Monday, 8 November 2010

Literature Review: The Special Relationship


US-UK relations...too close for public diplomacy to have an effect?

This week, I've been mostly reading about the political side of my project--the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the US. It's been much more interesting than some of the other readings I've done, but also pretty unsettling...
I had a meeting with my supervisor, and my project is changing already. Everybody told me this would happen, but I didn't expect it to come up so soon. I guess it's better to change it early rather than later, after you've invested (wasted) more time in it. Like a certain friend of the family who purused a PhD in history for many, many years, only to change his mind and go to law school (at least he did well in law school!).
That's an extreme example, anyway--my project isn't changing that much. It's just that the lit review so far has shown me that there are 2 basic approaches to my topic, and I happen to find one of them more interesting--and it's not the one I thought it would be when I wrote my research proposal last year.
Back to the Special Relationship--my project needs to change because the US-UK case is an extreme example. We're too close to really measure whether or not student exchange has any effect. If public diplomacy's goal is to make others sympathetic to our foreign policy, in the UK-US case, it's pretty irrelevant. No matter how many students we ship back & forth across the Atlantic, the Americans and Brits will most likely always be sympathetic to each others' foreign policies. It's strategic, symbolic, self-reinforcing, etc.
So if it's so irrelevant, why am I studying this? Because studying extreme cases is, in itself, interesting. But in order to make this a worthwhile 3-year research project, I might just need to make it a comparative study--look at American Fulbrighters in a country that's not an ally, or a country that is techincally 'friendly', but still full of anti-American public sentiment.

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