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The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society

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Cultural diplomacy: New Challenges and Perspectives

Manuscript deadline
01 November 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Dr. Biyun Zhu, University of Manchester
[email protected]

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Cultural diplomacy: New Challenges and Perspectives

JAMLS' first special issue on this topic, titled "Cultural Diplomacy in the Post-Cold War World," was published in 1999 and edited by Professor Kevin V. Mulcahy, who sadly passed away last year on 1st July. Today, 25 years after the initial special issue, we are announcing the second special issue on cultural diplomacy, honoring Professor Mulcahy’s remarkable contributions to the understanding and development of cultural diplomacy both in the US and globally, as well as his extensive support for early-career scholars throughout his career.

Since the last special issue in 1999, the landscape of cultural diplomacy has continuously evolved. As we have gradually moved away from the shadow of the Cold War, cultural diplomacy has encountered numerous new challenges that were previously unimaginable. These include a significant number of political and economic shifts worldwide, such as the global financial crisis (2008), Arab Spring (2010), Brexit (2016), the US election (2016), and the global rise of populism. There have been 9/11 (2001), Wars in Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003) and Ukraine (2014 & 2022), and intensified conflicts in Gaza. There have also been social movements like Black Lives Matter (2013 onwards), worldwide pandemics (e.g., COVID-19), and technological advances, including the applications of virtual reality and generative AI. All these seemingly disconnected incidents have profoundly shaped the actors, goals, resources, and methods of cultural diplomacy.

The term "cultural diplomacy," first used in 1957, now develops a variety of synonyms and derivatives, including but not limited to sports diplomacy, music diplomacy, language diplomacy, science diplomacy, and museum diplomacy. The emergence and popularization of these concepts, based on different cultural assets, reaffirm what Mulcahy noted in his introduction to the 1999 special issue: "The economic and political integration in the contemporary world has increased the salience of local cultural characteristics in cultural diplomacy" (Mulcahy 1999b, 1), which has also raised the question: How do local cultural expressions reconcile with the ever-changing global environments? Even after more than two decades, this remains an under-explored topic.

Cultural diplomacy, initially an extension of foreign policy, is now employed as a versatile tool by a broader array of actors (both state and non-state at various levels) to address global challenges such as economic inequality, human rights, sustainable development, and cultural diversity. This instrumentalization of art and culture has been criticized by many who argue that cultural exchanges should be apolitical and non-governmental. In comparison, Mulcahy (1999a) offers a more nuanced view that, while sensitive to political changes and reflecting international power dynamics, cultural diplomacy programs could be administratively separate from the government. With the participation of more diverse actors and growing debates of nation-states’ role in cultural diplomacy, we are compelled more than ever to explore the questions of whose interests are (and should be) represented in cultural diplomacy (Ang, Isar, and Mar 2015; Nisbett 2013), and how these diverse actors can (and cannot) collaborate effectively (Zhu and Wyszomirski 2022) to realize the potential of cultural diplomacy (Schneider 2009).

This special issue of JAMLS seeks to curate cross-national perspectives, new approaches, and case studies to understand and respond to these significant changes, challenges, and new trends in cultural diplomacy. Suggested topics of this special issue include, but are not restricted to:

  • Cultural institutions in cultural diplomacy: What are the evolving roles of GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) in fostering cultural diplomacy or international cultural relations?
  • Collaborative and governing mechanisms: What are effective strategies for fostering cooperation among diverse actors, including state and non-state, local and international?
  • Assessment of cultural diplomacy impacts: What are the innovative methods and metrics for assessing the impacts of cultural diplomacy initiatives? How can these be standardized and applied globally?
  • Reconciliation of local and global in cultural diplomacy: How do local cultural characteristics integrate with or resist the global cultural flows and political economies?
  • Equity and diversity in cultural diplomacy: Whose interests are currently represented in cultural diplomacy initiatives and whose should be? Are there knowledge or resources monopolies? How can inclusivity be improved?
  • Historical evolution of cultural diplomacy: How has cultural diplomacy evolved from the Cold War era to the present day? What are the key milestones and shifts?
  • Impact of technology on cultural diplomacy: How are technological advancements like virtual reality and generative AI reshaping the tools and reach of cultural diplomacy?

This issue encourages contributions from scholars, practitioners, and policymakers worldwide.


Ang, Ien, Yudhishthir Raj Isar, and Phillip Mar. 2015. "Cultural diplomacy: beyond the national interest?" International Journal of Cultural Policy 21 (4): 365-381.

Mulcahy, Kevin V. 1999a. "Cultural Diplomacy and the Exchange Programs: 1938–1978." The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 29 (1): 7-28.

---. 1999b. "Cultural diplomacy in the post-cold war world: introduction." Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 29 (1): 3.

Nisbett, Melissa. 2013. "New perspectives on instrumentalism: an empirical study of cultural diplomacy." International journal of cultural policy 19 (5): 557-575.

Schneider, Cynthia P. 2009. "The Unrealized Potential of Cultural Diplomacy: “Best Practices” and What Could Be, If Only…." The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society 39 (4): 260-279.

Zhu, Biyun, and Margaret J. Wyszomirski. 2022. "Designing cultural diplomacy policy: structuring a flagship mechanism." International Journal of Cultural Policy: 1-18.


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