Talk: Cultural diplomacy

Museums for World Peace?

Photo: © Jessica Long
Wednesday 21 October 2009, 18.30–21.00
Cultural diplomacy' is in vogue. The idea is that museums, galleries, libraries, art, theatre and music can play a critical role in international relations. The think tank Demos recommends these institutions address terrorism and conflict in the Middle East, and work to enhance relations with diasporas. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, argues that the museum, its staff and collections can play a role in state-building and promoting peace and stability internationally, as well as helping those who visit in Bloomsbury to understand and appreciate other cultures. It is argued that in the context of a world that is experiencing a dramatic resurgence in nationalism and sectarian violence, encyclopaedic museums can play a positive role in encouraging understanding and tolerance between cultures.

But can culture really ease international conflict and foster tolerance? Or does looking to old objects to find messages of tolerance for today meaning obscuring the contemporary reasons behind conflicts? Does assigning cultural institutions such a role risk undermining their more traditional goals, or even compromise their scholarly objectivity? What kind of relationships should Western cultural institutions have with their counterparts abroad, and to what purpose? What role, if any, can and should museums play on the international stage?


Dr. Stephen Deuchar, Director of Tate Britain

Dr. Tiffany Jenkins, sociologist; Director of the Arts & Society programme at the Institute of Ideas

Jonathan Jones, Art Critic of the Guardian

Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council

Tim Stanley, Senior Curator, Middle East at the V&A, as well as the principal author of Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East

Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas and panellist on BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze

In association with the Institute of Ideas

Tate Britain  Auditorium
£10 (£8 concessions), booking recommended

For more info please go to

Dr Tiffany Jenkins
Tel: 07983640133


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