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Nationalism and Cultural Diplomacy

July 14, 2011

Apart from working through the history of British ‘public diplomacy’ I’ve been reading some interesting articles about the cultural diplomacy of European countries up to the Second World War – references below. I’ll write about Marketing Marianne in a separate post.

The thought that occurred to me while reading the Santoro and Sretenovic pieces was that cultural relations work really looks different if you make the connection with the role of nationalism in European politics in the period after 1850.  The theory and practice of nationalism places language and culture at the heart of what makes the nation.  It was the rise of nationalism that corroded multinational empires and consolidated national states in Europe.  In a world of disintegrating empires and newly independent states each with linguistic  minorities  cultural relations work becomes a deadly serious business.   The professor of foreign literature is potentially a saboteur of a fragile national unity.

The US and the UK certainly have national identities and display nationalistic behaviour but  Anglo-Saxon versions of ‘the  nation’ don’t make the same language-culture-nation connection.   This line of thinking explains why  ‘culture’ hasn’t had the same prominence in the history of British and American external projection as it has had in France, Germany or Italy.

Gienow-Hecht, J. (2003) ‘Trumpeting Down the Walls of Jericho: The Politics of Art, Music and Emotion in German-American Relations, 1870-1920’, Journal of Social History, 36: 585-613.

Santoro, S. (2001) ‘The cultural penetration of Fascist Italy abroad and in eastern Europe’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 8: 36-66.

Sretenovic, S. (2009) ‘French cultural diplomacy in the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians in the 1920s’, European Review of History: Revue europeenne d’histoire, 16: 33-47.

Young, R.J. (2004) Marketing Marianne: French Propaganda in America, 1900-1940. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

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