(Copyright @ 2015 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
It is no wonder that anthropologists may best serve as effective diplomats in the theatrical stage of international community. It is through the wisdom of scholars who study and understand peoples’ culture and society can better conduct the art of diplomacy to address transnational issues confronted by citizens of humanity.
Two anthropologists can best exemplify the argument I am trying to expound in my essay. They are Filipino anthropologist Mario Zamora and American anthropologist Liisa Malkki.
The late Dr Mario D Zamora, an Indologist or someone who specializes on Indian affairs has expressed his love affair with India since the inception of his teaching career that resulted to fieldworks and immersion producing numerous writings, a dissertation, and research works on India and the Philippines.
Manifestations of interests on Indian culture and society are found in his works such as his first edited book in 1959, entitled, An Indian Village Council Development; later he specialized in the subcontinent of India for which he wrote a dissertation on The Panchayat: A Study of the Changing Village Council with Special Reference to Senapur, Uttar Pradesh in 1963. Based from the abstract of his study, he wanted to know and understand the Panchayat system in India from the Vedic Age until 1962. He aimed at describing the changes undergone by the Panchayat, an ancient Indian institution, and to point out some constant features in its historical transition. In his observation, the Panchayat is vital and still part of the existing culture apparent to present India.
His fieldwork in India had been documented in his book on Fieldwork: The Human Experience in 1963 where his article, together with some articles penned by Asian and American anthropologists. They wrote extensively experiences in their chosen fieldwork areas. Professor Zamora concentrated his experiences studying the inner workings in Indian society.
He ascended to later become the Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman from 1963 to 1969. His six-year stint as chair of the Anthropology Department brought him to higher post as Dean of the University of the Philippines at Baguio City. He then taught at American universities latter in his teaching career.
While Dr Liisa Malkki, an American anthropologist, immersed herself extensively in various fieldworks in Africa particularly among Hutu refugees in Tanzania and Hutu exiles from Burundi and Rwanda. Because of her romance with refugee camps, she was able to write books and articles about her fieldwork and embraced interesting research interests on the politics of nationalism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism, and human rights.
She started as assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California in Irvine where at that time she was doing extensive fieldwork in Tanzania and wrote her first book on Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania in 1995. Her exposure to inhumane conditions of refugees during civil war led her to explore political violence and exile which she thought may produce transformations on historical consciousness and national identity among displaced people.
Because of this extensive fieldwork in Tanzania, she was able to produce article essays and books banking on her personal experiences and results of her observations in refugee camps. For example, in her article, Citizens of Humanity: Internationalism and the Imagined Community of Nations in 1994, she wrote a slice of her experience and ethnographic fieldwork among Hutu refugees from Burundi living in a refugee camp in western Tanzania. She chronicled various issues and concerns happening inside Mishamo camp by displaced people; the dynamics of ‘politics’ among foreign experts who are cast by the refugees as representatives of the “international audience”; and the political role of international organizations like the United Nations.
In her engaging article Refugees and Exile: From ‘Refugee Studies’ to the National Order of Things written in 1995, she again discusses the processes of national identity, historical consciousness, and social imagination of enemies constructed in the process of their everyday lives in refugee camps.
Today, she works as an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her research interests include: the politics of nationalism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism, and human rights discourses as transnational cultural forms; the social production of historical memory and the uses of history; political violence, exile, and displacement; the ethics and politics of humanitarian aid; child research; and visual culture.
Anthropologists as Bearer of Peace and the Prospects of Cultural Diplomacy
The advantage of anthropologists of becoming better torchbearers of peace among nations is their vast knowledge and understanding of the physical and cultural aspects of humans. Diplomacy, as a term, customarily refers to the whole process of the political relations of states. Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups with the purpose of strengthening the country, nation or organization in the service of relation to others by advancing the interests of a country’s charge.
The domain of diplomacy and promotion of peace are not new to anthropologists and around their community. In fact, Zamora wrote Anthropological Diplomacy: Issues and Principles in 1982 aimed at dissecting the culture of diplomacy in the promotion of peace and prevention of war by knowing, understanding, and appreciating the basic affirmations of society. On the other hand, Malkki beautifully wrote Things to Come: Internationalism and Global Solidarities in Late 1990s in 1998 to look at the prospects of how international community works and unites to aspire for world peace; and her engaging article on Citizens of Humanity: Internationalism and the Imagined Community of Nations in 1994 brought readers to take a glimpse about the lives and works of top diplomats in the United Nations (UN), as part of the scenarios she constructed to appeal for world solidarity as a global family.
Hence, the UN is a global arbiter of disputes founded in 1945, after the Second World War, by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, and promoting social progress, better living standards, and human rights. Because of its unique international character and the powers vested in its founding Charter, the organization can take action on wide ranging issues and provide a forum for its member-countries to express their views, through the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other bodies and committees.
Among the various pillars of international and regional organizations like the UN, European Union (EU), and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), there are three pillars common to all, namely: security, economic, and political. The newly added pillar would be cultural.
Cultural diplomacy has become a buzzword in the last decade for governments around the world. While there is no universal definition for cultural diplomacy, it has generally come to connote conscious efforts to promote cultural exchange among nations and peoples, with a view to foster mutual understanding (Cummings 2003, as cited in U.S. Department of State 2005). The relations forged by cultural diplomacy are therefore of a deeper nature, among peoples more than among governments or policies.
Because cultural diplomacy operates in the public sphere rather than in conference rooms, it is inextricably linked to public diplomacy (Bound et al. 2007, Ryniejska-Kieldanowicz 2009). It might be said that cultural diplomacy sets the tone for public diplomacy, which is a more policy-oriented approach to influencing public opinion. What is clear is that cultural diplomacy is a long-term, relationship-building process. Culture then acts as the advance party of sorts, setting the foundation for mutually beneficial future relations among states.
By definition, cultural diplomacy combines two fields of study. It necessarily contains an international relations aspect, its functions being linked to Joseph S. Nye Jr.’s (2003, as cited in U.S. Department of State 2005) concept of soft power, or being able to achieve one’s goals through attraction of persuasion. Simply put, the understanding fostered by cultural diplomacy is a means to political end. But the other, arguably more crucial aspect is culture. Because cultural diplomacy is “international communication” (Ryniejska-Kieldanowicz 2009), some understanding about what comprises the culture of a particular state must be arrived at, and what aspects of it should be communicated to the world.
Discourse on cultural diplomacy has likewise taken root in countries less prominent on the international scene. For instance, in Poland the concept is fairly new in government pronouncements. Ryniejska-Kieldanowicz (2009) found cultural diplomacy to be integral to a country’s branding efforts, or how a country intends for others to perceive it. She claims soft power to be more relevant today than military “hard power”. Cultural diplomacy, therefore, enables non-powers (in the international relations) to make a play on the world stage.
Compared to other countries that have steadily pursuing cultural diplomacy thrusts for years now, the Philippines might be considered a laggard. Only in 2011 did the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) created a Cultural Diplomacy Unit (CDU) via Department Order 15-11. Cultural diplomacy is now the unofficial “fourth pillar” of foreign policy, alongside, national security, economic diplomacy, and assistance to Filipino nationals.
The formation of the CDU is the latest development in what it seems to be a renewal of cultural thrusts by the Philippine government, punctuated by the passing of the country’s National Cultural Heritage Act in 2009 or Republic Act No 10066. The law seeks to protect national heritage by affording special protections to materials or work deemed National Cultural Treasures or Important Cultural property.
Both Department Order 15-11 and RA No. 10066 call for the establishment in other countries of a Sentro Rizal, an institution intended to be a repository of resources on Philippine culture. The Act mentions the education of Filipino children living abroad as the main purpose of the Sentro Rizal. However, its inclusion in the CDU directive signals a cultural diplomacy function, and that the materials to be sourced in the Sentro Rizal may be used to promote Philippine culture to host countries. This is a function similar to the British Council, China’s Confucius Institute, and other cultural organizations.
For instance, in order to align my essay to the works of one of the anthropologists I am studying, Dr Mario Zamora has been a prolific writer about Indian society and culture. Being a student of anthropology and a practicing anthropologist myself, I have written also articles In India about our defense and strategic partnership with India. I have been documenting India’s contributions to the Philippines’ emerging frontline service sector in business process outsourcing in the country. Also, the Philippines established diplomatic relations with India in November 1949. In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Philippines-India diplomatic relations, the month of November has been proclaimed as “Philippines-India Friendship Month” under Proclamation No. 1924 signed on October 23, 2009 in Malacanan Palace. This amicable gesture cemented the 57 year old Treaty of Friendship signed in Manila on July 11, 1952 between the two democratic countries and pre-dominantly English speaking countries in Asia.
Anthropologists as Leaders in the International Community
Anthropologists as thinkers and peace advocates can offer best ideas on how to understand cultural similarities and differences of humanity and of the international community. They are a good source in understanding cultures at wartime and peacetime. For instance, two female anthropologists, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, shared sphere of influence and expertise after their influential, popular, and best-selling writings to reverberate the role of anthropologists in high-level policymaking as their grit for cross-cultural policy recommendations were observed at war time. Thus, the scholarly contributions of anthropologists Mario Zamora and Liisa Malkki can also be attributed to the works of high-profile and respected anthropologists Benedict and Mead.
In current deterritorialized world, the World Bank president, Korean-born American physician and anthropologist Jim Yong Kim made as difference as he ensured the organization’s mission to deliver more powerful results to support sustained growth and prioritize evidence-based solutions over ideology. He earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1991 where he helped set up the Global Health Delivery Project and a Ph.D in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1993.
In the end, anthropologists can also make a difference in the world or the international community. Their scholarly works, research projects, and commentaries are primordial in understanding clash of civilizations and soft power diplomacy that are founded by culture; in hope that we become a unified and harmonious family of nations. They can contribute extensively on diplomacy, national security, peace process, and nation-building which are primordial to aspire for a better world.
Bound, et al. 2007. Cultural Diplomacy. London: Demos.
Cummings, M. Jr. 2003. Cultural Diplomacy and the United States Government: A Survey. Washington D.C: Center for Arts and Culture.
Malkki, L. 1998. Things to Come: Internationalism and Global Solidarities in the Late 1990s. Public Culture, Volume 10 (2): 431-442.
Malkki, L. 1995. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu refugees in Tanzania. Chicago University Press.
Malkki, L. 1995. Refugees and Exile: From ‘Refugee Studies’ to the National Order of Things. Annual review of Anthropology 24.
Malkki, L. 1994. Citizens of Humanity: Internationalism and the Imagined Community of Nations. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, Volume 3 (1): 41-68.
Nye, J. 2003. Propaganda Isn’t the Way: Soft Power. The International Herald Tribune, 10 January.
Ryniejska-Kieldanowicz, M. 2009. Cultural Diplomacy as a Form of International Communication. Finalist Paper, Institute for Public Relations, BledCom Special Prize for Best New Research on the Cultural Variable in Public Relations Practice, Institute for Public Relations.
U.S. Department of State. 2005. Cultural Diplomacy: The Linchpin of Public Diplomacy. Report of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy.
Zamora, M. 1983. Fieldwork: The Human Experience. New York: Gordon and Breach.
Zamora, M. 1982. Anthropological Diplomacy: Issues and Principles. Studies in Third World Societies, Williamsburg, Va: Department of Anthropology.
Zamora, M. 1963. The Panchayat: A Study of the Changing Village Council with Special Reference to Senapur, Uttar Pradash. India.
Zamora, M. 1959. An Indian Village Council Development. India.