Sports diplomacy — the mixture of sport, politics and diplomacy — has been viewed as a component of public diplomacy at all levels. Recent scholarship on sports diplomacy has included an analysis of sports as a tool for foreign diplomacy; 6 a taxonomy for understanding how international sports and diplomacy interact; 7 an examination of the limitations of organized sport as an instrument of diplomacy; 8 and the public diplomacy opportunities with sporting mega-events.
Finally, this analysis sheds light on the potential limitations of sports celebrity diplomacy, and offers cautious conclusions when celebrity athletes are used as instruments of engagement.
From Celebrity Vilification to Everyday Talk
Since the end of the Korean War, relations between the U. In order to fully understand the potential value and attraction of sport and celebrity athlete diplomacy to a regime such as the DPRK, a review of the globalization of sport and celebrity athlete at the intersection of communication technology and transnational consumption must be taken into consideration.
In order to contextualize sports celebrity diplomacy within the fields of sports and celebrity diplomacy, a review of the emerging field of sports diplomacy scholarship and celebrity diplomacy studies then follows, before an analysis of a case study involving sports celebrity diplomacy. At the end of the war, the Soviet Union had stationed troops in Manchuria and northern Korea, and after considering the military and geopolitical implications a Soviet occupation of the peninsula could have on the region, the U. The U.
The Soviet Union appointed a Korean guerilla commander, Kim Il-Sung, to head its regime in the North, and his rule lasted until his death in , when his son Kim Jong-Il succeeded him. Relations between the U. Kim Jong-Il was concerned about securing a peace treaty as it would guarantee the sovereignty of the DPRK, and was also concerned with garnering respect through recognition of its legitimacy. For instance, Canada and North Korea have a knowledge-sharing program where North Korean scholars visit Canada and gain access to desired knowledge and ideas on business and economics.
Soft power may also appeal to individuals and collective non-state actors, in contrast to hard power, which the government primarily controls through military and economic policies. In reference to a historic match between the New York Cosmos soccer team and the Cuban national squad, U. In , the average consumer was exposed to sixteen hundred advertising messages a day; a decade later, it was about three thousand. American media and communication technology e.
Nike , basketball has increasingly become a universal language understood and admired around the globe. American basketball today has arguably become one of the most influential soft power resources for the U.
SPK 2110: Group Dynamics
The NBA averages five million viewers a game in China for its television broadcasts, three million more than for U. Murray and Pigman point out two distinct categories of sports diplomacy: international sport as a diplomatic instrument and international-sport-as-diplomacy. More recently, the U. Such sites are therefore important spaces for mutual exchange and dialogue, and where the countries can project an idealized image of their nation.
Thus, in order to produce large sporting events and pursue their objectives, international sporting bodies must engage in diplomatic representation and negotiation with several state and non-state actors. Midfielder Danny Williams publicly expressed his observation that the U. The effects of the representational diversity of the squad, with its immigrant roots and multi-national character, can therefore amplify American values to the world, albeit an idealized image of the nation and society. The Babe Ruth-led All-American baseball tour of Japan began as a goodwill exchange between two nations on the precipice of war.
The two nations shared a love of baseball, and Ruth and his teammates played in twelve different cities throughout Japan. While political relations between two nations are often defined by numerous military conflicts and violence, sports can provide a platform for countries to come out of isolation and take a first step toward international engagement.
The modern global network society has enabled new actors in diplomacy to arise, including non-governmental organizations and individual non-state actors, such as sports celebrities. Today, mass media has facilitated a dramatic expansion of the sites and means by which sport and celebrity athletes can be both consumed and created. Celebrities, including celebrity athletes, represent the paradox of being simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, easily consumed by media, but also remote.
For instance, Canada identifies a wide spectrum of public diplomats, including artists, teachers, students, researchers and athletes in addition to professional diplomats. As Cooper notes, celebrity diplomats have no formal training, communicate in a colloquial and undiplomatic manner, and deliver messages to the public via old and new media forms and through mass performances via staged events.
Due to their athletic prominence, celebrity athletes embody cosmopolitanism and global citizenship and thus attract visibility and media attention. Sports stars embody the hero with intrinsic value, who is distinguished by their achievements gained through skill and hard work.
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Through the meritocratic space of athletic competition, a private figure can gain international recognition based on individual merit. Antidiplomats, as Cooper argues, are celebrities who run counter to traditional modes and qualities of diplomatic culture, which include 1 physical attributes judged to be salient in diplomacy; 2 cautious use of language, to allow plenty of room for interpretation; and 3 a calm tone, with the ability to lower the temperature of debate.
It is with this premise that the analysis of the case study proceeds. As a teenager, KJU openly shared his fanatical interest in basketball, showing up to his Swiss boarding school wearing the most expensive Nike Air Jordan sneakers and a passion for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. One notable departure from anti-American cultural policies was a invitation to the New York Philharmonic.
Rodman had achieved unprecedented access to the new leader of the DPRK, even without official state capacity, evidencing the attraction and value of the celebrity athlete. This reclusive socialist state may use sport as a way of exploring the normalization of diplomatic relations. North Korea harbors cultural ambitions to become a sporting powerhouse, but to do so they must compete in international sporting exchanges, and therefore must engage in diplomatic representation and cultivate diplomatic relationships.
What remains unresolved is the extent to which this iteration of soft power—as attractive as it seems to KJU and the regime—leads to increased dialogue and diplomatic influence. Is this just another episode of what Keller contends that celebrity diplomacy has transformed into: diplomacy-as-spectacle? The reclusive and secretive North Korean regime has convinced many of its citizens, through mass-mediated propaganda, that the U. Here, sports celebrity diplomacy may even serve as a subversive act in the DPRK.
According to local media, the North Korean public was shocked to see KJU embracing Rodman, a tattooed and piercing-clad sports celebrity from America—a country the North Korean public have been taught to loathe and fear.
It is this attraction that can lead to greater dialogue and a thawing of relations between publics, even estranged ones. During his visit to Cuba, U. Congressman Charles Rangel noted that sports were atop a long list of things Cubans said they loved about America. It comes as no surprise that sports—via soccer, baseball and basketball—is being used as an early soft power resource to further thaw relations between the U.
Public diplomacy efforts are marked by new economic challenges e.
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China , and ideological challenges from militant Islam and rogue states such as North Korea. It is therefore a critical time to revisit the U. With a vast array of cultural products encoded with American values and ideals, the U.
Finally, this work also underscores some of the major limitations that this soft power resource poses in the area of public diplomacy. Further research needs to explore how to measure and assess the efficacy of these sports diplomacy strategies for both state-sponsored and private actor initiatives. Another valuable research inquiry could involve a comparative analysis on celebrity diplomats from the diverse fields of entertainment, including sports, music, film and television, in order to uncover if certain fields lends itself to greater credibility and attraction than others.
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