National Projection

Cultural Propaganda and the Cold War
  • James R. Vaughan
Part of the Cold War History Series book series (CWH)


The study of cultural diplomacy in the Middle East presents a number of problems for the historian. One is the paucity of existing research in the field, for while there is a growing literature on the waging of the cultural Cold War in Europe, the Middle East (despite J.M. Lee’s claim that it was the challenge of Arab nationalism that forced British policy makers to appreciate the importance of cultural diplomacy1) has not featured in the majority of these accounts. A major problem has been the difficulty experienced in locating the cultural element of international relations and this has led to a profusion of overlapping and interwoven categories of analysis of which ‘cultural diplomacy’, ‘national projection’, ‘cultural relations’, ‘public diplomacy’, ‘cultural transmission’, ‘intellectual relations’, ‘the diplomacy of ideas’ and ‘cultural exchange’ are merely among the most common. Some scholars have deployed these terms more or less interchangeably, using them to denote the long-term processes ‘intended to promote a better understanding of the nation that is Sponsoring the activity’.2 The preferred term here is ‘cultural diplomacy’, which is understood as referring to a government’s employment or appropriation of cultural and educational activities in the pursuit of foreign policy goals. In this sense, there is case to be made for drawing a distinction between ‘cultural diplomacy’ and the altogether more amorphous processes of ‘cultural relations’ which, as Jessica Gienow-Hecht suggests, represent a much wider and often less politically tangible set of transnational cultural connections.3


Middle East Middle Eastern Cultural Relation Arab World British Council 
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  1. 1.
    Lee , ‘British Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War, 1946–61’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, Vol. 9, No. 1 (March 1998), pp. 112–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Welch , ‘Cultural propaganda’, in Cull, Culbert and Welch (eds), Propaganda and Mass Persuasion. A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Inc., 2003), pp. 101–2.Google Scholar
  3. 103.
    Von Eschen , Satchmo Blows Up the World. Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  4. See also Von Eschen, ‘Who’s the real ambassador? exploding Cold War racial ideology’, in Appy (ed.),Cold War Constructions (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), pp. 110–31.Google Scholar

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© James R. Vaughan 2005

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  • James R. Vaughan

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