Date(s) - 12/04/2016
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Monash Asia Institute presents:
Featuring two internationally renowned scholars, this seminar will discuss cultural diplomacy in its
refreshing perspective by considering the implications of cultural diplomacy for diaspora. Prof.
Yudhishthir Raj Isar will give a talk about an Indian case and Prof. Jacqueline Lo will respond to his
argument with some reference to the cases of Asian-Australians.
Prof. Yudhishthir Raj Isar
(The American University of Paris)
Prof. Jacqueline Lo
(Australian National University)
Cultural diplomacy: an Indian exception?
In preference to ‘cultural diplomacy’, the Indian policy and foreign affairs elites believe in and
practice ‘international cultural relations’. For them, this is a form of cultural noblesse oblige, based
on a self-conscious awareness of the richness of India’s plural civilization. These cultural relations
are also oriented in considerable measure to the Indian diaspora rather than to foreign interlocutors
as such. The presentation will explore the genesis and unfolding of this Indian exception. The arts
and heritage were seen as intrinsic to the national brand image even before the country’s
independence in 1947. Just three years after the establishment of the Republic in 1950, the Indian
Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was created under the aegis of the ministry of education,
before being shifted to the external affairs portfolio in the 1960s. The presentation will unpack the
functioning of the ICCR and the ways in which the country’s non-state actors operate in symbiosis
with, or separately from this body. It will also consider, however, how focused branding objectives
marked the ambitious ‘Festivals of India’ personally initiated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the
1980s, as well as the short heyday of an innovative style of public diplomacy introduced in the
foreign ministry in the early twenty-first century. Some of these efforts refer to the ‘soft power’
paradigm that reigns in most countries today – the term is slowly gaining a foothold in India as well.
Finally, the presentation will examine how the cultural discourse per se has been trumped by the
global populism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected in 2014.
Light refreshment will be provided.