Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 11

ARTS & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS firm belief that the reasons behind the wars and conflicts ravishing humankind throughout history have been misunderstanding and ignorance. To set focus on the apparently endless need for mediating between conflicting values to promote peace and implement change in the surrounding world, I return to the early decades of the Cold War, when� much like today�simplified cultural polarisations were utilised to aggravate political tensions. For an organisation reaching its teenage years in the midst of the early, heated and ideologically defined stages of the Cold War, tackling the dreaded consequences of the lack of knowledge and understanding specifically between East and West came to be of key importance. For UNESCO, the division of the world into the East and the West was not defined by the geopolitical realities of the time. Instead, the border between the two was a cultural one. “The promotion of mutual understanding between East and West has been adopted by Unesco as a Major Project. The emphasis, during the current period is mainly on enhancing understanding of the East in countries of Western civilization,” a UNESCO proposal for conducting a Survey of Asian Films from 1957 declares (UNESCO 1957b). Film “can efficiently serve to promote an understanding of these countries,” it continues. In 1950, it was estimated that around 44 per cent of the world’s adult population was illiterate, and UNESCO was well aware of this (UNESCO 1957c). Thus, turning to film as a means of spreading information and ideas between East and West was both smart and practical. Consequently, in 1959, UNESCO together with the British Film Institute (BFI) published a catalogue of films produced in UNESCO’s Eastern Member States titled Orient. A Survey of Films Produced in Countries of Arab and Asian Culture to contribute to a better understanding between the Eastern and Western halves of the world. The catalogue became a means of educating, enlightening and influencing the general public. Through a reading of the catalogue with an emphasis on the actors involved in the project, I argue for the necessity of studying UNESCO not only as a reflector of sociopolitical shifts, currents and developments, but as an active, and perhaps surprisingly agile, contributor to the construction of the world system. Within a framework of a value-based understanding of the English School conceptual contribution combined with theories of propaganda and their relationship with the cultural mission of UNESCO, this article provides an inquiry into the persuasive powers UNESCO possesses. The negotiation processes resulting in the publication of the catalogue were no exception in the world of UNES- CO. Rather, they were merely an early manifestation of the peculiar problems UNESCO still continues to face. They serve as a reminder that the ideological background is not the only defining factor that has followed the organisation through the decades�the negotiations and clashes between the organisation’s cultural approach and political engagement have also played their part since the outset. Approaching the catalogue project as peace propaganda, I suggest UNESCO aimed to manifest itself as a form of international society built on the ideals of peace, understanding and solidarity. I understand peace propaganda to be about the conscious, coherent process of employing techniques of persuasion by any media available in order to unite peo- 10