The CDH is proud to announce a joint book launch for members Prof Darren Newbury and Prof Annebella Pollen. Join us to hear from the authors about their respective projects, and to celebrate their success.

This event will launch Cold War Photographic Diplomacy: The U.S. Information Agency and Africa, by Darren Newbury and Art without Frontiers: The Story of the British Council, Visual Arts and a Changing World, by Annebella Pollen.

April 17, 6pm-8pm, in M2 at Grand Parade

Free and open to all, but please book in advance to help us with planning refreshments: please book by clicking here.

For more information on the books to be presented, see below.

Cold War Photographic Diplomacy: The U.S. Information Agency and Africa

Cold War Photographic Diplomacy locates photography at the intersection of African decolonisation, racial conflict in the United States, and the cultural Cold War. The emergence of newly independent African nations onto the world stage precipitated a contest for influence on the continent by the Cold War superpowers. One response of the US government was to mount a campaign of photographic diplomacy, which for the first time considered African populations as its audience. At the same time, the increasing global visibility of racial injustice and the struggle for civil rights undermined US claims to transcend colonial racism. Concentrating on the period from the mid-1950s through to the late 1960s, this book traces the role of photography in the appeal of the US to Africa, underpinned by a faith in the capacity of the medium to cross cultural boundaries and foster new relations, and its presence in the public media spaces of late colonial and postcolonial African cities.

Based on extensive research in the archives of the United States Information Agency (USIA), the study examines several dimensions of this program of photographic diplomacy: the practice of photographing the political, cultural, and educational visits of Africans to the US, which provided a space for the imagination of international cooperation and friendship; the representation of civil rights struggle for international audiences, presented as an example of democracy in action; and its picturing of a world of integration and racial co-existence. Consideration is given not only to the careful scripting of images and picture stories, but also to the cultural and pedagogical work that photography was expected to perform as it was inserted into the visual culture of cities across Africa through magazines, posters, pamphlets, and window displays.



Art without Frontiers: The Story of the British Council, Visual Arts and a Changing World

Annebella Pollen

Does the meaning of a work of art change as it crosses a border from one place to another? Can art exhibitions play a role in the relations between different nations? How does a national collection of art reflect a country’s sense of itself, and even shape its standing in the world? Over nine decades, the British Council has sent British art abroad in ambitious acts of cultural dialogue with more than one hundred countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Its acclaimed exhibitions are seen by millions of people worldwide. These touring shows not only bring the work of leading artists to audiences in every continent, they also demonstrate art’s variety and endless capacity for reinterpretation, and the myriad ways that art exhibitions can serve international relations, as forms of promotion and partnership, and as sites of debate and dissent.

Along the way, the British Council has amassed a unique and distinctive national collection of art, comprising almost nine thousand pieces by the most significant artistic talents of the day. These works rarely rest, often going out on the road as soon as they enter the collection, sometimes travelling for years on end. As they move around the globe, they witness the changing circumstances of world history and, in their own way, leave a mark upon them.

There are many tales to be told during this long and rich period, with extraordinary art, fascinating personalities, and complex geopolitics. Through accounts of landmark exhibitions, this book explores intersections of art and national identity; issues of autonomy and authority, persuasion and protest; and shifting trends in art and curatorial practice across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It tells the ongoing story of the British Council’s visual arts programme and the British Council Collection, to examine what art can achieve as it moves around an ever-changing world.