Syracuse University

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Symposium guests will explore cultural diplomacy Sept. 20-21

September 10, 2009

Kelly Homan Rodoski
(315) 443-3784

Syracuse University will host a group of highly respected and distinguished guests Sept. 20-21 as they explore the power of culture in the world of politics during a special symposium, held in conjunction with the return of prestigious choreographer and artist Shen Wei and Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) to the SU campus. The Cultural Diplomacy Symposium will explore the importance of cultural understanding and the exchange of ideas, art, information, beliefs, traditions and value systems across the globe.

“Cultural understanding is the force that brings people and nations together, bridging differences in religion, ethnicity, politics and ideology,” says Carole Brzozowski, SU’s performing arts presenter and a chief organizer of the symposium. “While a nation’s policies or history can be misunderstood or unpopular, a nation’s cultural activities can best represent how a nation envisions itself.

“Leaders and regimes come and go, geographical and territorial boundaries are erased and redrawn, but cultural wealth has often proven to be more valuable and enduring than military or commercial might. For these reasons, cultural diplomacy is needed now more than ever,” she says.

Shen found the chance to participate in the upcoming symposium especially timely and gratifying, as both he and his company encounter diverse audiences and policymakers as they travel around the globe. “Art is perhaps the only public context where we can agree that we all fear, hope, love and desire,” says Brett Egan, executive director of SWDA. “And while art can’t produce political change without policy change, it does help individuals of all nationalities produce cultures of tolerance to support that change when the right moment comes.”

Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, will deliver the symposium’s keynote address Sunday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in Goldstein Auditorium, located in the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center. Nye will speak on his view of the past, current state and future of cultural diplomacy, as well as the real potential of promoting cultural understanding and dialogue. In his 2004 book “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics” (PublicAffairs, 2005), a study of non-military means of coercion, Nye noted that “Cultural diplomacy is a prime example of ‘soft power,’ or the ability to persuade through culture, value and ideas, as opposed to ‘hard power,’ which conquers or coerces through military might.” Nye will be introduced by Mitchel Wallerstein, dean of SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, who will also moderate the discussion following the address.

Prior to Nye’s address, at 5:30 p.m. there will be a performance of Didinga dance and songs by the Lost Boys of Sudan. Their performance will be put into context through a talk by Felicia “Faye” McMahon, research associate professor in anthropology in the Maxwell School.

On Monday, Sept. 21, the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, an afternoon panel discussion, “Transcending Conflict Through Culture,” will be held from 2-5 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, located in Newhouse 3 on the SU campus. It will include: Marjane Satrapi, Iranian and French contemporary graphic novelist, illustrator, Academy Award-nominated animated film director and children’s book author; Paul Salopek, former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner; David Pogue, New York Times technology columnist, Missing Manual publisher and Emmy Award-winning correspondent with CBS News; and Shen, a principal choreographer of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies.

The panel discussion will be simulcast at 2 p.m. at

The panel will be moderated by David Crane, professor of practice in Syracuse University’s College of Law and founding chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal.

Syracuse University is a particularly appropriate venue for an exploration of cultural diplomacy. The University is home to a unique Public Diplomacy program, a professional graduate program in which students earn a joint degree in public relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, two of the premier schools in the nation in their respective areas. Students within the program, and the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at Syracuse University, have worked with Brzozowski and Egan to develop the symposium.

On Sept. 24 and 25, Shen and his troupe will perform a triptych entitled “Re-,” which was developed in part during the company’s three-week residency in Syracuse in February. The performances are part of SU’s 2009 Shared First-Year Experience , a University-wide program for first-year students that introduces them to the campus’s vibrant intellectual life.

About the participants
Nye served has also served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and deputy assistant secretary of state for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. His most recent other recent publications are “The Powers to Lead” (Oxford University Press, 2008), and an anthology, “Power in the Global Information Age” (Routledge, 2004).

Satrapi’s experiences growing up during the Islamic revolution shaped her autobiographical work “Persepolis” (Pantheon, 2003 and 2004). The film of “Persopolis” was nominated for an Academy Award and garnered numerous other accolades. The premise of her work is that the more we can see each other for our humanity, the less likely we are to commit acts of hatred and violence. In March 2009, Satrapi spoke in Syracuse as part of the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series and was personally invited to attend the Cultural Diplomacy Forum.

Salopek’s first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1998 for Explanatory Reporting for his coverage of the controversial Human Genome Diversity Project. His 2001 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting recognized his work in Africa, including his coverage of the civil war in Congo. Salopek covered Africa, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to his tenure with the Tribune (1996-2009), he worked as a writer for National Geographic for three years. Before that, he reported on U.S.-Mexico border issues for the El Paso (Texas) Times. In 1990, he was Gannett News Service bureau chief in Mexico City. In 2006, while researching a story in Darfur, Salopek was arrested for espionage and detained for more than a month before finally being released. He is currently completing a fellowship at Princeton.

Pogue is the personal technology columnist for the New York Times and each week contributes a print column, an online column, an online video and a popular daily blog, “Pogue’s Posts.” Pogue is also an Emmy Award-winning technology correspondent for CBS News, and he appears each week on CNBC with his trademark comic tech videos. With more than 3 million books in print, Pogue is one of the world’s bestselling how-to authors. He wrote or co-wrote seven books in the “for Dummies” series (including Macs, Magic, Opera and Classical Music); in 1999, he launched his own series of computer books called the Missing Manual series, which now includes more than 100 titles. Pogue graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1985, with distinction in music, and he spent 10 years conducting and arranging Broadway musicals in New York. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Shenandoah Conservatory.

Shen, a native of China, was a founding member of the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first of its kind in China. After moving to the United States and having his debut at the American Dance Festival, Shen has produced work seen on stages around the world. He formed Shen Wei Dance Arts in July 2000 and serves as the company’s artistic director. Since its inception, Shen Wei Dance Arts has toured extensively on five continents. Shen has created more than 10 new works, and for each work he creates the set design and costume and makeup designs. Shen received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2007 and is a United States Artists/Prudential Fellow. He has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and the American Dance Festival’s Ben Sommer Fellowship, among numerous other awards.

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