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Laura Mills

PhD Candidate (BA Oxford University, MA Queen’s University Belfast)

Research Interests:

International Relations; social and political theory; cultural diplomacy; public diplomacy; global governmentality; performativity; the co-constitution of everyday life and global politics; cultural studies; American studies; critical geopolitics; international political sociology; visuality; interactive technologies

Thesis:   Post-9/11 American Cultural Diplomacy: The Impossibility of Cosmopolitanism

This research project critically explores post-9/11 American cultural diplomacy, specifically three cultural exchange programmes launched in the aftermath of the 11th September 2001 attacks – YES, SportsUnited, and Film Forward. Challenging mainstream IR approaches to cultural diplomacy and their preoccupation with soft power, this thesis provides a much-needed critical purchase through a poststructuralist IR approach, notably a framework of performativity and governmentality. In particular, by using a global governmentality approach, this thesis orients global politics in two under-analysed areas of enquiry in IR – the cultural and the everyday. By exploring the everyday social relations, mundane practices and human (inter)actions of these exchange programmes, this thesis interrogates how exchange participants are produced as political subjects and how their performances of particular identities partake in a global geopolitical enactment that is manifested in US cultural diplomacy programmes. This research contends that post-9/11 American cultural diplomacy is constructed within a primarily cosmopolitan vision and that the cosmopolitanism embedded in these cultural exchange programmes is far from benign. It sells itself as universal when in fact it is saturated with particularities, hierarchical power relations and Othering practices. More specifically, this thesis explores how this cosmopolitanism urges exchange participants to perform particular national and global identities in different ways and at different times and to vacillate effortlessly between the two via certain skills manifested in the production of a particular neoliberal subjectivity. Each programme therefore mobilises different cosmopolitan logics – tolerance, equality, common humanity – through which certain governmental techniques, strategies and tactics seek to produce a particular model subject. This thesis therefore examines how exchange participants are impelled and incentivised to perform or resist and counter these ideal subjectivities. By analysing how the everyday lives of exchange participants are sutured into wider US foreign policy goals, it seeks to add an invigorating contribution to cultural diplomacy and IR scholarship.

Supervisors: Dr Debbie Lisle and Dr Dan Bulley