New Book on French Scientific and Cultural Diplomacy…in English

I get quite a lot of hits on the blog from people searching for material on France so I’m pleased to be able to draw your attention to a new publication from Liverpool University Press, French Scientific and Cultural Diplomacy by Philippe Lane. ‘Lane is Professor of French Linguistics at Rouen University and is currently seconded to the French Foreign Ministry as Cultural Counsellor to the French Embassy in Jordan.’

This was originally published in French as Présence française dans le monde: L’action culturelle et scientifique (I’ve no idea why cultural and scientific have changed places as they cross the channel) Before you rush over to Amazon to buy a copy a word of warning.  Rather than an academic study this is in the vein of an official discussion; it has forewords by Foreign Minister and the head of the Institute Française.  It deals with  the recent changes in the organization of French cultural diplomacy such as the creation of the Institute Française.  What it doesn’t do is put the changes in a historical or comparative context or really explain or justify the underpinning assumptions.

It provides a summary of a lot of things that have been happening and makes a connection to the discussion over the diplomatie d’influence but at the end I remained a bit puzzled about a lot of things; for instance even after the creation of the new organizational structures why does France continue to have so many mediating organizations? There’s a 120 pages of text and three full pages of abbreviations most of which identify some kind of organization with a connection to public diplomacy.  There are quite a lot of areas where you’re left wanting more explanation – for instance Lane discusses the involvement of local government in development diplomacy but without some background the whole thing is a bit puzzling.

Despite these reservations it will be a useful resource and it does provide some useful references to contributions to the debate over French diplomacy.

Philippe Lane, French Scientific and Cultural Diplomacy (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2013) ISBN 978-1-84631-865-8, £20.

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