Thoughts after Eurovision

First of all, congratulations to Germany and Lena for winning Eurovision 2010. I already started to get excited for Eurovision 2011 in Germany. As I said in an earlier post, Eurovision presents a snapshot of European politics in less than three hours. The songs started to get more ‘global’, there are more songs in English and less local instruments. But still, it is possible to see how Eurovision can be a public diplomacy project, how it can get people together – or not. This is why I decided to write about my ideas, especially about Turkey, Greece, and Armenia in Eurovision. I am still amazed by how these nations can be culturally so similar and have so many political problems at the same time.

Let me organize my arguments in three categories: lyrics, similarities in music/culture, and voting politics. Armenia’s song was called ‘Apricot Stone’. Given the political context of Eurovision, Turkey claimed that “the song hinted at 1915 events”. Turco-Armenian relations are already bad enough, we definitely do not need a song, or misinterpretation of a song to aggravate the situation. As the song was mentioning Armenian motherland, many Turks were confused about its intentions. Even the Turkish commentator suggested that Eva should drop her apricots stones in her country, not in someone else’s. Eva’s manager try to explain the main idea beyond the lyrics, but I frankly don’t think he is a credible source for Turkish people.

Manga’s song was ‘We could be the same’. (By the way, also congratulations to Manga – they became 2nd). Their lyrics were also worth mentioning: ‘I can see that this could be fate/I can love you more than they hate/Doesn’t matter who they will blame/We can beat them at their own game’. I am glad that I am not the only one who thought these words had to do something with Turkey – EU relations. I mean, come on! We entered the contest with another rock(ish) band! Manga, as well, claimed that their lyrics did not have political aims – then again, it is very difficult to believe them, given the setting in their official video clip.

When I first listened to Greece’s song, it sounded so familiar. I mean, Turkey pretty much has same instruments but there was something more. Then I remembered, we had a very similar song in 1977 (I am no music expert, but if a rhythm reminded me of a 1977 song, there should be a similarity.). Living under the same authority for centuries and still living in the same region, it is not surprising to find similarities between songs.

I also learned about the importance of apricots for Armenians! Shocking story, apricots are pretty important for Turks, too. We are the leading producer (and I do have an apricot tree in my backyard). I was amazed by the beautiful duduk melodies by Gasparyan – I listened to that part over and over again. And yet another shocking story, we have the same instrument. Gasparyan had (maybe still has) quite a large audience in Turkey, especially after his joint work with Erkan Ogur in 2001.

Voting is the most political part of Eurovision. Turkey gave 12 points to Azerbaijan (one nation, two states), Greece to Cyprus, Cyprus back to Greece (I am sure it was particularly difficult this year for Greece to give 12 points to Cyprus), Armenia to Georgia. No points came to Turkey from Armenia, Greece, or Cyprus.

To summarize my thoughts, we can react to these similarities and differences in two different ways. Firstly, we can take the voting road. We can claim how Greeks steals Turkish rhythms, how Turks portray a fabricated image, how Armenia blames Turkey, etc. etc. We can use Eurovision as a platform to continue nationalist struggles and blame each other for stealing our own symbols.

Or, we can just realized that all these symbols, rhythms, instruments belong to all of us, living in the same region. At least, I hope we will realize this fact. Let’s see what happens in the 56th Eurovision Song Content next year in Germany.

PS: Seriously, Greece – 12 points to that song? Come on!

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Eurovision: Singing for Cultural Diplomacy

It is that time of the year again! We are only a few weeks away from Eurovision! Last year, to my surprise, I met some people who didn’t know about this beautiful event! I thought Eurovision was the second biggest event in the universe – the first being, of course, the World Cup.

When something is an inherent part of your culture and life, it is very difficult to explain it, especially when other people have no idea what you are talking about – “It is like American Idol – but an entire continent competes” or “It is a parade of songs and stage shows that have never left the 80s” or simply “Just watch it, it is fun”. Last year, I watched the final with friends from Nepal, New Zealand, and the UK. It was really interesting and funny to see non-European reaction to the contest.

Let me try to explain what Eurovision is. Once upon a time European countries came together and started an organization called European Broadcasting Union (EBU). EBU decided to do something to bring European countries together after the World War II, and tried to test the broadcasting technologies. Eurovision, a song contest broadcasted simultaneously in several countries, started in 1956. And we still watch it, and no, apart from Ireland, we are still not bored (Ireland won Eurovision seven times). The winner country gets to host the following year’s contest. Last year, Norway won, and Eurovision 2010 will take place in Oslo, Norway.

Eurovision, for me at least, presents a snapshot of European politics, as well as our deep commitment to disco era. Last year, I was in a position to explain why Scandinavian countries give 12 points to each other, why it is a big issue when Turkey votes for Cyprus, and why we pretend to speak French (deuze pointe). Now, on one hand, we forget about politics – Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and even Israel are seen as ‘European’ countries, we love to hear them sing together. On the other hand, when it comes to voting, we are reminded how powerful political relations are in Europe – i.e. 12 points are exchanged between countries with strong ties (yes Scandinavian countries, I am talking about you!! Stop doing that!).

Long story short, thanks to Eurovision, people see at least some faces, melodies, and lyrics from all around the continent. Visit Eurovision’s website at and be a part of this great event!

PS: This is Turkey in ESC 2010:

and this is my favorite song thus far – Iceland:

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Study Abroad and Culture

I was silent for around two weeks. I was preparing for International Academy of Business Disciplines Annual Convention in Las Vegas. I presented two papers, one project, and co-chaired four sessions. In addition to all this academic work, I tried to support IABD Press project. Shortly, I had quite a busy schedule during the conference.

One of the papers I presented was on the impacts of Fulbright Program entitled “More than a Touristic Visit: Scholar Exchanges as a Communication Method in Public Diplomacy”. I introduced a three-level schema for intercultural encounters. The first level is tourism. Tourists, indeed, see a new country/culture, and go through a highly fabricated and controlled experience. But still, they go through an intercultural experience and they will have something to say about the country. The second level is exchange program participants. Scholars spend longer periods of time in a different country and go through a less controlled experience. After they return back to their home countries, they are considered as information sources about the host countries. The third (and for me the highest) level is the cultural ambassadors. People might start arguing for their host countries and might advocate their rights. We discussed how tourists and/or exchange program participants can be transformed into cultural ambassadors.

Given the international characteristic of the association and backgrounds of participants, we started discussing personal experiences and the importance of study abroad experience (Two people from the audience, both American, became cultural ambassadors of two different countries after their study/teach/live abroad experiences). Dr. Bonita Neff talked about her university – Valparaiso University -, and its commitment to increase the number of international exchange programs. I was amazed by the number of opportunities available for students to go abroad. I am not going to reinvent the wheel but I would like to recap some of the most important obstacles we discussed for intercultural discussions:

– Dominance of American data: We realized that most of the research we were doing was based on American data. For instance, I was discussing scholar exchanges through Fulbright program. Another presentation discussed face-ism through 2008 Presidential elections. The last presentation was on celebrity diplomacy, and of course, discussed mainly American celebrities. The volume and quality of data about the US is more than satisfactory, and we do not feel the need to look at other countries unless we are willing to do a comparative study.

– Dominance of American literature: Even the resources we cited were mainly from the US. Practically speaking, data and journals – maybe unintentionally – cause the scholars to focus solely on the United States.

– Cluster Study Abroad: When students are sent abroad by their colleges and universities to study abroad, they tend to travel in clusters, either with students from their own countries or from similar cultures. Therefore, even after spending a semester abroad, students have no idea about the host culture.

– Plain laziness: Many people just don’t want to take the risk of moving abroad (usually overseas in the case of the United States). So, they choose to stay in their home country and do not interact with other cultures (well, maybe occasional interaction when they want to eat ‘authentic’ food).

In short, go abroad & live abroad. You don’t need to come back as a cultural ambassador, but your intercultural experience will broaden your horizon.

PS 1: This is a photo of me, getting the Global Communication Award at IABD (hopefully, I will get another award for this weird handshake next year.)
Frankly speaking, I am proud to be part of such a diverse organization. This was my second year at IABD, I am looking forward to the convention in New Orleans next year! For further information about IABD, please visit You can reach the press project for IABD 2009, St. Louis at and for IABD 2010, Las Vegas at

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After a long long silence

A few seconds ago, when I was trying to login, I realized that I forgot my wordpress user name and password! I have been neglecting this blog for so long.

Nothing has really changed in my research or academic interests. I will be presenting my thesis proposal in National Communication Association’s 95th Annual Convention in Chicago. I have around a month to prepare. Hopefully, it will be more than enough and will be able to present my thoughts clearly.

As part of my job as a graduate assistant, I started working on an undergraduate seminar on Public Diplomacy at Emerson College. As I am an incredible blogger, I will be contributing to the seminar blog as well. I hope the students will be more productive than me. The in-class discussions are incredibly vivid and lively. If we can manage to carry those discussion to the Web 2.0 platform, the blog will be an invaluable resource on public diplomacy.

This is all I have to tell right now. This week sometime, I will write on Web communication technologies and its impacts on nation branding.

PS: I believe I will finally get to meet Nancy Snow! I was in Public Diplomacy class last week, discussing one of Dr. Snow’s articles, when I got an e-mail notification saying that Nancy Snow was following me on twitter. First, I thought it was a bot but then I got an e-mail from Dr. Snow, herself! If nothing goes wrong, she will be a guest lecturer in our Public Diplomacy class at Emerson College.

My hosts in D.C.

As a part of our Fulbright seminar in D.C., an amazing couple hosted me and two fellow scholars for dinner.hostsFrom left: Idrissa Fane(Mali), Efe Sevin(Turkey), Alejandro Rico(Colombia), Daisy, Mary Beth Marklein, Peter Kunkel

Apart from Peter’s amazing culinary abilities, the quick city tour, Mary Beth’s own Fulbright experiences in Romania and Daisy’s curiosity; we enjoyed a lively discussion about the effectiveness of foreign Fulbright program. As Dr. Snow (yes, I have to cite her in every piece I write) “millions of  U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent to host these visitors”, I wanted to learn more about their perceptions. Both of our hosts were enthusiastic about hosting us for a dinner, but what do they think about the fact that their tax dollars were spent on graduate students?

Peter spent a few years in Colombia, employed by the U.S. government and Mary Beth was a Fulbright scholar in Romania. In other words, they both had first hand experience about “cultural exchanges”. They were happy about the fact that people wanted to visit U.S. and somehow had the opportunity to see the culture themselves.

During that dinner, we have discussed the importance of exposure to other cultures. Frankly speaking, exposure to a different culture, being aware that there are other people living in other countries is an important step. And public diplomacy can be focused on this very noble aim, creating communication bridges between people!

Once again, I would like to thank Mary Beth and Peter for their incredible hospitality!