Center for Gulf Studies at AUK Presents Lecture on French-GCC Diplomatic Relations
The Center for Gulf Studies (CGS) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK), in collaboration with the French Center for Archeology and Social Sciences (CEFAS), hosted their inaugural public lecture for this semester entitled, “The Linchpin of a Privileged Relation? French Cultural Diplomacy in GCC Countries.” The lecture was presented by Ms. Océane Sailly, a PhD Candidate in the Communication, Information, and Media Department at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University. The lecture was held at the AUK Auditorium and was attended by Her Excellency Ambassador Marie Masdupuy, the Ambassador of France to Kuwait; Dr. Benjamin Taunay, the Academic Attaché at the French Embassy; and Her Excellency Sheikha Hussa Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, Director General and Co-founder of Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah (DAI).
Since the 1960s, France has managed to establish itself as an alternative diplomatic partner, or even a privileged partner, of the Gulf countries – especially Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. In her lecture, Ms. Sailly shed light on the cultural dimension of French-GCC diplomatic relations by exploring the history of French cultural diplomacy in the Gulf region, as well as investigating the increasingly essential role of culture in international relations.
This was illustrated through her discussion of the expansion and coordination of the French cultural and cooperation network, including the establishment of French Embassies, the French Institute, and French foreign research institutes such as CEFAS. Additionally, the diffusion of the Francophonie was an integral part of the process of the network. Francophonie mainly involved integrating French in public school system curriculums, vocational training, and establishing French programs in local radio and TV stations.
Ms. Sailly also explored the wide range of French-GCC partnerships in the cultural, scientific, and technical fields, which focus on socioeconomic development. This has included the provision of technical assistance for the development of flagship projects such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Al-Ula archaeological site in Saudi Arabia.
Her Excellency Ambassador Marie Masdupuy recognized Ms. Sailly’s presentation and extensive research efforts, and further commented on the relevance of cultural diplomacy. She expressed that Kuwait’s unique interest and appreciation for art, culture, and history encouraged strong cultural ties with France. “I am very confident that there is mutual will and mutual aspiration to expand these ties in all the variety that Océane described.” Further, she echoed the sentiments of the First French Ambassador in Kuwait, His Excellency Pierre-Louis Falaize, who had predicted that, “It is on higher bases, those of culture, technique, and understanding in various high fields, that a lasting cooperation must be established...”
Dr. Shareefa Al-Adwani, Director of CGS, commended the speaker for discussing “new strategies of networked cultural diplomacy conducted by French diplomatic units within GCC countries,” emphasizing that “cultural diplomacy—different from public diplomacy, soft power, and cultural relations—involves systemized efforts across these units to achieve certain national goals. Her [Sailly’s] original research reveals an understudied yet important aspect of international politics that crosses multiple disciplines in the social sciences and humanities."
Océane Sailly is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Sorbonne Nouvelle University. After graduating with a B.A. in International Relations and a M.A. in Cultural Mediation, she worked as a Cultural Officer for the “Emirati-French Cultural Program – Dialogue with the Louvre Abu Dhabi.” Currently, she is conducting her dissertation on French cultural diplomacy in GCC countries. For the years 2018-2020, she has been awarded a travel grant from the French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences in Kuwait to pursue fieldwork in the Gulf. At the same time, she continues to explore the art history of the region, as an expansion of her former research.
About the Center for Gulf Studies:
The Center for Gulf Studies is a research center under the College of Arts and Sciences at the American University of Kuwait. The center aims to promote greater cultural understanding of and increased intellectual interest in the Gulf, by facilitating free and open academic discourse on a range of issues that both shape and challenge this critical region of the world. Their goal is to enable scholars as well as political and civil society actors both within and outside the region to contribute and add value to the burgeoning field of Gulf Studies. To this end, the center seeks to encourage, support, and cultivate interesting and original research on the Gulf, and to create an environment in which AUK students and faculty can interact and collaborate with researchers and activists from around the world in creative and engaging ways.
Lecture by Ms. Océane Sailly
VIP guests attending the lecture at the American University of Kuwait
Audience attending the lecture at the American University of Kuwait