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Although the role of civil society was stressed in Nye’s subsequent works (Nye 2004), it remains treated as a secondary factor.Such an approach tends to disregard the potential role of powerful private actors with major economic stakes invested in the promotion of a country’s influence.
Finally, I analyse the discourse of Istanbul institutional actors to illustrate how Istanbul is framed as an emerging regional art centre.
Soft power theory can be understood as a concept that was developed to reduce the complexity of transnational cultural interactions for state strategy and corporate interests.
Turkish curators have been increasingly involved in external cultural projects and Turkish artists have been featured in galleries and at art fairs in Dubai and Budapest.
Correspondingly, Istanbul fairs have welcomed galleries from around the region.
Secondly, Nye’s theory supposes that promoters of a state’s influence have the capacity to mobilise cultural organisations to further their goals.
This may be true in the case of cultural centres with organic links to the state, for example, the Yunus Emre cultural centres.
Nye’s theory marked an effort to expand the notion of power by differentiating between its various processes (coercion, inducement, agenda-setting, and attraction), and defining the role of “soft” tools such as television, cinema, political discourse and cultural centres.
While Nye’s approach has been widely applied to the analysis of Turkey’s new geopolitical context, two limitations can be perceived.
Firstly, Nye overemphasised the role of state actors.
In charge of defending national interests, they are encouraged to mobilise different sets of tools to develop or retain their country’s influence.