FROM ‘SOFT’ TO ‘HARD’ POWER? CHANGING VISIONS OF DIPLOMACY BY DESIGN FROM 1945 ONWARDS

Brighton, 27 November 2015

The deadline for paper abstracts: 20 July 2015

This one-day symposium considers design, in its broadest definition, as a tool of government diplomacy from the early Cold War to the present day. We wish to combine a range of interdisciplinary perspectives to consider how design has been, or is, used as an object of diplomacy, with a particular intention to extend the discussion beyond the geographies and administrations which are often the focus of historical accounts of this period (i.e. Europe-USSR-America). ‘Design’ is defined very broadly to include exhibitions; monuments; buildings; interiors; transport; dress; design products; design interaction; design systems; craft and graphic design.

Papers might focus around one of the following issues (and we also welcome other suggested topics):
• How governments or administrations have forged relationships through design
• How regional, national or transnational identities have been conveyed through design
• The role design organisations play as carriers of ‘soft power’
• Designers’ involvement with inter-governmental exchanges or as regional, national or transnational ambassadors
• How objects have been used as catalysts, or participants, in the development of political relationships
• How digital and online cultures have impacted on diplomacy through design
• How globalisation has affected diplomacy through design

Objects have been used within diplomatic exchange for centuries. But from the early Cold War era design became a much more conspicuous locus for diplomatic exchange, crystallising official ideas of cultural, economic and political value.  Cockcroft (1974), Staniszewski (1998) and Castillo (2010) have written about how museums like the Museum of Modern Art New York and international exhibitions like the 1959 US Exhibition in Moscow acted as significant carriers of soft diplomatic power during the early Cold War. Meanwhile Loeffler (1998) has described how an expanded embassy-building programme was the US response to the drawing of the Iron Curtain after 1946, while Fraser and Kerr (2007) describe how the US-UK ‘special relationship’ was materialised through planning schemes and architecture, Sandler (2004) how German reunification was reflected in Berlin’s architecture, Gurdalli and Koldas (2015) how the territorial division of contemporary Nicosia is reflected in city buildings and Immerwahr (2007) on postcolonial politics refracted through architecture and urbanism in postcolonial Lagos.  More recently, designers have been invited to engage with policy-makers in order to offer design solutions within international conflict.

Papers should be given in English.

Please send a 300 word abstract and a short biography to Dr. Harriet Atkinson (h.atkinson2@brighton.ac.uk) and Dr. Verity Clarkson (V.E.C.Clarkson@brighton.ac.uk ).

We have a limited budget to contribute to speakers’ accommodation costs but cannot help with travel costs. Please do contact us if you have any questions. This symposium is supported by the University of Brighton’s Internationalising Design History research group.

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