Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New paper on the Dolma, Gastrodiplomacy, & Conflict Resolution between Armenia & Azerbaijan

Last April, the Public and Cultural Diplomacy Forum at AU hosted an event on "Gastrodiplomacy", featuring an impressive panel of speakers on this intriguing subject. I was live-tweeting the event, when I started getting responses from some Armenian tweeps suggesting that I write something about the culinary question of the South Caucasus -- the dolma. Soon after, a friend pointed out that USC's Public Diplomacy Magazine is planning a special issue on the topic of gastrodiplomacy. That's when I decided to dive in.

The long-awaited Winter 2014 issue is now out, and you can get the electronic copy of the entire issue here. My paper, titled "From Gastronationalism to Gastrodiplomacy: Reversing the Securitization of the Dolma in the South Caucasus", deals with the culinary controversy surrounding the origins of dolma that has been keeping quite a few people and organizations very busy over the past few years (in both Armenia and Azerbaijan). I tried to provide a short, yet a more-or-less comprehensive perspective on what the issue entails, and how, instead of fueling the conflict between the two countries further, dolma can become a tool for public diplomacy -- gastrodiplomacy -- to bring the nations closer and begin a process of conflict resolution and reconciliation.

I won't give more of it away. Also, white you're reading that, don't forget to look at the rest of the articles and interviews, as well. There's a lot of interesting and exciting stuff in there!

Special thanks to the editors of the Public Diplomacy Magazine for all their feedback and help!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If you missed the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony...

... it is truly a shame, because despite everything that has been, is, and will be wrong with the games [or Russia, in general], the celebration of the actual opening was certainly mesmerizing. No, I cannot even begin trying to unpack everything that took place, all the symbolism, the beauty and the creativity... you'll have to see the whole thing to truly appreciate it. But here's a sneak-peak.

Tribute to Russia's pagan and Orthodox past. Tell me that's not pretty..?! (Image from The Independent)

The organizers did a wonderful job blending some of the greatest examples of Russia's culture and (selective) moments from its history with amazing choreography, lots of color, and what seemed to be absolute lack of reservations about the role their country has played and will keep playing on the world stage. Russia had set out to charm the world and - with billions of people watching on - they did quite an impressive job, despite all the negative reporting and commentary by the outraged (and probably bored) Western reporters in the preceding days.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Russia's female athletes bring the "REAL" show to Sochi

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following piece by Russia Beyond The Headlines on Facebook voicing concern about the sexual connotations that could be read into it: "Olympic beauty: Sochi girls to meet world famous athletes." A Russian (female) friend was outraged at my direct and immediate association of something seemingly so innocuous with sex/prostitution. The issue however, is not just that it feeds directly into the image of an oversexualized Russian/Slavic/Eastern European woman, but that it actually promotes it - even if indirectly - as yet another attraction in Sochi specifically, and Russia more broadly [yet another example of wonderful public diplomacy put on by the Russian authorities, eh?].

That said, a piece on Huffington Post today just blew my mind. It was basically a collection of samples from various photo-shoots featuring scantily-clad Russian female athletes who will be representing the country in what is perhaps the most scandalous Winter Olympics in the past few decades. (The photos can be found here and here.) After a little more research, it became apparent that the story is not THAT new and that the UK's Daily Mail had put together an even more impressive feature on the matter, already. I'll let you enjoy these collections later, but here's a basic preview:

Anna Prugova, hockey. Image from Evophoto.