Poetry and Public Diplomacy: The Case of Western Sahara. CeMoRe Winter Webinar 2023


Published by Nicola Spurling

Monday, April 29th, 2024

CeMoRe’s 2023 Winter Webinar was co-hosted with Desert Disorders, with support from the British Academy. The webinar titled Poetry and Public Diplomacy: The Case of Western Sahara was jointly presented by Joanna Allan and Moiti Mohammed Azrouk, and chaired by Katherine Baxter:

Joanna Allan, Associate Professor in Global Development at Northumbria University. Her latest book, Saharan Winds: Energy Systems and Aeolian Imaginaries in Western Sahara, will be out with West Virginia University Press in Autumn 2024.

Moiti Mohamed Azrouk, works at the Training, Entrepreneurship and Consultancy Centre (TECC) in the Saharawi state-in-exile. She is also currently working on an anthology of Saharawi poetry.

Katherine Baxter, Professor of English Literature at Northumbria University currently leading the Desert Disorders project in collaboration with Professor Deborah Sutton from Lancaster University, and Professor Farhana Ibrahim (from IIT Delhi).

While there is a small body of literature in Arts and Humanities research on poetry and diplomacy that reveals a relationship between the two in cultures across the globe, the vast majority of this research focuses on historical cases. On the other hand, International Relations literature has not considered the relationship between poetry and diplomacy. This webinar argued for greater consideration of the role of poetry and poets in diplomacy. Using the case of Saharawi poets engaging Spanish, Mauritanian and international audiences, the presenters contend that poetry can be considered a form of public diplomacy, and poets as public diplomats, when advocating for a state policy, interest or cause. They also show that studying poetry through the lens of public diplomacy allows us to learn more about the interplay of emotion and soft power. In doing so, they contribute to ongoing debates on the role of non-state actors in public diplomacy and on the place of emotion in diplomacy. The webinar is based on fieldwork carried out in late 2022 and early 2023 in Mauritania, the Saharawi state-in-exile/refugee camps in Algeria, and Spain.

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