The Role of Cultural Institutions in Fractured Landscapes: A Case Study of the British Council and Its Creation and Communication of Soft Power Narratives.

Activity: Supervision


Soft power, as coined by Joseph Nye in the 1980’s refers to a nations ability to wield international and political influence through the diffusive power of attraction. The UK and consequently, the British Council has long been considered a global leader in the instrumental use of culture as a means of diplomacy and foreign policy. However, as the cultural landscape in Europe begins to shift as a result of Brexit, Britain’s soft power becomes increasingly more relevant. The strategic use of cultural relationships has always been a fundamental way through which nations have communicated and created narratives which in turn, construct an external perception of their culture and values. As a result of the socio-political disruption since June 2016, cultural institutions have begun to question and debate the UK’s role within the international cultural sphere. The process of adaptation to Brexit was described in a debate conducted by the Royal Society of Arts as catalyst for cultural revolution, one through which new opportunities may arise. Thus, the fractured landscape in the UK presents an opportune moment in which cultural institutions can re-establish themselves and their narratives in order to set the agenda around arts and culture both at home and abroad. The productive nature of soft power allows for the exploration of new cultural narratives between Britain and the rest of the world. Exhibitions provide spaces where these issues can be thought about within the public sphere and debates, conferences and events provide a framework through which these new narratives can be established. Thus, cultural institutions such as the British Council through their various initiatives, play a vital role in constructing discourse around themes of cultural identity, foreign policy and physical as well as cultural borders. The plethora of messages conveyed, work together to set a broader international agenda as cultural institutions lead the way in navigating shifting landscapes.

Held atFaculty of Human Sciences
Degree of RecognitionMaster