MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Arts & International Cultural Relations

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC60332
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Arts and cultural activities are a key ingredient of public diplomacy and the exercise of soft power in international relations. There is a growing range of international cultural activities by different countries around the world toward diplomatic, economic, social, and artistic purposes. Operationalising international cultural activities is a complex and challenging process that involves many stakeholders, including individuals, organisations, and governments. The activities can also take a variety of forms, from educational and cultural exchanges to exhibitions, and from cultural trade to international festivals. This course is designed to introduce you to the concepts, histories, debates, and practices of international cultural relations. At the transnational level, we will discuss the role of international organisations such as UNESCO in facilitating international cultural communication and collaboration. At the state level, we will critically analyse the purposes and the practices of nation-states and how their international cultural practices have changed over time in response to changing environments. We will examine a range of cases from different countries, such as international culture centres and the Olympics, and analyse the convergence and divergence in these practices. At the organisational level, we will discuss and compare the governance of international cultural programmes, and we will work with arts organisations to understand how international arts/cultural programmes are designed and operationalised in specific contexts. Throughout the course, you will be encouraged to develop your interest in discussion, group project, and essay assignment. This course will equip you with theoretical and methodological tools through lectures, seminars, guest talks, and consultation. On successful completion of this course, you will be able to understand, communicate, and address the issues in international cultural relations from multiple perspectives as policymakers, researchers, and practitioners.


  • To understand the role of arts and culture in the international cultural relations
  • To investigate the history of using arts and culture as a multi-purpose tool in international relations
  • To familiarise with the tools of international cultural relations and understand how tools can be adapted and used differently in various contexts
  • To analyse how different stakeholders contribute to international cultural activities and how their interests and behaviour are shaped in this process
  • To identify the convergence and divergence of practices in international cultural relations
  • To contribute to the design of international cultural programmes in arts organisations


Weekly Topics:  

Week 1: Arts, Culture, and Power

Week 2: Key Concepts, Definitions and History of International Cultural Relations

Week 3: Multi-purposes and Tools of International Cultural Relations

Week 4: Educational and Cultural Exchanges

Week 5: UNESCO and Transnational Organisations

Week 6: Cultural Diplomacy and the Olympics

Week 7: Essay Surgeries  

Week 8: Place Branding, National Branding, and National Image

Week 9: Top-down Versus Bottom-up Cultural Diplomacy

Week 10: Group Project

Week 11: Group Project  

Week 12: Group Project Presentations 

Teaching and learning methods

  • Lecture (15/30 credits)
  • Seminar discussion (15/30 credits)
  • Presentation (15/30 credits)
  • Individual research (15/30 credits)
  • Group research project (30 credits)
  • Guest talk and workshop (15/30 credits)

Students will be assessed by means of a combination of individual assignment and group project. In addition to the two graded assignments, students will have the opportunity to apply the concepts and theories through non-graded scaffolding assignments from week to week.  

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the complexity and ambiguity of the international power dynamic and the role of arts and culture in it
  • Use cultural diplomacy programmes as a lens to observe social, economic, and cultural differences among countries.
  • Understand and interpret international cultural relations in both historical and contemporary contexts
  • Identify and analyse the common and conflictual interests of governments, organisations, and individuals in international cultural relations 

Intellectual skills

  • Integrate and apply the knowledge of cultural policy, arts management, and other related disciplines to analyse the issues in international cultural relations
  • Articulate research questions, select appropriate methods, collect and analyse data, and report results in independent and group research projects
  • Debate and critically analyse the use of arts and culture in international relationship building and capacity building activities 

Practical skills

  • Design an international cultural programme by considering the interests of stakeholders and selecting appropriate tools for specific audience and context (30 credits version).  
  • Communicate and collaborate with partners (local and international) in a multi-cultural working environment
  • Articulate and visualise ideas through written materials and presentation
  • Acquire the ability to research independently and collaboratively
  • Locate, retrieve, and verify data from different sources
  • Coordinate with team members to deliver an effective presentation
  • Develop project management and analytical skills that can be applied in various scenarios
  • Innovate as well as learn from the past and from others to address new challenges 

Employability skills

- Develop skills to communicate, research, and improve cultural diplomacy practice as practitioners, policy makers, and scholars - Act as cultural ambassadors to improve mutual understanding between peoples and countries - Work with and research a wide range of organisations at local, national, and transnational levels - Adapt to the changing environment and address complex problems with creative solutions and collaborative efforts.

Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
Group research projectSummative20 minutes40%
EssaySummative3000 words60%

Feedback methods

Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Written feedback on essay and group project proposalFormative
Verbal feedback on student presentationsFormative
Seminar discussion and participationFormative
Consultation and essay surgeriesFormative
Written feedback of group research projectsSummative
Written feedback on essay assignmentSummative

Recommended reading

Ang, I., Isar, Y. R., & Mar, P. (2015). Cultural diplomacy: beyond the national interest? International Journal of Cultural Policy, 21(4), 365-381.  

Arndt, R. T. (2005). The first resort of kings: American cultural diplomacy in the twentieth century. Washington DC: Potomac Books, Inc.

Bellamy, C., & Weinberg, A. (2008). Educational and cultural exchanges to restore America's image. Washington Quarterly, 31(3), 55-68.  

Cull, N. J. (2008). Public diplomacy: Taxonomies and histories. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616(1), 31-54.  

Cummings, M. C. (2003). Cultural diplomacy and the United States government: A survey. Washington DC: Center for arts and culture.

Dinnie, K. (2015). Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice: Routledge.

Fullman, A. R. (2011). Backyard Diplomacy: Prospects for International Cultural Engagement by Local Arts Agencies. Americans for the Arts.

Garcia, B. (2008). One hundred years of cultural programming within the Olympic Games (1912–2012): origins, evolution and projections. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 14(4), 361-376.  

Geduld, V. P. (2010). Dancing diplomacy: Martha graham and the strange commodity of cold-war cultural exchange in Asia, 1955 and 1974. Dance Chronicle, 33(1), 44-81.  

Hamnett, C., & Shoval, N. (2003). Museums as flagships of urban development. Cities and visitors: Regulating people, markets, and city space, 219-236.  

Hayden, C. (2012). The rhetoric of soft power: Public diplomacy in global contexts: Lexington Books.

Holden, J., & Tryhorn, C. (2013). Influence and attraction: Culture and the race for soft power in the 21st century: British Council.

Liu, Y.-D. (2014). Cultural events and cultural tourism development: Lessons from the European Capitals of Culture. European Planning Studies, 22(3), 498-514.  

Lord, G. D., & Blankenberg, N. (2016). Cities, museums and soft power: Rowman & Littlefield.

Mitchell, J. M. (2015). International cultural relations. London: Routledge.

Mulcahy, K. V. (1999). Cultural diplomacy and the exchange programs: 1938–1978. The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 29(1), 7-28.  

Nisbett, M. (2013). New perspectives on instrumentalism: an empirical study of cultural diplomacy. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 19(5), 557-575.  

Nye Jr., J. S. (2008). Public Diplomacy and Soft Powe

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 12
Practical classes & workshops 24
Seminars 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 240

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Biyun Zhu Unit coordinator

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