Hedley Bull’s distinction between diplomatic and cosmopolitan culture, though insufficiently developed, has two applications in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It provides a broader theoretical backdrop to the oft-noted need for a thicker socio-cultural underpinning to counterweigh ASEAN’s elite diplomatic culture; and it offers an alternative perspective with which to critique ASEAN-focused efforts in that direction. This article uses the diplomatic/cosmopolitan dyad to examine a range of regional communication initiatives, from cartoons and computer games to Facebook communities and curricula. While some still represent an essentially diplomatic culture that has simply been transferred to a popular environment, others have the potential to promote a more genuinely cosmopolitan vision that better enables citizens to come to terms with both the rough and the smooth of regional cooperation. The article suggests that ASEAN would be well advised to promote hands-off communicative efforts that not only give participants scope to explore, but also accommodate the ineluctability of contention and difference in regional affairs.


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pp. 104-128
Launched on MUSE
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