Saturday, 29 December 2012

First Draft

December has gone by in a bit of a blur, as always, with my birthday & Christmas & New Year--but this year it went especially fast, because I had a deadline. The goal was to submit a first draft of the PhD thesis on 20 December, to show my outgoing supervisor what my project looks like as a whole and to give my new supervisor an idea of what I've been working on up to this point. The word count target was 75,000, and I'm disappointed to admit that I didn't make it anywhere near that--the version on the due date was just over 48,000.  But I'm proud to say that I really did give it my all. During the MA, there were times when I knew that I could've worked harder, read more, stayed up later, etc. That's why I earned a merit instead of a distinction. When I submitted this draft, I knew it was far from complete (some parts are still in bullet-point note form) and that I have a lot more to say, but I also knew that I had done everything I could by 5 pm on the 20th December.   

It was a difficult month. A good friend passed away, a tragic event that could only be made worse by the fact that it happened during the Christmas season. The Newtown school shooting brought up a lot of horrible emotions, and I had to block the posts of pro-gun American friends on Facebook. I'll never understand why the shooting caused some people to defend guns...They said things like "Guns are tools; guns don't kill people, people kill people; the Oklahoma city bomber killed more people with a fertilizer-fuel-truck bomb, and those things are all still legal." (seriously, I saw these statements on Facebook friends' walls). When a drunk driver kills somebody, you don't see anybody jumping to defend booze.  Even the most hard-core of alcoholics wouldn't go there.  It made me want to hide under the covers and block out those opinions. I'm glad the NRA came out with its statement about armed security at schools, if only because then it was publicly ridiculed and my Facebook friends finally seemed to quiet down. 

At any rate, I'm looking forward to January--exam invigilation & a research trip, and getting closer to 100,000 words every day. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Two Years On...

I can't believe it's been two years since Phil died.  I still think about him often, wishing I could get his input on my writing, or ask him for career advice, or just hang out with him at the pub. Sometimes it seems like he's just away on leave or at a conference.  It still doesn't seem real.

He wouldn't want me to be this upset, I know.  He would've been surprised that he had such an impact on me, I think, because I never really told him and we didn't work together for very long.  But he introduced me to the field and inspired me to work on this project, at this institute, so he indirectly influenced lot of my big life decisions.

More than my own grief, I feel for those who knew him much better & longer than I did--for Sue, for Gary, for Cristina--and I feel for those students who heard about him and read his work but never got the chance to meet him.  I'm grateful for the limited time we had together, and for his guidance that's led me here.

Rest in peace, Phil.  I'll have a pint for you this weekend.

Monday, 5 November 2012

All Eyes on America...

America's been making headlines here lately.  Our minister even mentioned it on Sunday--we were asked to pray for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and to pray that the American people "vote wisely" in the upcoming election.  (I'm glad he didn't specify what he meant by that...'Separation of Church and State' goes both ways, mate!)

For my part, I voted weeks ago.  My ballot came in early October and I returned it straight away.  I've been decided since 2004, when I first heard Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention.  He was so inspiring and fresh--not like the candidate who he was supporting that night, John Kerry, with his gray, washed-out appearance and monotone voice.  His books Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope further cemented his position in my mind as the best choice for President of the United States.  Seeing his gracious acceptance speech in 2008, when he said "For those of you whose support I have yet to earn, I will be your President, too" (or something to that effect), made me so proud to be an American.  The next day, a classmate from Uganda shook my hand and said 'Congratulations!'--the fact that he was so happy about our new President spoke volumes.  My main concern all along was America's image in the world, and I knew that Obama would be the one to turn it around.

The question they always ask when there's an incumbent candidate: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Well, it's a bit ironic, really--after campaigning for Obama in 2008, I spent most of his first term living abroad.  But yes, I'm better off than I was 4 years ago.  In 2008, I had just graduated with my BA and was unemployed, didn't have health insurance because I was too old to be on my mom's, and owed a massive amount of student loan debt.  During these past four years, I've received federal direct loans in order to finish my MA and PhD, and Obama has passed student loan reform to make my repayment easier once I finally do graduate.  He's also increased the number of Pell Grants, another form of student aid that helped me during undergrad.  During these past four years, Obama's health care reform has made it so that other young people in my position would be allowed to stay on their parent's insurance plan longer. So, yes, things are better for people like me.

But that's a very selfish way of looking at voting.  The classic question above is flawed.  We shouldn't be looking at ourselves or people like us--we should look at the most vulnerable in our society, and how our vote would affect them.  My grandpa used to say that he was a Democrat because "Poor people are better off when the Democrats are in power."  I'm inclined to agree with that, and I think Obama & Biden would, too.

In 2008, my electoral vote prediction was spot-on--I called every state right.  This time around, I'm not sure I'll have that kind of success, but I'll give it a go for posterity.
Obama: 303 (Swing states: Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania)
Romney: 235 (Swing states: Florida, North Carolina)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Product of his environment...

J. William Fulbright was many great things--Rhodes Scholar, University of Arkansas President, Congressman for three decades, inspiring orator, author of insightful political books--but he was also a racist.  He objected to integrating Arkansas schools, a position he later said was in line with the wishes of his constituents.  President Johnson claimed that Fulbright's opposition to the Vietnam War was because 'he didn't think the yellow man cared about freedom as much as the white man' did.  There are other little anecdotes, but at the end of the day, Fulbright was a paradox of a man, supporting international goodwill and culture learning abroad but still holding onto his segregationist Jim Crow way of thinking at home.

This morning I noticed a story about another racist remark coming from Arkansas (
Jon Hubbard, a state representative, was quoted as saying that African-Americans were better off living in the U.S. than they would have been in Africa, had slavery never happened.

“Slavery was cruel, but as a result of slavery, we have African-Americans living in this country today who are living here in situations that are probably much better to endure than if they were living in Sub-Saharan Africa. If you had the choice knowing the lifestyle of people living in Africa and knowing the lifestyle of people living in the United States, which would you choose? Pure and simple.” (quoted in article above)

As the article summarises it, Hubbard's position seems to be that slavery was a 'blessing in disguise' (a phrase he actually used in his 2010 book, apparently).  We shouldn't even give his remarks the dignity of engaging with them--I'll leave it there and move on with my main point.

Throughout the PhD research experience, I've been grappling with what to say about Senator Fulbright.  On the one hand, my research is all about his most enduring legacy--the best part of him, the internationalist dove and academic.  On the other hand, it's not very responsible to focus on the good and ignore any bad qualities the man had.  He was human, after all.  I considered shifting away from him, making my research project more about the exchange program and less about the man.  In practice, that left my work looking incomplete--I just can't ignore the man when discussing his namesake.

People often excuse the racist remarks of older generations by saying that they were products of their environment.  "Things were different back then..." we're told.  To some extent, I can agree with that--my grandparents said cringe-worthy things, too.  But then I read about people like Jon Hubbard, a man who actually got elected to public office by Arkansans, saying something so unbelievably offensive...There are other offensive Arkansan politicians making headlines, too, like Charlie Fuqua who supports using the death penalty against rebellious children and thinks that Muslims should be deported (not sure where he thinks American Muslims should be sent, but I honestly can't be bothered to spend too much time thinking about this ridiculous man's views).

I'm concerned that the 'environment' that shaped Fulbright's racist views wasn't the time period, but the state of Arkansas (and the region in general).  These may be isolated incidents, and I'm not saying that Arkansans are racist (I was born there, too, after all) but it just seems like you never hear about a representative from Rhode Island saying anything offensive about African-Americans.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Finding what you need, but not what you want...

For ages, I'd been looking for the records of the Fulbright Program in the 1970's.  It seemed like it was a lost decade--the National Archives had plenty of 40's-60's material, and seemed to pick it up again in the 80's and 90's, and I'd found quite a bit of post-2000 records elsewhere.  At the National Archives, when I found folders with 70's dates on them, I was disappointed to see that they were just notes--just correspondence about the Annual Report, for instance, but without actually including a copy of the Annual Report.  It was so frustrating.
At the Munich conference, another American PhD student had asked if I'd been to the archives at University of Arkansas.  I didn't know anything about them--I just knew about the Fulbright Papers Special Collection, and assumed the University's archives would be more useful for a biography of the Senator himself.  I didn't really think anything of it until I was talking about the missing 1970's reports with Richard yesterday.  Sure enough, they're at the University of Arkansas--it turns out the other student was asking about the CU special collection. It was transferred there in 1983, so it has all of these 1970's records, reports, etc. that I've been needing.  I'm kicking myself now, but I suppose I hadn't really had a chance to make a trip out there before now anyway.

While I'm absolutely thrilled to find this collection, I'm struggling with the idea of going to Arkansas.  I've joked with my supervisor about not wanting to go to Arkansas, but there are some very serious reasons behind my wish to avoid the place.  The University is in Fayetteville, spitting distance from my birthplace, and it's the town where my family used to go to Wal-Mart (store number 3!).  I don't remember living in that part of the country--we moved to Missouri when I was 2, and after we moved to Washington state when I was 6, I never went back to the area.  It's my dad's home--it's where he was born and raised and still lives today.  We haven't made much of an effort to keep up with each other, and I can't imagine going to see him--I haven't seen him since I was 5, so it would be like meeting a stranger.  But while I can't imagine seeing him, wouldn't it be weird to be in the area, doing my PhD research, and not going to see him?  It's a deeply personal issue.

When I picked this topic, it seemed like a welcome change from my BA and MA theses on the relationship between terrorism and politics and the media.  Student exchanges were happy, positive experiences to read about, and I thought I would be interviewing people about their brilliant, life-changing time abroad.  When my project turned towards archives, I was fine with that, too--my family lives near the National Archives, perfect!  I combined a research trip with a visit for my nephew's birthday--what a great project!  But now research is leading me to confront my fears and my suppressed feelings, to visit the place I always joke about, always reject.  It says I was born in Arkansas on my passport, but that's about the extent of my relationship with the place.  When I was talking it over with Richard last night, though, I realised how cool it is that I'd be returning in this way--as a PhD researcher visiting from a UK university.  Nobody saw that coming.

It's very complicated.  I've got a couple of months to think about it, but it sounds like I'll be going in January.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cultural Mediation

It's the start of the new academic year and I'm all geared up for my third year--no, not third--final year!  I'm also refreshed & inspired after a bit of cultural mediation of my own.  Fifteen of my friends and family members came over from the States for our wedding earlier this month, so I had the amazing experience of being their local tour guide.  It was so interesting to see my adopted home through their eyes.  They asked so many questions, and I noticed so many things for the first time--little things, like digging through the sauce packets at a pub lunch: 'What's salad cream?  Is it mayonnaise?  No, here's mayonnaise--so is it like salad dressing? What does it taste like?'  (Confession: I've never tasted it...I use Italian on my salads...)  Sometimes, being unable to answer their questions made me feel like a bad host--but to be fair, there were a lot of questions.

The experience of showing them around made me think about the host country in a way that I never had before.  I realised that before they arrived, I had my own agenda: to show them certain favorite places, introduce them to favorite foods, take them sightseeing in York and Haworth, etc.  When they arrived, they had come with (15 different) agendas of their own: shopping, photography, pub crawls, sightseeing, hiking, travelling to Ireland/Scotland/Wales, etc.  My agenda was based on my personal experiences with Yorkshire over the past 4 years, and their agenda was informed by online research, travel guides & word-of-mouth advice.  Sometimes it was frustrating to try to keep things on schedule and it felt like we were just ticking things off a list--but then I remembered that this is what tourists do.  It's what I did as a tourist when I first came here.  I was thrilled to be here, just as they were, and I wanted to see and do as much as possible.  And I think this might be a key issue in cultural mediation--the adjustment period might be made all the more difficult because of the fact that the host and visitor each have different agendas.  The host wants to introduce the exchangee to the host's vision of the host country, while the visitor wants to explore the host country on his or her own terms (especially its tourist hotspots).  Can mediation really take place in these early days, while the visitor is still giddy about sightseeing?    I think in-depth culture learning might require getting the tourism out of the visitor's system.

(As it goes, they did have an amazing time, and my main goal was just that they could see why I love it here so much--and they did.  As my mom said, very matter-of-factly, "I don't know why anyone would want to live anywhere else.")

Over the honeymoon, I reversed the US-to-UK cultural mediation theme and showed my new husband around my favorite US places in California.  We took a 10-day road trip down the coast, starting up in Napa and San Francisco, and ending up in LA.  I hadn't been back to that part of the country since 2005, when I worked at a summer camp near Santa Cruz during uni.  It was so strange to realise that it had been 7 years since I'd lived there--and almost 5 of those 7 years had been spent in England.  Sometimes I felt just as foreign as Richard did.  Other times, it was so nice to just talk to waiters/hotel staff/shop assistants without getting comments about my accent.  Now Richard had to deal with the comments I usually get--Oh, where are you from?!  It was so comfortable and relaxing to just blend in for once.  Some of the Fulbright students in that pilot study had said the same thing--that they missed the comforting familiarity of home after awhile.  I definitely understand where they're coming from on that one.

We spent our last day at Disneyland, and Richard finally understood what I'd been going on about.  It really is 'The Happiest Place on Earth'.  My first visit was when I was 4 years old, and I still remember the amazement & the magic of it all.  The staff are also the friendliest people in the world, and they really are being genuine.  At a gift shop, we bought a wedding-themed photo frame, and the cashier was genuinely thrilled for us and gave us "Just Married" badges.  When we wore them, every other staff member we saw congratulated us--and they really do mean it.  I think it's a part of American culture that some people misunderstand, because we can come off as disingenuous and overly gushy.   Richard had a hard time getting used to restaurant staff on his first trip to the States--they're thrilled to bring you a free refill, seriously!  On previous trips to Disneyland, I'd never really noticed how American it is--this time, I was struck by Main Street, U.S.A. and its rows of flags, the "Rivers of the Americas" and the Mark Twain steamboat, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, etc.  We ran into a lot of foreign tourists, of course, and it got me thinking about the impression Disneyland gives them of America.  It seems too good to be true, of course, and quite artificial, but there are some elements of Disneyland, like the genuine friendliness of the staff, that are accurate representations of American culture.  At the same time, the cheapest adult ticket is $80, so everybody in the place 1) has disposable income, and 2) is determined to enjoy themselves, having just spent $80+ to get into the park.  It's a strange thing, really--and I think those two factors actually capture America well.  We've got wealth (even the poorest people in the US are better off than many others in the world), and we're determined to have a good time--'the pursuit of happiness' is an inalienable right for us.  If you can understand Disneyland, you're on your way to understanding American culture.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

London 2012 Reflections

Once again, I'm all apologies--this blog has been terribly neglected.  This summer I've gotten a fairly decent start on my dissertation draft, written my first journal article, and planned a wedding, so this blog has slipped off my radar again.  I've completely missed the boat on reacting to the London 2012 Olympics ceremonies...

Thoughts on the Olympics:  Overall a successful event, partially because expectations weren't very high.  I think people doubted London could compete with Beijing in terms of being 'spectacular' and overwhelming, so the organisers took a different approach.  They didn't go for shock & awe--they went for a presentation of the Best of Britain, and relied heavily on British music to represent UK culture.  I saw a mix of comments on Facebook, from foreigners and natives, and many of the positive comments came from people who had studied here and returned home.  They expressed a sense of nostalgia for Britain--perfect evidence of educational exchange impact!  For my part, I was surprisingly patriotic and sentimental about my adopted country--I got teary-eyed at the start, with the kid soloist singing 'Jerusalem'.  I loved the references to Mary Poppins and Harry Potter, and the prominent use of so many Beatles songs in both the opening & closing ceremonies.  I thought the celebration of the NHS was an interesting choice, and I wondered how Republicans back in the States reacted to that one, as they vow to repeal Obamacare (which doesn't go nearly as far as true socialized medicine, but they call him a 'socialist' anyway...sigh).

In terms of public diplomacy, I'm not sure that it was a success--but I also doubt that it was supposed to achieve much in the way of public diplomacy.  This summer seems to be all about Britain, with the focus on the Jubilee, the Euros, and Team GB.  In my 5 years here, I've never seen much in the way of patriotism--at least not in the way you see it in the States, with flags and t-shirts to express your pride--but now, Union Jack paraphernalia is everywhere.  Looking at some of the references used, I think the ceremonies may have had more meaning for Brits than for the rest of the world.  But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.  The domestic political situation has been messy for 2 years now, the economy has been struggling for even longer--so maybe turning inwards and celebrating British culture is a way of coping.  'We might be divided by politics and money and class, but we all love the Beatles, right?  Remember the Spice Girls, they were good, too?  And British comedy is great, isn't it?  Let's get Eric Idle in to cheer us all up!'   

To sum it all up, the ceremonies changed my mind a bit about the use of the Olympics as a public diplomacy tool.  They represented Britain well, of course, but I don't think they were overly concerned with the reaction of foreign publics--at least not as self-consciously as China and Canada have been in the past two Olympics.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Lingua Franca

The Politecnico di Milano is switching to English--much like last year's post about German universities offering courses in English.  I'm not sure how I feel about this trend.  As someone who loves foreign languages, I think it's very sad to see English become the lingua franca in business and higher ed--but obviously, as a native English speaker, I benefit personally from it.  Why did I bother taking all of those foreign language classes in high school & uni?  (p.s. this is why foreign language education in the US is suffering...some Americans don't feel there's a point anymore!)

The interesting part about this trend, though, is the element of competition that it's created for UK & US universities to continue attracting foreign students.  If they can get an English-language degree abroad where it costs less, then foreign students may stop being a 'cash cow' for US/UK universities.
I wonder how much the concept will catch on, though.  Immersion is an important part of language learning, and I can imagine it would be difficult to speak English during classes, Italian at shops and restaurants, and your native language with friends and family.  I just wonder how their language acquisition will be affected by the experience--will these international students gain fluency in 'international English' and limited Italian skills?   How will potential employers view these degrees?

And of course, there's the native English speaker audience to consider, as well. With the fees in the UK rising to £9,000 this year, and US tuition being as high as ever (a state university like University of Washington charges around £8,000 for state residents, and over £18,000 for out-of-state and international students), it's no wonder that some native English speakers are drawn to these programmes.  This article featured anecdotes from UK students who went to the continent for cheaper degrees and loved their time abroad.  For native English speakers, there's really no downside--their future employers will be impressed by a foreign degree and will assume that the student picked up a second language outside of the classroom.  It's a bit unfair, really, when you compare it to the reaction that non-native English speakers might encounter.

I'm interested in seeing where this goes--whether it's a blip or the way of the future, whether it will be limited to Europe or if it will become truly global, etc.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend

This weekend I tried Pimm's for the first time, in honour of the Diamond Jubilee.  It was ok--like a weak, slightly fizzy version of sangria--but more importantly, it's a traditional British summer drink (even if we did have to drink it indoors because the weather didn't cooperate).  We ate pub food and wore red, white & blue (might wear the same outfit for my 4th of July bbq next month...), and had a lovely time celebrating all things British.

During the Royal Wedding last year, I read a few pieces on how the Royal Wedding (and the monarchy more generally) played a role in Britain's public diplomacy.  This time around, I haven't seen much PD-related discussion about the Jubilee.  It certainly hasn't been the media event that the Royal Wedding was.  My family back in the States reported only seeing highlights and brief news clips (even on BBC America).   Compare that to last year, when my mom and other fans in the Pacific time zone woke up at 3 a.m. to catch Will & Kate's big day.  2 billion people tuned in--nearly 1 in 3 people on earth--and this year, the big screen in Leeds' Millennium Square wasn't even turned on to catch the Queen's balcony moment (pictured above).  Just in terms of its rarity, the Diamond Jubilee is a pretty big deal.  Britain hasn't had a monarch last for 60 years since Queen Victoria.  (by the way, the royal family's official website posted a great interactive 'scrapbook' recently about her Diamond Jubilee in 1897:  It's a rarer than a once-in-a-lifetime event--my great-grandma lived to be 102 and missed it by a few years on either side.  So why aren't more people interested?

My guess is that the Jubilee is more significant for the Queen's subjects in the UK & Commonwealth--and even there, you have some republicans who are against the monarchy--where as the Royal Wedding had a broader appeal.  Seeing an 86-year-old celebrate the fact she's still alive (much like a birthday) isn't really as compelling as watching a beautiful young couple get married.  The Diamond Jubilee doesn't have the same 'fairytale' factor that the wedding did--but it certainly does have the same merchandising, as witnessed in a Skipton shop window:

Keep Calm and Buy More Bunting
Since its appeal is limited to the Queen's subjects (and not even all of them), the Diamond Jubilee may simply have less potential as a PD tool than the Royal Wedding did.  Foreign audiences just don't appreciate the rain-soaked flotilla on the Thames the way that British nationals do. 
(The Daily Show was particularly harsh about it (mostly harsh about CNN's coverage): The Queen Who Stares at Boats - The Daily Show)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Academic Culture and International Relations

I got home from Munich last night, and I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to sum up my very first proper conference experience.  It was the first time that I was presenting instead of organizing, like with the PhD and Phil Taylor conferences.  I was extremely nervous and didn't know quite what to expect.  It was going to be my first time in Germany, too.  Despite having a BA in European Studies and being the German II student of the year in 2004, I really didn't know that much about Germany (apart from the cliches of WWI and WWII, efficiency and order, bratwurst and beer).  The night before the conference, I walked around the city centre and saw the Rathaus, and looked around a grocery store for an hour or so (always one of my favorite things to do as a tourist).  Back in the room, I went over my presentation notes and watched 'South Park' in German.  By dubbing his voice, they've managed to make the character Butters creepy rather than adorable...

I didn't sleep well and was really nervous, but calmed down once I actually arrived at the conference.  Everyone was friendly and interested in my project--and surprised that I was American, since they had seen that I was at Leeds on the programme.  "It's usually the other way around, with Europeans going to the States."  The conference was smaller than I'd expected--just 20-some people and half of them were presenting.  After chatting with some of the other presenters about their conference experiences, though, I think a small crowd was probably the best environment for my first presentation.

They were all historians, and most of the other presentations were WWI-era.  It was great to have feedback from a non-communications perspective--I've always felt that my research doesn't fit with communications, but now I know that it doesn't quite fit with history either.  They were interested in the ICT angle that I had just briefly mentioned at the end of my talk, when discussing future research directions--the idea that the student experience is different now in the modern communications environment (the ability to communicate with friends/family back home and transmit culture learning back home more rapidly--even concurrently!), and that students' study abroad blogs could be used as texts to learn about their experiences. They sparked a lot of ideas and gave me useful advice, and I have a long list of recommended reading now.

The main thing I got from the whole experience, though, was confidence.  I often feel like my research isn't worthy of a PhD, that I need to write something amazingly original and groundbreaking in order to prove myself.  The thirst to prove myself has always been a thing for me--from a psych perspective, I was much younger than my siblings (7 yrs and 12 yrs) and I always wanted to catch-up to them.  But it also has to do with defying people's expectations.  As an American, they don't expect me to be interested in international affairs, to be living abroad--or to even hold a passport.  As a woman, they don't expect me to be doing a PhD, and they don't expect me to actually use it to work in academia (or if I do, then I must be single and childless for life).  

(the Google search, my favourite way of measuring commonly held attitudes:  worrying about how the PhD will impact one's chances of getting married is a more popular search than scholarships for women are...ugh.)

But now, after chatting with professors about my work and being treated as an equal, I'm feeling much more confident and my research seems much more PhD-worthy now.  I'm more confident in my presenting skills, too--the powerpoint was a good balance of images and minimal text, and they laughed at the right bits, which is so encouraging.  I'm feeling better about my writing, too--after months of struggling, I actually wrote some sentences that I loved in this conference paper.  I haven't had that feeling in ages, and it's reassuring.  It makes me feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, and that feeling is seriously underrated.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Kazakhstan and Borat

This morning I read about how the movie 'Borat' boosted tourism to Kazakhstan (posted on John Brown's blog) and had to share it on Facebook--my friends and I loved 'Borat', and it's a great twist in the story.

Back when the film came out in 2006, Kazakh officials were famously upset about the film's depiction of Kazakhstan as antisemitic, sexist, impoverished, technologically backwards, etc.  I actually took a Central Asian Studies class the following year and on the first day of class our professor mentioned 'Borat' was the only thing that most people in the room knew about Kazakhstan, for better or worse.

Now, apparently, the government is grateful that 'Borat' has sparked an interest in Kazakhstan.  Tourism has increased tenfold (the article doesn't give actual figures, but even if it meant 2 visas/year has become 20, that's a significant jump).  You can even take a 'Borat-themed tour':

"One travel company even boasts that a Borat-themed tour to Kazakhstan is 'coming soon' on its website. 'Who is the real Borat from Kazakhstan? What is Borat Sagdiyev's country really like?? There are different opinions. Join us and we will discover together!!!' the Oriental Express Central Asia company promises."

The tour is sure to disappoint fans of Borat--the real Kazakhstan is not what was portrayed in the film.  Quite literally, it wasn't--the shots of Kazakhstan were actually filmed about 3,000 miles away in Romania (villagers there were offended by the film, too).  And it really goes without saying that the other aspects of Borat's village are not going to be found in the real Kazakhstan--the backwardness, the anti-semitism, etc.  Although, why would you want to go to the 'Borat' version of Kazakhstan, with all of those negative qualities?

At any rate, I think the tenfold increase in tourism is a brilliant unintended consequence, and it just reaffirms the idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity.