R.S. Zaharna

Summary

In contemporary public diplomacy, the idea of culture and nation-state are so intertwined that notions such as ‘national culture’ that fuel populism or culture as a soft-power resource often go unquestioned. This article critically revisits assumptions of state-centric diplomacy that tie culture to the state. Culture as a domain of the state, which helped carve up the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has become limiting in a twenty-first-century milieu that is both culturally diverse and interconnected. The article probes the communication dynamics that are untethering culture from the state and giving prominence to forces of increased separation as well as global collaboration, including the phenomenon of humanity-centred diplomacies. Humanity-centred diplomacies’ distinguishing features — global consciousness, holistic perspective, cultural diversity and process-orientation — suggest advantages over state-centric diplomacy for leveraging cultural diversity and tackling complex global problems.

R.S. Zaharna

Summary

In contemporary public diplomacy, the idea of culture and nation-state are so intertwined that notions such as ‘national culture’ that fuel populism or culture as a soft-power resource often go unquestioned. This article critically revisits assumptions of state-centric diplomacy that tie culture to the state. Culture as a domain of the state, which helped carve up the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has become limiting in a twenty-first-century milieu that is both culturally diverse and interconnected. The article probes the communication dynamics that are untethering culture from the state and giving prominence to forces of increased separation as well as global collaboration, including the phenomenon of humanity-centred diplomacies. Humanity-centred diplomacies’ distinguishing features — global consciousness, holistic perspective, cultural diversity and process-orientation — suggest advantages over state-centric diplomacy for leveraging cultural diversity and tackling complex global problems.

R.S. Zaharna

Summary

Recently, there has been a drive to rebalance public diplomacy scholarship from its predominantly Western origins. However, even as we diversify to non-Western studies, buried assumptions laid in public diplomacy’s foundation may still continue to restrict our view of public diplomacy as a global practice. This Forum essay critically examines two of those assumptions. First, ‘individualism’ — as an ideal of separate, bounded entities — fosters a tight focus on individual actors and action, while often overlooking relational and contextual dynamics. Second, ‘estrangement’ normalises the idea of separation and alienation, a proposition not shared by other traditions that recognise diversity but presupposes inter-connectedness and commonality. From relational and holistic perspectives, mediating diversity is not the same as ‘mediating estrangement’. The goal of exposing assumptions is to recognise their limitations and create space for more relational and holistic perspectives to expand our vision from West/non-West to a range of global public diplomacies.