United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on women, peace, security, and sexual violence in conflict at United Nations Headquarters in New York June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS) - RTX10ZC8

The New Global Ambassador: Popular Culture as a Tool of International Diplomacy

Our winter 2016 feature issue, The New Global Ambassador: Popular Culture as a Tool of International Diplomacy, will be hitting newsstands soon! Check out the latest print edition as well as some exclusive online content.

The advent of technology and communications has made our world small, streamlining and organizing what we physically know about it. At the same time, it has made us more perceptive to the infinite threads that make up complex societies, cultures, and nation-states. Customs that were once distant and opaque are now simply a screen away. The ability to transmit information that embodies the identity of a whole nation at such a rapid pace necessitates a mediating force that can responsibly disseminate cultural knowledge in a way that facilitates the emergence of global citizens.

In our world today, this transmission of information is embodied by popular culture. It has the power to touch many chords and resonate with the masses through various mediums. Film is no longer the only avenue through which one can touch souls, change mindsets, and enlighten audiences. Social media, sporting events, and other forms of cultural exchange—sometimes taken for granted—also play an important role in connecting people. In this issue, the Harvard International Review will be examining the historical impact of popular culture in building bridges. It will trace this narrative through articles and see how it has changed over the years to encapsulate popular culture’s role as a crucial tool for international diplomacy. It is the new global ambassador.

In this issue, contributions to this discourse are provided by individuals working closely with the evolving role of popular culture as a diplomatic tool. Christopher Dodd, a former US Senator and the current CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, discusses the ways in which the United States connects with and is connected to individuals beyond its borders through the film industry. Evan Ryan, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, examines innovations in cultural diplomacy as alternatives to violence and avenues to explore shared values. Staff writers Yusuf Jailani, Laura Kanji, Veronica Ma, and Alison Steinbach contribute to a deeper understanding of the topic. Beyond the magazine’s featured content, the interview with Surin Pitsuwan, the former Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, sifts through the challenges facing the organization and its efforts to solidify its place in the world.

We are now connected with others in more nuanced ways than were imaginable before. Popular culture, through globalization, has become a part of our daily lives. This ease of access and interaction makes the phenomenon appear ordinary, yet it leads to a deeper understanding of people unlike ourselves. It is important to focus on this extraordinary gift of modernity as it relates to international relations in order to understand the dynamics of the global arena and its tangible impact on individuals and communities.

To new avenues of diplomacy—






Ashley Collins & Mahnoor Faisal Khan


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