Introducing … Gastrodiplomacy

Food, meet diplomacy.  It shouldn’t be surprising that food plays an important role in statecraft–but that appears to be changing (here, herehere and here):

But until now, food hasn’t been taught alongside international relations in the classroom. That’s because of past resistance to bringing food into other academic fields, says Sam Chapple-Sokol, a culinary diplomacy scholar who helps Mendelson Forman teach her class.

“People think it’s trivial or frivolous, that food is just something that goes into our bodies to keep us alive,” he says, adding that while many international relations programs do focus on food security, none has really dug into the “cuisine” aspect of food.

But that thinking is changing, especially among the public. In a recent study in Public Diplomacy Magazine, more than half of the 140 people surveyed said that eating a country’s cuisine led them to think more positively about that country. And more than two-thirds felt that countries in a state of conflict could benefit from gastrodiplomacy programs.

As the saying goes, “The easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach.” It certainly seems that the class has won over the students so far — all 19 spots filled up quickly, with dozens more students on the waiting list.

“Must have been the food,” Mendelson Forman jokes.

via Gastrodiplomacy: Cooking Up A Tasty Lesson On War And Peace : The Salt : NPR.

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For citizen diplomats you can always try this approach, thanks to Travel By Stove’s Becki Robins, a mother of four from California who aims to cook a dish from not just every official UN member nation-state but also culinary regions and areas from Abkhazia to Zimbabwe.

Rodman Returns to North Korea to See Kim –

What do you make of this latest round of “basketball diplomacy” where the Worm meets Kim?

“I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae,” Mr. Rodman, a Basketball Hall of Fame member, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I’m just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour.” Mr. Kim is known to be a fervent basketball fan, and the two watched a game together during Mr. Rodman’s previous visit.

via Rodman Returns to North Korea to See Kim –

At the same time, U.S. Special Envoy Robert King’s invitation was rescinded. (He is a BYU graduate and spoke at the Kennedy Center last year.)

Hail Britannia, Soft Power Invasion

Admittedly Monocle is a great magazine for design, style, and a few other things–but not a likely candidate to end up in a footnote for your IR essay on soft power.  Bear with me then when their recently released survey shows the UK at number one.

For the first time, Britain has beaten the US to the top spot in an annual survey of global soft power. Coined by a Harvard academic in 1990, the term describes how countries use attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or payment, to change behaviour.

Monocle magazine’s annual “Global Soft Power” survey, published tomorrow, ranks nations according to their standard of government; diplomatic infrastructure; cultural output; capacity for education; and appeal to business.

via Britain is now most powerful nation on earth – Home News – UK – The Independent.

To be fair–in a more serious publication–the “Harvard academic” quoted above, who will be at BYU in winter semester 2013 made the case back in 2004 that America’s soft power decline was an issue.

Rare Cultural Diplomacy US-China Relations Hearkens to the Past

Ever wonder what cultural and public diplomacy looks like?  These pictures of the “Jazz Ambassadors” will help, and a related NPR blog tells the story.  So will this story focusing on a successful and important Asia Society program that appears to be a rarity in this era of budget shortfalls and short-term thinking:

The event was part of the U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture, which brought over such artists as Mr. Ma, the actress Meryl Streep, the director Joel Coen and the authors Amy Tan and Michael Pollan. It included an organic cooking class (in the land of MSG and pesticides), a discussion on media censorship (in a country with elaborately monitored Internet), movie screenings and, at the Friday night concert, the improbable sight of Mr. Ma and Ms. Streep mock-kowtowing to each other, ending up prostrate on the floor and leaving the mostly Chinese audience in stitches.

via Cultural Exchange Offers Respite in U.S.-China Tensions –

Don’t miss the observation of public diplomacy’s slow death by  Nick Cull, one of the top experts in the field at USC.

“My Excellent Korean Adventure”

Talk about study abroad experience–“Hey Mom, I spent my summer studying abroad at the Casino Pyongyang in the Dear Leader’s DPRK. This gives you an closeup view of a country of which its easier to observe external policies–but very hard to get inside.

The NPR story is fun, but catch the full essay in Sunday’s Post:

But I wanted to catch a real glimpse of Pyongyang nightlife, so late one afternoon, I sneaked off unsupervised and hit the city streets. And much to my surprise, I didn’t see a single People’s Army cadet goose-step past me with those missile-launchers-on-wheels that appear on the nightly news. What I did witness: a mother buying a soda for her daughter from a sidewalk snack cart; two older women sitting on a bench, gossiping and eating pears; businessmen coming out of the subway, sans Bluetooth headsets; a grimacing teenage boy getting a haircut at a salon.

This was not the bizarro-land that I’ve read about in countless magazine articles and history books. No, this could have been Anytown, USA. Then I stumbled upon what turned out to be Pyongyang’s grandest indoor market; these off-the-books hives of capitalism, with their distinctive blue roofs, were rumored to have cropped up shortly after the widespread 2002 economic reforms, the first semblance of free markets at work.

I had found myself in the North Korean version of Macy’s, but here, every day is the Friday after Thanksgiving. There were delicate blouses and dresses for around 15,000 won (roughly $4 at black market exchange rates), all sorts of fruit — thought to be nearly impossible to find in this mountainous hermit kingdom — and enough varieties of mystery meats to make my high school cafeteria green with envy.