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How Globalization affects Arts Managers

This research seeks to develop greater understanding of the impacts of globalization, digitalization, and (im)migration on the work of arts managers and arts management researchers. Different from studies that focus specifically on those who work exclusively in international contexts, this paper aims to present current research based on an international empirical study of arts managers who do not necessarily cross borders for their work and who would in most cases not even consider their work international as such. The findings are a brief excerpt of the results of an online survey in October and November 2015 among 352 arts managers in 46 countries. It dealt inter alia with the question how globalization affects the day-to-day work of arts managers and how they deal with the challenges globalization imposes on them. 

By Raphaela Henze

Language barriers and culture-dependent dictions 

The majority of arts managers stated that language barriers are a huge issue for them. They would like to be proficient in more languages in order to reach out to an increasingly diverse audience as well as to better prepare themselves for communication with (co-production) partners in other countries. 

Language is indeed an issue: Many of the terms frequently used in the context of globalization such as ‚cultural identity‘, ‚nationality‘ and ‚diversity‘ – to name only a few – have complex meanings and are subject to differing interpretations. There is hardly any discussion in the cultural sector these days without frequent use of these buzzwords. And matters become even more complex when trying to translate these terms into different languages. Even the well-intended use of words can be demeaning when not used properly and in the appropriate context. 

Political correctness in terminology is certainly important but does not necessarily ensure that the way people are treated is equally correct. Further, it differs from country to country what can be called “politically correct”. But apart from this, it is time for self-reflection. There seems to be a certain lack of critical consciousness regarding terminology and even a certain kind of “eurocentrism” that is proven by several answers of arts managers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 

Need for critical discourse 

For the majority of the arts managers in German-speaking countries (im)migration is a huge challenge they are currently facing. Many of them explained that the reason for their efforts is to foster ‘integration’. The term has the paternalistic notion of allowing those that are not familiar with the rules to play the game in case they learn and then stick to the rules laid out by those that are already playing. Sure, there are rules as well as values (a difficult term again) that are of utmost importance and by no means subject to relativism. It is an important task of arts managers to ensure that human rights, freedom of expression and of religion are protected or enforced because without them art would become mere propaganda. Having a more precise idea of the difficult concept of diversity, often used in the same context, and additionally thinking both more deeply and theoretically about e.g. how ‘nation’ and ‘identity’ can be defined according to the realities of the 21st century might help to make the well-intended ad hoc efforts of arts managers more sustainable in the long run. It will have to be academia in constant exchange with the sector that has to provide the theoretical framework from where to start. 

Transcultural dialogue and cultural-economic imbalances 

It does not come as a surprise that arts managers in German-speaking countries rank the issue of migration and immigration so high when asked about the challenges that globalization brings to their daily work. But for arts managers outside these countries, different topics are key and make aware that globalization has not overcome the huge differences and imbalances between countries but might even perpetuate them. 

An arts manager from South Africa states: „The main challenge is trying to strike the balance between the powerful cultural hegemonies and the previously colonised. Many of the exchanges and intercultural experiments still have imbalances between source and receiving cultures.“ 

A Nigerian arts manager remarks: „Countries with bigger resources for promotion of their culture and methodology control the global discourse on culture.“ 

Another South African arts manager states as main challenges: „Global north dominance in theory, policy and agenda-setting; dependence on global north resources and the inherent power relations; language and general communication, the costs of travel, particularly on the African continent; it is easier (security, resources, visas, etc.) for global north voices to gather than global south ones; different cultural values and expectations and a lack of respect for these (despite commitments to cultural diversity), policy and strategic emphasis appropriate to global north conditions that have little relevance or resonance with global south circumstances“. 

An Afghan arts manager explains: „As Afghan artists and arts managers we think that minorities are sometimes not in the focus of globalisation.“ 

An arts manager from Romania offers insights at the limits of what art and culture can actually achieve: „Unfair competition for resources and opportunities between rich and developing countries; the pervasive business-like assessment of cultural projects aims and achievements imposed by capitalist funding policies; the instrumentalisation of culture for political and economic purposes; the artificial stress on providing programs for disadvantaged communities whose problems should be addressed by politics instead to truly enable them to benefit from cultural and participative projects; the cultural colonization of developing countries by rich ones.“ 

These are only a few quotes of many that hint in similar directions and clarify some highly important issues: 

  1. The“levelplayingfield”, the Goethe-Institut is so often talking about in glossy brochures, is still far from being achieved. 

  2. If we talk about how we can prepare arts managers for professions in international as well as transcultural contexts, we should include postcolonial theories and discourses to the curricula which are admittedly to a certain extent hermeneutic for arts managers whose background lies in another field,. Cultural hegemony, modelled on the basis of Western ideals, destroying local identities and culture, is still a reasonable fear for many arts managers in Europe as well. 

  3. We can no longer ignore competencies that are offered globally because these competencies might fit better than Western arts management tools in contexts where we might not even mean the same thing when we talk about art and culture and where we might have totally different ideas of how arts institutions operate or what they are for. Sometimes such “misunderstandings” are blurred by the fact that management terminology is relatively widespread. However, sooner or later the differences based on history, tradition, religion or spirituality will appear. It will be on us to learn because otherwise we will not only face huge difficulties in international 
contexts, but also in contexts that seem to be at first glance national.

How can we live diversity if we do not have an idea about the essence of its concept or maybe better of hybridity? 

And last but not least, we will have to understand that issues that seem of urgent importance in the European arena may be of less importance in other parts of the world. This might help to take the heat out of some discussions. Also, it might open the horizon for other topics and for solutions. Several countries have experienced or are still experiencing waves of (im)migration.6 For many of those, dealing with an ethnically diverse audience is daily business. Again, globalization can be a chance to learn if one is prepared for and willing to do so. There is an enormous amount of knowledge that digitalization will help to distribute. It will be an important task of interdisciplinary as well as international networks of academics and practitioners to generate this knowledge and to distribute it as widely as possible. 

The entire study is published in R. Henze‚ Einführung in das Internationales Kulturmanagement‘ (2016). You can find a detailed introduction into this publication in this issue of Arts Management Quarterly. 

Raphaela Henze is professor of Arts Management at Heilbronn University, Germany. Her main research focus is on the impacts of globalization and internationalization on arts management and arts management education.

The full version of this article has first been publishes in Arts Management Quarterly No.124 on "An entirely new Arts Management". To receive Arts Management Quarterly for free you just have to subscribe to our newsletter.

Management Topic: Policy & Research
Cultural Area: General
Submitted by editor-in-chief on Jul 11, 2017