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Hearts and Minds

US Cultural Management in 21st Century Foreign Relations


Edited By Matthew Chambers

This volume looks at a key component of recent US foreign relations, namely, its emphasis on «hearts and minds» as part of its cultural management of the global Other. The authors collected here analyze to what extent we can frame the intent and consequences of this term as a coherent policy, discussing how to think about foreign policy strategies that involve the management of cultural relations.

«Including fascinating first-hand and deeply-researched accounts of the workings of various US institutions (many of them ‘cultural’), this volume is a must for an understanding of the power the US projects worldwide.» Professor Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London

«This fascinating collection reveals the nuance and complexity behind a seemingly banal phrase.» Professor David Schmid, State University of New York at Buffalo

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‘Hearts and Minds’: Discursive Uses and Impacts in US-Russia Relations



The expression ‘hearts and minds’ is typically linked to an idea of soft power, civil society actions and of gaining the support of the population in counterinsurgency actions, contrasted with the use of more violent, conventional warfare tactics (Nixon 2009; Egnell 2010). Nevertheless, this approach builds from a problematic historical narrative on colonial relations, is grounded on the perspective of modernization and rests more on assertions than on evidence (Cohen 2014; Egnell 2010; Fitzsimmons 2008).

The phrase itself has also been re-contextualized in several spheres and re-appropriated by several actors in quite different contexts. It gains particular relevance within the US foreign policy and its goal of promoting democratization and human rights abroad, predominantly through the USAID, but also through regime change operations, which include the use of ‘hard power’ and exerting or supporting military actions. In this chapter I analyze the way in which this phrase is used in the context of US-Russia relations and specifically by President Obama and President Putin in some of their respective speeches. My aim is to examine, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) the way this phrase appears discursively associated to certain values, categories and discursive strategies, as well as used for justifying specific policies. I begin by outlining the main problems of the ‘hearts and minds’ conceptualization and practical approach as linked to counterinsurgency. Next, I present the methodological approach of CDA and its application to the study of political discourse. Subsequently, I critically examine how...

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