Ambassador Cynthia Schneider:  Arts, Culture, and Media in AfPak

CPD Conversations in Public Diplomacy

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy was pleased to host CPD Research Fellow (2009-11), Ambassador Cynthia Schneider. Ambassador Schneider spoke about her assessment of the impact of arts, culture, and media in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Exploring how independent voices in media and the arts can hold governments accountable and foster positive social change has made up an important component of her research project. In particular, research has focused on ways in which arts, culture, and media can strengthen voices of moderation as well as a sense of national identity against the Taliban incursion in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lastly, she presented examples of how interactions between arts, media and society have worked in both urban and rural examples from television, social networking and traditional arts.

At this event, Ambassador Cynthia Schneider discussed US public diplomacy strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the need to educate Americans on the region as well. In a region only described for how dangerous it is, public diplomacy is tough to implement but not impossible. By understanding how to use arts, culture and media to enhance soft power, the US can gain credibility among the locals. But programs can’t be constructed to ‘give their culture back to them’ or be perceived as the US pushing local traditions to push an agenda. Schneider highlighted The Candidate, a show engaging people in the electoral process by having callers discuss what they want to hear from their candidates in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Schneider showed how Coca Cola set up a music studio, called Coke Studio, where American musicians collaborate with local classical artists. Cultural diplomacy is a two-way street, creating a fusion rather than only presenting one culture or the other. This means that US media must also recognize that people actually live in the region and have a rich culture worth sharing with fellow Americans.


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