Art and sound diplomacy
in US public diplomacy in socialist Yugoslavia, 1950–70
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Scholars working on public or cultural diplomacy more broadly usually focused on specific musicians, music genres, or forms of art. Although based on previous studies, this chapter aims to look at music and art diplomacy from the angle of channels – usually festivals – personalities, and cultural diplomacy content. Grounded on archival records, newspapers, and interviews, the chapter shows that, in Yugoslavia, American jazz was a cultural Cold War weapon, possessing connotations of improvisation and freedom. It argues, contrary to what Vučetić asserted, that those jazz performers arrived in Yugoslavia mostly through private, financially favourable, arrangements. On the other hand, the State Department prioritized classical arrangements, from symphony orchestras to ballet. Unlike other USIS programs, the US Cultural Presentation Program was considered politically neutral. Nevertheless, together with Voice of America, it contributed to popularizing American jazz. On the other hand, it is Voice of America that was perceived as highly problematic, dangerous propaganda by Yugoslav Party commissions. Followed by 46 to 70 per cent of all radio listeners, VOA successfully exploited its public diplomacy function by enticing behaviour that was breaking implicit rules of the Titoist regime and, therefore, perceived as encouraging freedom.

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