Things are seldom what they seem
skim milk masquerades as cream
(William S. Gilbert)
Published on 3 February 2012
TransCulture Balkans showcases efforts to explore and transcend conflict in the Balkans through a variety of cultural means
Cultural diplomacy, though often incospicuous in its manner and subtle in the way it achieves its objectives, has often proved to be far more successful in attaining long-term and comprehensive effects. Very different from other forms of diplomatic exercise, the purpose of cultural diplomacy is not to persuade or to sway, to wrangle a compromise or force a solution, but rather to serve as a bridge connecting different contextual realities through the universally understood language of culture. Cultural exchange enables us to appreciate points of commonality and, where there are differences, to understand the motivations and principles underpinning them. Cultural diplomacy creates new venues of understanding and communication through demystification of cultural realities and idiosyncrasies which – though often distinct and foreign, do not have to be antagonistic or alien. Hence today, more than ever before, culture has a vital role to play in establishment and normalisation of good relations and strengthening of peace.
Cultural diplomacy is customarily performed through various forms of artistic expression – be it visual arts, literature, music, dance, film or theatre – which all have the power to transcend seemingly unsurmountable barriers, imposed by politics and the lack of understanding of the other. The arts can appeal to universal feelings, ideals and values, yet can also carry a certain characteristic or a trait particular for certain time, place, political, social and cultural circumstances. A shift from deeply set bi-polar structure of the Cold War to the uncertanties of today’s multi-polar world, has had a profound impact on ways in which nations construct, articulate and project their national identities, with religious, ethnic and cultural factors having a far more important role in defining one’s own sense of self, one’s identity and community.
The Western Balkans continues to be marked, scarred and defined by the persistence of mutually-antagonistic communities which are deprived of tangible opportunities to challenge the stereotypes upon which their mistrust of the other side is based. By opening new lines of communication that have been limited in the post-conflict culture, TransCulture will help raise awareness about the ‘other’ community or group, thereby promoting inter-ethnic dialogue and a process of conflict transformation. One of the underlying objectives of TransCulture is to promote innovative means of challenging prevailing social constraints and exploring the divided societies of the Western Balkans.
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