ICCE OPEN LECTURE Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power – John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos


Wednesday, 27 November, 2pm-4pm, LG02 NAB


Influence and Attraction: A Debate on Soft Power

John Holden, Associate at think-thank Demos

John Holden presents the key findings of his report Influence and Attraction: Culture and the Race for Soft Power in the 21st Century 

In his own words:

“Cultural contact between nations used to involve high art and elite meetings: Harold Macmillan visiting the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow with Khrushchev in 1959 is a paradigmatic example. But in the 21st century both culture and communication have become democratised.  Cheap flights, 24 hour news, migration and the internet have combined to create a world of mass peer-to-peer communication; and the content of much of that communication is cultural. Culture – the means we use to express ourselves through art, film, music, dance, literature and so on – provides a bridge between people.

This has huge economic and social consequences that are discussed in the report. It also has political implications, because what happens in the cultural arena increasingly affects what politicians can do: cultural misunderstandings create political problems, while an ‘attractive’ culture gives nations a licence to operate, and a chance of being persuasive.

International relations is a rapidly developing field, with new players like cities and the private sector taking a role. It is also one where Western governments are decreasing spending – and hence ceding influence. By contrast, developing nations, and particularly the BRICS, see culture as an area where they need to be more active.

Hu Jintao greeted 2012 with these words: ‘The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China’s international status…The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

Things are starting to change: K-pop is big in Peru, Brazil will host the next Olympics, and China has opened Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in 104 countries in the last seven years.

But the growth nations of the east and south will be making a big mistake if they think cultural relations are all about power and projection. The countries that ‘win’ this race for soft power will be those whose citizens are culturally, as well as intellectually and emotionally, intelligent. Nations need to spend as much time and effort learning about other cultures as they do on telling the world about their own cultures if they are to flourish in the next century.”

You can download the report here:


Interesting debate related with this report:


Follow the UK’s Parliament committee’s discussions on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence:



New Book by Dr. Carla Figueira

Peter Lang has jut published a new book by Dr. Carla Figueira, entitled Languages at War: External Language Spread Policies in Lusophone Africa.

Further details on the book available here: 


Dr. Figueira is the Director of the MA Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy and the MA Cultural Policy and Tourism at ICCE, Goldsmiths.

Excerpt of the book’s Foreword by Robert Phillipson, author of Linguistic Imperialism:

“The warfare analysed by Carla Figueira is the battle for hearts and minds and influence, the goal of Westerners being to profit from the economies of vulnerable former colonies, often through continuing to exploit them. Portuguese is in combat with French and English in a new scramble for Africa and its resources – with language as a key battering ram. New alliances have emerged, countries identified as Lusophone, Francophone and Anglophone/Commonwealth. However, in such countries only a small fraction of the population is proficient in these languages. The challenge for Carla Figueira has been to relate the forces and pressures impacting on national and international power to national identity and diversity, to linguistic imperialism and linguistic human rights, and the roles of the various constituences, including non-governmental organizations. She describes the theoretical ramparts for analysing the complex interlocking of these various factors. The instruments and agents of linguistic warfare are diagnosed, as are the implications for the citizens of the countries involved.

 Carla Figueira’s book fills an important gap in the research literature. It explores cultural and linguistic diplomacy through a comparative empirical study of the policies of France, Germany, Portugal and the UK in the ‘external’ spread of their languages. It relates the activities to their reception in two former Portuguese colonies. Brazil was included because of the link between Portuguese-speaking Brazil and Portuguese former colonies in Africa. The study integrates approaches from the fields of international relations, development ‘aid’, sociolinguistics, language diversity, language rights, and language policy, especially in education. It judiciously presents a great deal of information on under-researched topics, and brings the issues together in astute and interesting conclusions. This is therefore an important book for the study of North-South links, and how agendas that are of major significance for social cohesion in postcolonial states are set.”

ICCE highlights the IFA Conference “Europe from the Outside”

ICCE highlights the IFA Conference “Europe from the Outside”

12 December, Brussels, Belgium


The Institut für Auslandsbezieehungen (German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) organised last week a conference reflecting on ‘European external cultural relations: Expectations from the outside’. The event, part of an on going reflection on the connection of cultures, provided participants with a much needed insight into how European external cultural relations are viewed outside of Europe and what is expected of them. Dr Carla Figueira attended on behalf of ICCE.

Insightful keynotes were provided by Dr. Natalia Chaban, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and by Farai Mpfunya, Executive Director of the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust. A further number of interventions questioned perceptions and expectations. ICCE highlights the question asked by Katelijn Verstraete (British Council Singapore, previously Asia-Europe Foundation): “Is Europe really relevant to others?” – a powerful reality check prompt – and the advice provided by Anmol Vellani, Executive Director of the India Foundation for the Arts, that emphasised the need of European organisations to educate themselves about their partners and the contexts in which they will work and the importance of taking risks and learning from mistakes.

Proceedings of the event will be included in the 2013 EUNIC- Yearbook.

Full information on the conference is available at: