French and German cultural action in Brazil in the 1960s and 1960s

February 25, 2016
Lanoe E (2012) La culture au service de la diplomatie? Les politiques culturelles extérieures de la RFA et de la France au Brésil (1961-1973), PhD, Lille: Universite Charles de Gaulle – Lille III.


680 pages of text on French and German cultural relations strategies in Brazil in the 1960s and 70s probably isn’t top of your reading priorities but it if is I’d recommend this, even if you’re not it raises some important points about how to go about analysing public diplomacies.

Lanoe works across France and Germany both at the level of institutional and policy developments at home and at the country level. This allows her to compare perspectives and developments across the two countries as well as between field and HQ. By looking at France and Germany together she’s able to track the way that changes in the Brazilian context, for instance the military coup, generated different responses from France and Germany.

The thesis also underlines some themes that I’ve seen in my research. Public diplomacies aren’t just about the country to country dyad but also about third parties. In the period under consideration France’s position in Brazil was affected by the conflict in Algeria and the activities of Algerian national sympathisers while that of (West) Germany was also influenced by the activities of East Germany. By covering a relatively long time frame it’s also possible to see the partial unwinding of the priority given to the Cold War in West German activities. There’s also an interesting discussion of generational conflicts within the German system where younger Goethe Institute directors chafed against the older central management of the organization and the foreign ministry many of whom had careers dating back to the Nazi era.

Because the thesis is looks at activities on Brazil it adds quite a lot to more general treatments that focus more on what’s happening at home – for instance Kathe (2005) on the Goethe Institut.  I think that this is important because it helps to put the German debate  on Auswärtige Kulturpolitik that unfolded during the 1970s into the context of changing priorities during the previous decade and of real practices.

Kathe SR (2005) Kulturpolitik um Jeden Preis: Die Geschichte des Goethe-Instituts von 1951 bis 1990. Munich: Martin Medienbauer.

You can download Lanoe’s thesis here



  1. Wow, thank you for that Robin, excellent stuff. Two quick comments:
    . I take that Phd as one more example of something I am tracing in my own work: PD is not the isolated field it is made up into by PD studies, but as it has been practiced it is mostly a slice of general foreign relations. Thus the importance of context.
    . PD studies seems to me like an anglophone sphere, and rather autistic in that. There is a depth of work done in other languages, and especially around a Franco-German scientific and linguistic axis. There are plenty of researchers and research groups speaking both languages and dealing with both countries. This cross-border … intellectual community, habits of relations might be a result of European integration more enduring than the EU itself. Something that might endure once we are done collectively destroying the institutional framework and other cross-border cooperations.

    • Thanks Louis. The fact that Anglophone scholarship doesn’t engage with French and German cases is a problem not just for Public Diplomacy studies but also for Diplomatic Studies generally not to mention how we understand influence in international politics. The problem is that there’s an interaction between cases and concepts. If you don’t know a case you don’t know that it doesn’t fit your concepts but if a case doesn’t fit the concepts it probably doesn’t look like a case at all!

  2. We can discuss that in a few weeks in Atlanta! Looking forward to that.

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