Academic ambassadors, Pacific allies

Australia, America and the Fulbright Program

Authors: Alice Garner and Diane Kirkby

This book recounts the history of the Fulbright Program in Australia, locating academic exchange in the context of US cultural diplomacy and revealing a complex relationship between governments, publicly funded research and the integrity of academic independence. The study is the first in-depth analysis of the Fulbright exchange program in a single country. Drawing on previously unexplored archives and a new oral history, the authors investigate the educational, political and diplomatic challenges experienced by Australian and American scholars who won awards and those who managed the complex bi-national program. The book begins with the scheme’s origins, moves through its Australian establishment during the early Cold War, Vietnam War dilemmas, civil rights and gender parity struggles and the impacts of mid-to-late twentieth century belt-tightening. How the program’s goal of ‘mutual understanding’ was understood and enacted across six decades lies at the heart of the book, which weaves institutional and individual experiences together with broader geopolitical issues. Bringing a complex and nuanced analysis to the Australia–US relationship, the authors offer fresh insights into the global influence of the Fulbright Program. It is a compelling account of academic exchange as cultural diplomacy. It offers a critical appraisal of Fulbright achievements and limitations in avoiding political influence, integrating gender and racial diversity, absorbing conflict and dissent, and responding to economic fluctuations and social change.

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