of the political potential of popular cul-ture and demand a more inclusive understanding of the meaning of the international. ...
UNESCO cultural diplomacy global governance politics of difference intertextuality kulttuuridiplomatia globaali hallinta erontekemisen politiikka intertekstuaalisuus films elokuvat international relations kansainväliset suhteet diplomatia diplomacy international organisations kansainväliset järjestöt
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- Väitöskirjat