De-Provincializing Soft Power: A Global-Historical Approach

President's Global Innovation Fund
Columbia Global Centers | Turkey
Additional locations: 
Columbia Global Centers | East Asia (Beijing), Columbia Global Centers | Latin America (Rio de Janeiro)

“De-Provincializing Soft Power: A Global-Historical Approach" is a three-year research project designed to study the power of cultural persuasion in foreign relations in ways that look beyond the Transatlantic and Western framework in which studies of "soft power" originated in the early 1990s. The project introduces the cases of three emerging powers, Brazil, China, and Turkey, that have developed soft-power agendas in rivalry with the U.S., Europe, and, in at least one region—Africa—with each other. The project will bring into conversation scholars in history, communications, cultural studies, and international relations to develop key indicators to understanding national practices of soft power, their cultural tap roots and historical legacies, as they were transformed in light of cyber-technology, multilateralism, and big shifts in relative economic, military, and political power.

The principal activities are conferences held in successive years at Columbia's centers in Istanbul, Beijing, and Rio de Janeiro, each bringing together faculty investigators and student participants from the regions represented in the study. In building its team, the project will exploit Columbia's cross-school resources and draw on the Global Centers' ability to facilitate regional research partnerships. The conferences will help create "lateral" connections among the centers and encourage their use to address global as well as regional issues. Students' roles, an integral component of the project, are designed to produce meaningful interaction with Columbia faculty and peers abroad.

This project is meant to be both critical and generative, producing the material for a new global history of the politics of persuasion and the foundation for new policies. The project's principal outcomes will be a collaboratively written global history of soft power; student research; an open-access website; and an NEH Summer Institute for College Teachers, which following the NEH's well-honed model will disseminate the project's results widely in U.S. higher education.