Cultural Imperialism Vs Cultural Diplomacy LECTURE 7 Philip M. Taylor Professor of International Communications The Pertinent Issues • Communications/Media scholars have been obsessed with ‘cultural imperialism’ since 1970s • Part of the context of the Cold War – but did they miss the point because of ideological blinkers/agenda? • So is there any evidence about cultural dissemination by governments to foreign peoples? • Yes! But the discipline has been looking in the wrong place – hence ‘cultural diplomacy’. The Obsession with ‘cultural imperialism’ • Sees cultural transfer as negative, aggressive, unwanted and damaging • Sees this as part of a ‘one-way’ flow of information from ‘north to south’ • Calls to redress the balance by a NWICO through UNESCO OED Definitions • Imperialism: ‘the rule of an emperor, espec. when despotic; the principle or spirit of empire; advocacy of imperial interests’ • Empire: ‘supreme and extensive political dominion’ (i.e. domination) OED Definition of Culture • 'improvement or refinement by education and training; the training and refinement of mind, tastes and manners; the condition of being thus trained and refined; the intellectual side of civilization'. • Cultural imperialism is thus a contradiction in terms. The heart of the matter • the issue can be summarised as the process by which communications are used to disseminate cultural products from one society to another with the effect that they displace or dominate indigenous cultural norms in the recipient country • 'the use of political and economic power to exalt and spread the value of a foreign culture at the expense of a native culture' (Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism). Wrong questions, muddle thinking, confused terminology • Media Imperialism -’domination’ by films, tv, radio, video, news organisations & news agencies, advertising (i.e. the ‘software’) • Communications Imperialism - embraces the hardware as well as the software (i.e. the equipment, maintenance and technical support) What is the ‘evidence’ for this? ‘Coca-colonialism’ and attempts to ‘McDominate’ Media and cultural ‘imperialism’ Predominance of western media products Seeing the Third World through the eyes of the west – ‘coups and disasters’ Western values predominate What is wrong with this ‘evidence’ ? Look around you Hollywood yes, but Bollywood no Local TV programming prevails in prime-time Western news values are about ‘bad news’ Microsoft yes, but hardware? Japanese don’t suffer same assault Nor do Chinese restaurants! Globalisation and anti- Globalisation Current ‘war on terrorism’ and a ‘war against Islam’ Anti-capitalist, anti-modern, anti-western ‘imperialism of the mind’ vs. ‘imperialism in reality’? MNCs/TNCs rather than governmental driven (but WTO, G8 etc) The triumph of free-market, democratic capitalism at the end of the Cold War So what’s it all about? The triumph of free-market, democratic capitalism at the end of the Cold War Democracies and non-democracies A ‘clash of civilisations’? Have-nots and haves Power! But wait – there IS some evidence Looking in the wrong place Cultural ‘diplomacy’ and ‘public diplomacy’ International Public Information What is the objective? Who are the target audience? But wait – there IS some evidence!!! Exchange of ideas in support of foreign policy, not imposition Mutual understanding in support of peace British Council, Alliance Francaise, Dante Allighieri Society, Goethe Institute, Tokyo Foundation International Broadcasting Target audience? Elites not masses Movers and shakers of tomorrow Economic benefits? Ideological benefits? In light of the current ‘war on terrorism’, is this the wrong audience? Conclusions States do spend taxpayers’ money on exporting culture, values and products abroad Telling their ‘truth’, selling their values Does this have a negative impact? Is the ‘global village’ a bad thing?
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