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Hearts and Minds

US Cultural Management in 21st Century Foreign Relations


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’ is a phrase with a long history and with multiple connotations that tend toward expressing cultural outreach in contested situations. Since 2001, the phrase has become prominently associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The issue, then, is that a phrase that points to the appeal of reason and emotion quite often is done so in the context of violence and social and political tension. Thus, there is a tendency to greet the phrase with suspicion, as the sincerity of such expressions are confronted with the paradox out of which they are produced. In other words, can we speak of humane appeals in the context of war? To what degree can we accept proclamations by the military of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ when the ‘winning’ in that phrase suggests combat? This volume explores these questions by examining the true complexity of the so called ‘cultural turn’ of the US military, as well as how various manifestations of American soft power and cultural outreach have developed in this century.

‘Hearts and minds’, as much as it suggests the spectre of violence, also concerns cross-cultural communication, persuasion, and influence. As such, it primarily gets expressed in the context of foreign policy, but a foreign policy that is primarily focused on securing the homeland. Amy Kaplan, for instance, reads foreign policy as a form of ‘domestication’, in the sense that it seeks to tame and make familiar that which is external, and thus perceived...

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