british council

Olivia Siller, one of the teenagers on the British Council Summer School educational and cultural trip to the UK, blogs about the group’s adventures on their visit to Liverpool. Imagine walking through the busy streets of Manhattan, tilting your head to see the giant skyscrapers towering over you. Then envision the beautiful buildings of London that overflow with character and history.

A recent article in The Chronicle – ‘Is Europe Passé‘ – examines the US’s higher education efforts with new partners and how this affects relationships with the UK, among others. In response, the British Council’s higher education manager in the US, Janice Mulholland, suggests a different form of partnerships for institutions in a global economy.

Both my academic and professional careers were hugely influenced by my volunteering experiences. I have always worked with ethnic minority communities, who have often been marginalised from the wider and dominant culture of society. I have actively participated in projects focused on advocating for the rights of women who had no recourse to UK public funds and were experiencing domestic violence. This influenced my decision to apply my knowledge of social work principles, techniques and practices to complex cases and community issues in international development.

Football, contrary to many other banned fun activities and hobbies, was one of the most popular sports and was played all over the country even during Taliban government. The teams played nationally and regionally. After the collapse of Taliban rule, sport in general, but especially football, began to flourish and significant achievements in football were made both nationally and at international level.

As we prepared recently for this week’s Scottish launch of a British Council-commissioned report by Demos into the role that culture plays in the race for soft power in the 21st century, I thought back on that episode at the LHC; how culture, like the sciences, really does bring people together – even those with very different world views.

English tends to be conceptualised as a monolithic entity, more like a planet than a galaxy. We talk about ‘the’ English language, ‘the’ grammar of English, and ‘the’ vocabulary of English, as though it was all one neat system. But linguists have long understood that this is no more than a convenient fiction. In the 21st century, the global diversity of Englishes and uses of English is revealing that the fiction can be rather inconvenient on many levels, especially in parts of the world where native speakers are scarce.

As the name of our new publication suggests, soft power is all about influence and attraction which in the end we believe are far more powerful than coercion. If we draw people towards us because they respect our values, because they are excited by our visual arts, because they admire our universities, then the relationship is going to be far stronger than if it was based on any other factors.

Sharing culture is hard when you can't entertain another point of view, tough when you have to stick to your line, and impossible when what you say can immediately be turned into a headline and used as a stick to beat you. This is the lot of modern governments.

Pages