Exploring Cultural Relations!
A webinar held on Thursday, December 3 was attended by about 60 representatives from the cultural centers of Yunus Emre Institute around the world. The webinar presented an opportunity to adopt different perspectives to evaluate the role of cultural relations in the international arena.
The guest of this digital meeting was Dr. Carla Figueira of the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University of London.
Carla Figueira is a scholar specialized in international cultural relations and cultural and language policies and is the Director of Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy and the Director of Cultural Policy and Tourism at the same Institute.
Figueira is an international relations graduate of the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (Portugal). She moved to London after a career in arts management. In the UK, she went on to gain an MA in Arts Management at City University, and a Ph.D. in Cultural Policy and Management at the same university.
The digital meeting was launched by an opening speech by Dr. Mehmet Karakuş, Director of Turkish Cultural Center at London Yunus Emre Institute. Having previously had the opportunity to work with Dr. Carla Figueira in many joint activities, Karakuş thanked Figueira for her participation and provided a comprehensive introduction of her deep knowledge in cultural relations.
Prior to Dr. Figueira’s presentation and the subsequent Q&A session, the studies by the Institute employees on cultural relations within the scope of the recently-completed Intercultural Dialogue Digital Trainings were evaluated. Participants then took a brief survey to describe how they viewed their role in cultural relations.
In her presentation, Dr. Figueira provided various definitions on cultural diplomacy and cultural relations and shared information on how soft power was employed for different purposes and using different methods over time.
While explaining her approach to definitions of cultural diplomacy, cultural relations, and soft power, Dr. Figueira referred to the definition by Joseph S. Nye, an American political scientist:
“I see cultural diplomacy as governments’ use of culture as a tool to achieve their foreign policy goals and to attain soft power, which is the most important outcome of these relations (Nye, 2004)”.
Stating that such perspective defined cultural diplomacy as an important discipline in international relations, Dr. Figueira drew attention to the statements of Political Science Professor Patricia Goff that “art, language, and education are the most important gateways to culture”.
While referring to a broad spectrum, she stated that such studies could be positioned within a broad spectrum from direct messages to listening. She also expressed that listening-oriented studies in that spectrum were the works closest to cultural dialogue.
In her explanations regarding the concepts of power, Dr. Figueira provided the following definitions:
“Power is the body of relationships created within a certain process. Its occurrence can also be evaluated within a wide range such as pressure/coercion and impact/attraction. The concept of Hard Power is defined as the power of the states towards many different apparatuses such as population, broadness of the country’s territory, level of education, military power, and leadership. Soft Power, on the other hand, is to employ invisible sources of power such as an attractive culture, ideology and institutions to make others want the results you want to achieve.”
Dr. Figueira then shared different research and country indexes showing the cultural relations between countries as well as soft power rankings, and started the session where they exchanged ideas on the effects of different approaches to cultural diplomacy.
The questions posed by the directors of Turkish Cultural Centers of Yunus Emre Institute, who were keenly interested in the session, helped discover different perspectives on cultural relations. Among the topics discussed were many different perspectives ranging from the political environment that shaped cultural relations to the positive and negative reflections of the imperial legacy on cultural relations today.
Although there was not enough time to bring other issues to the agenda of discussion, this digital meeting with Dr. Figueira offered the participants the opportunity to evaluate the work and role of the Institute from different perspectives within the framework of cultural relations and dialogue.