Publication Date

2006

Abstract

Cultural festivals often claim to foster mutual understanding and improve international and intercultural relations. While such events are ubiquitous, enjoyable, and entertaining, there is some skepticism regarding their role in effecting social change. Cultural festivals have been celebrated as tools for economic development, place promotion, and community-building, however, little work has been done to articulate what they do in peacebuilding terms. The following study asks: How do cultural festivals contribute to more positive intercultural relations? What is be the role and rationale of using festivals as a strategic approach to build a more peaceful society? When and how do festivals go beyond entertainment? Focusing specifically on contemporary world music festivals, this study explores the ways in which festival programs promote dialogue and may otherwise contribute to intercultural understanding. Through a review of primary sources, participant-observation, and interviews with festival organizers, the author aims to articulate some of the strategic objectives and impact of festivals, and to thereby contribute to the growing vocabulary and strategic awareness of the role of the arts and culture in peacebuilding. Cultural festivals are an example of cultural programming that may either be developed as stand-alone peacebuilding initiatives or as an element of broader peacebuilding campaigns. This study illustrates that festival programs are as interdisciplinary as the peacebuilding field itself, and creatively combine the objectives of the arts, entertainment, education, community development, advocacy, as well as informal public diplomacy arenas. They connect stakeholders from multiple sectors of society, and, when informed by strategic planning and an analytical perspective, may be applicable to address social tensions at different stages of conflict. Using the festival format as a approach to peacebuilding may provide both arts and peacebuilding professionals opportunities to engage in collaborative and transformative programs that have the potential to be deeply engaging, far-reaching, build lasting relationships and provide creative opportunities for intercultural interaction.

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