Events: Culture’s Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy

Tomorrow, 5 November 2009, from noon to 4p at the SIS Lounge at American University is “Culture’s Purpose and the Work of Cultural Diplomacy”:

During a moment of the apparent recommitment in the United States to soft power, smart power, and the relevance of cultural diplomacy, this conference brings together key stakeholders in the future of cultural diplomacy, including members of the policy community, practitioners in public diplomacy, and academic researchers, to examine the relationship between our understanding of how culture works, the expression of democratic ideals, and how cultural diplomacy functions as part of U.S. public diplomacy.

Former Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jim Glassman will give the keynote. Discussants include Nancy Snow (Syracuse University), Helle Dale (Heritage Foundation), and David Firestein (EastWest Institute, formerly Senior Advisor to the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy), Frank Hodsoll (Resource Center for Cultural Engagement), John Brown (Georgetown University), Kathleen Brion (Public Diplomacy Alumni Association), and Lawrence Wohlers (Smithsonian Institution). Moderators include Craig Hayden, Amb. Anthony Quainton, and Robert Albro.

The full schedule is below. The event is organized by the International Communication Program at American University’s School of International Service and co-sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council and (yes, I/this blog are co-sponsoring the event).

More information can be found at the website.

Conference Schedule

11:30-12:00pm, Arrival and Sign-In (SIS Lobby)

12:00pm-12:15pm: Welcomes

  • Dean Louis Goodman, School of International Service
  • Prof. Nanette Levinson, Director, International Communication Program
  • Robert Heath, Public Diplomacy Council
  • Prof. Robert Albro, Conference Organizer

12:15pm-12:45pm: Keynote address offered by Amb. James Glassman

12:45pm-1:45pm: Panel I: Moderator, Prof. Craig Hayden

The Expressive and Instrumental Power of Culture as a Diplomatic Tool

Rationale: Part of the appeal of cultural diplomacy is a widespread conviction that such opportunities for cultural exchange, experiences of cultural expression, and encounters with cultural creativity can have transformative effects in international affairs and among publics. But how does this happen? How does cultural work bring this about? In what ways does culture function as a kind of soft or smart power? How, in short, does culture effectively work as a diplomatic tool?


  • Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Institution
  • Nancy Snow, Syracuse University
  • Helle Dale, Heritage Foundation
  • David Firestein, EastWest Institute

1:45pm-2:15pm: Audience Questions and Discussion of Panel I

2:15pm-3:15pm: Panel II: Moderator, Amb. Anthony Quainton

The Relationship between Culture, Democracy, and Public Diplomacy

Rationale: How cultural diplomacy communicates the virtues of democracy is not self-evident. Given the variable content of U. S. cultural diplomacy programs, is this content also democratic content? If cultural diplomacy expresses democratic content, how does it do so? If democracy is a self-evidently powerful idea with universal appeal, the turn to culture is a particularist one highlighting regional, national, and local distinctiveness. If democracy is a goal of U. S. cultural diplomacy, how can these trends by reconciled and what kind of democracy does cultural diplomacy express?


  • Frank Hodsoll, Resource Center for Cultural Engagement
  • John Brown, Georgetown University
  • Kathleen Brion, Public Diplomacy Alumni Association
  • Lawrence Wohlers, Smithsonian Institution

3:15pm-3:45pm: Audience Questions and Discussion of Panel II

3:45pm-4pm: Closing Remarks, Prof. Robert Albro

4:00pm: Conference ends