Japan meets Brazil: A culinary encounter

Rockower describes gastrodiplomacy as an “act of winning hearts and minds through stomachs”, something that “introduces culture through the sense of taste” (Rockower 2012:235). As Curtis summarises, it can be perceived, then, as “a form of cultural diplomacy and nation branding” (Curtis, 2017).

The birth and growth of Brazilian sushi can be regarded as just that. The website of a Brazilian sushi restaurant in Rome provides an useful brief historical background: “The biggest Japanese community outside of Japan began forming in Brazil in the early 1900s, that’s how the 日系ブラジル人 culinary tradition was born” (Sambamaki).

The encounter between the Japanese expat community and the local Brazilian culinary tradition created a rich cultural exchange that eventually prospered and mushroomed overseas introducing the world to another vibrant aspect of Brazilian culture, which prides itself for being the result of the meeting of the most diverse cultures. Restaurants can be found as far away as in Italy, the UK and the US (Sushisamba).

Sambamaki, the restaurant in Rome attempts to explain the result of such culinary encounter: “Maki becomes bigger, they contain new ingredients such as mango, avocado and papaya, sushi is served with tasty sauces, sake becomes the base for cocktails as it meets maracujá and other tropical fruits” (Sambamaki). Other changes include the creation of fried “hot” sushi and dessert-like sweet sushi with ingredients such as strawberries or banana and chocolate.


The cultivation of the art of sushi making by Japanese-expat Brazilians is recognised. A remarkable prove of that is the Japanese-Brazilian chef Celso Hideji Amano winning, last year, the sushi world championship in Tokyo in a competition with 27 chefs from France, the US etc. (G1, Presse, 2016).

However, it would be misleading to consider the Brazilian sushi culinary tradition as merely the importation of a Japanese tradition with the addition of a Brazilian taste. It would, rather, make more sense to see it as an independent Brazilian cultural tradition based on the culinary expression of its big Japanese expat community that eventually took on a life of its own. A funny remind of that comes from the following video of a (non-Brazilian) Japanese trying Brazilian sushi for the first time (Youtube).

He seems not to have particularly enjoyed the experience and, in the best cases, remarks that “this is good but it’s very different”.

Brazilian sushi, can therefore, be considered to have produced some results as a gastrodiplomacy tool: It has certainly at least began to introduce the world to a different aspect of Brazilian culture stressing the idea of a rich culture based on the meeting of several cultures, as Brazil is proud to claim. The opening of several Brazilian restaurants dedicated to such tradition can be regarded as an evidence of it. On the other hand, the recognition of its differences with the Japanese culinary tradition, expressed by Japanese people themselves, prove the birth of a distinct cultural phenomenon, based on a Japanese tradition but not limited in replicating it within a different culinary environment.



Rockower P. (2012), Recipes for Gastrodiplomacy, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy.

Curtis S. (2017), Gastrodiplomacy, London.

Sambamaki, available at http://www.sambamaki.it/info.

Sushisamba, available at https://sushisamba.com/.

G1, Presse F. (2016), Chefe Brasileiro Vence Mundial de Sushi em Tóquio, available at http://g1.globo.com/mundo/noticia/2016/08/chef-brasileiro-vence-mundial-de-sushi-em-toquio.html.

Youtube, Japonês do Japão Prova Rodizio Japonês do Brasil, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7b5bjKnr1o.

Brasilia: An Example of Nation Branding Through City Building


This blog entry will draw from the view that nation branding is a process requiring domestic/identity change and make the case that the construction of the current capital city of Brazil can be interpreted as an exercise of nation branding.

Steven Curtis, referencing Anholt, makes the case that a country’s identity is not independent from its domestic realities (Curtis, 2017).

The point could be raised that the construction of Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, comes from the acknowledgment of such factor and the will of improving the country’s image, brand if you will, especially in the eyes of Brazilians.

In order to fully grasp the meaning of the construction of Brasilia, it is necessary to remember it was built under the presidency of Kubitschek, a president whose motto was to provide Brazil with “50 years of progress in 5” (AboutBrasilia, 2005). His commitment to modernization and, therefore, to provide a modern image of the country is undeniable.

The construction plan of the capital city itself reflects the will of portraying the country as a modern one, with Lucio Costa’s “plano piloto” (pilot plan) imagining the city in the form of an airplane winning the public competition for the project (Baldussi, 2010).

It could be suggested that the construction of Brasilia does not represent an exercise of nation branding merely because it seeks to add the image of modernity to the national brand but also because it seeks to strengthen its image of a democratic country.

The National Congress being located in the centre of the three powers’ square can be regarded as the cockpit of the airplane suggesting that the people are in charge of piloting the airplane-nation. The palace of the executive power and the one of the Supreme Court are transparent symbolizing that “power must be transparent to the people”. Another metaphor aimed at highlight the democratic feature of the country is the peculiarity of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that can easily be told apart from the others. These two buildings are also transparent, elegant and surrounded by water. The effort of giving a stronger visual impact on these two buildings aims at symbolizing, again, that the power is in the hands of the people. They, in fact, speak to the outside (ministry of foreign affairs) and to the inside with justice (ministry of justice) (Almeida, 2013).

Finally, Brasilia can also be rightly regarded as a symbol of an united country. Despite of the fact Brazil’s territory extends deeply inland; the first two capital cities of the country were both on the coast. The process of building a capital city in the geographical centre of the country can be regarded as a means of strengthening integration (Almeida, 2013).

Evidence seems to suggest the construction of the current capital city of Brazil, Brasilia, can be regarded as an exercise of nation branding. It draws from the acknowledgment that national brands are dependent on domestic realities and identities and seeks to improve the image of the country in the eyes of Brazilians themselves. The construction plan of the city highlights values that the country wanted to introduce or strengthen in its brand such as modernity, democracy and integration.



Curtis S. (2017), Nation Branding and Competitive Identity, UK.

AboutBrasilia (2005), History of Brasilia, available at http://www.aboutbrasilia.com/facts/history.php.

Baldussi D. (2010), Brasilia, 50 Years as the Capital, available at http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-travel/brasilia-50-years-as-the-capital/.

Almeida J. (2013), Manual do Candidato – Historia do Brasil, pages 445, 475, Brazil.


Is Sport Diplomacy really Diplomacy?

Is sport diplomacy really diplomacy?

 This blog will make the case ‘sport diplomacy’ is far from being a form of diplomacy and will then move to highlight the structural limits of some features associated with such practice. The case study of the South Korean Lee Eun-Ju and North Korean Hong Un-Jong gymnasts’ selfie will be taken as an example.

Before questioning whether ‘sport diplomacy’ is a form of diplomacy or not, it is necessary to question what diplomacy is. Berridge seems to provide a simple and useful definition: “Diplomacy consists of communication between officials designed to promote foreign policy” (Berridge, 2005). Athletes and sports organizations’ chiefs can hardly be considered officials representing any government. Being representation a major feature of diplomacy together with communication, these actors not representing and not being accountable to any government and not engaging in communication designed to promote foreign policy are not diplomats.

The point could be raised that despite of not being diplomats, such actors still engage in diplomacy. Berridge himself acknowledges that: “Diplomacy is not merely what professional diplomatic agents do. It is carried out by private persons under the direction of officials”. This, however, does not apply to athletes and sports organizations’ chiefs insofar as they do not engage in communication with officials to promote foreign policy. What they rather do, in the positive cases, is providing the tool upon which officials can operate for the sake of promoting their country’s foreign policy.

In the glorified example of the ‘Ping-Pong diplomacy’ (Wheeler, 2017), improved Chinese-American relations were not produced by the two Ping-Pong delegations’ friendly meetings but rather by the two governments’ capability of capitalizing on it. The athletes merely provided the tool upon which diplomacy was performed, they did not engaged in diplomacy themselves. The point could be raised that the use of the term ‘sport diplomacy’ comes from the practice of confounding the aims of diplomacy with its means.

Leaving aside the issue of terminology, there are some features of this practice that can equally be contested. By means of ‘sport diplomacy’ it is believed that opposing sides can create “opportunities to build and sustain durable, ongoing and peaceful relations” and that it can “reduce tensions between states at odds with one another that thus lacked conventional channels of diplomatic relations” (Wheeler, 2017).

The case of the South and North Korean gymnasts that awed the web by taking a selfie together highlights the limits of that.


The friendly gesture, in fact, had no impact on the strained relations between two countries still at war made even more sensible at that moment by recent missile launches from the North (BBC, 2016).

In positive examples such as the Ping-Pong diplomacy, ‘sports diplomacy’ worked as a tool for tension reduction because it reflected a genuine desire by both actors to decrease tensions. ‘Sport diplomacy’, just as real diplomacy, work only insofar it leads the involved countries in the direction they want to pursue. ‘Sport diplomacy’ is no magic conflict resolution formula but merely a tool upon which diplomacy can operate.



Berridge G. (2005), Diplomacy Theory and Practice, page 1, UK and US.

Wheeler M. (2017), Sports And Diplomacy, UK.

BBC (2016), North and South Korean Gymnasts Pose for Olympic Selfie, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-37018914.


The technological revolution:The most over-estimated of revolutions

socialmediaThis post will raise the point that the so-called ‘technological revolution’ has had significantly less impact on democratic practice and political mobilization than the literature on the matter currently suggests.

First, however, it is important to define what the ‘technological revolution’ actually is.

Mr. Wheeler has stressed the importance of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in such revolution and instructed on the shift, which has occurred from ‘mass’ to ‘multi-media’. Then, it was suggested that this progress in technology might provide for new democratic opportunities in terms of a more open government and new opportunities for public reaction and mobilization.

This post will not deny either that a remarkable technological progress took place or that it had (and is still having) a significant impact on our society in several ways. What, indeed, will be argued is the impact such revolution has had on society’s capability for political reaction and mobilization and the degree to which, therefore, it provided new democratic opportunities.

Political mobilization has been happening long before the ‘technological revolution’ and history is full of examples where those mobilizations greatly surpassed modern ones, either by the support they received or by the outcome they conquered.


The ‘expedition of the thousand’, for instance, took place in the 19th century and still, despite the lack of the technological resources of our times, was able to conquer the support of a big mass (as the name of the expedition suggests) and, in the context of the unification of Italy, its importance is simply undeniable bringing through the expedition of a thousand volunteers in the kingdom of the two Sicilies, Naples and Sicily into the kingdom of Sardinia representing the last territorial conquest before unification.

The American war of independence, the French revolution and the Minas Gerais conspiracy were all major examples of political mobilization by populations in the 18th century. Furthermore, despite the fact the three uprisings could not have happened more far away one from the other (they happened in the USA, France and Brazil), they were all inspired by the same values of the enlightenment era. Such sharing of values, however, pre-dates the ‘information era’ the ‘technological revolution’ was meant to have brought


imgres-1Image result for inconfidencia mineira

When making the case for the democratic opportunities created by the technological revolution, scholars tend to use the Arab spring as an example.

First, it should be noted that the Arab spring was unsuccessful in several countries regressing into an ‘Arab winter’. However it was indeed successful in Tunisia, for instance. In Tunisia, people organized uprisings through the use of ICTs that arguably led to the country’s democratization and the drafting of a new constitution. Technology in this case is largely regarded as an instrument that helped providing a voice to the mass and political change as Tunisian protester Rim Nour explains and Colin Delany reports (Epolitics, available at http://www.epolitics.com/2011/02/10/how-social-media-accelerated-tunisias-revolution-an-inside-view/).

The question I now address to the reader is: With regards to ‘public reaction and mobilization’, in what way was the Tunisian uprising any different from the French revolution, American independence, or the expedition of the Thousands? With regards to the outcome of bringing a new regime in, in what way was it different?

Evidence seems to suggest, there is nothing new under the sun. Technology brought a different tool allowing for public mobilization, not a better one. It could be suggested that the technological revolution made mobilization easier? Doesn’t that, however, come at odds with the great number of mobilizations that pre-dated it? It could be suggested it made it faster and cheaper? Did that, however, made them any more effective as empirical evidence struggle to suggest?









The global village: Is it really as inclusive as it seems?

The concept of a ‘global village’ comprise several quite interesting features, among them the concept of ‘global pluralism, a tendency to think globally and the existence of a ‘two-way flow of communications’. The point could be raised that none of the above-mentioned features apply, at least to their fullest, to our world.                                                                 Instead it could be suggested that:

If voices from all over the world are spoken, some are better heard than others,               That we tend to focus our attention towards specific regions of the world (North America, Western Europe and South-East Asia, for instance) rather than giving equal attention towards the whole planet and,                                                                                                       Because of these two tendencies, rather than a two-way flow of communications, it could be perceived that a predominately one-way flow from the world’s ‘core’ to the ‘periphery’ takes place.

This view can be easily understood by taking into account the global village’s reaction towards world’s catastrophes.

The Paris attacks of November 2015, for instance, received massive coverage and Facebook made it possible for its users to add the French flag to their profile pictures in support of the victims.                                                                                                                                                      By contrast, the environmental catastrophe in Minas Gerais state in Brazil, which occurred in the same month, was initially ignored to the anger of most Brazilians that couldn’t help but feeling victims of double standards.

The significant greater attention the terror attack in Tunisia in June 2015 received compared to the school massacre in Kenya in the same year, both attacks happening in African countries, arguably suggest another trend: the western media is more interested in tragedies concerning westerners, in the case of the terror attack in Tunisia, in fact, 38 tourists were killed.

Those tendencies have been acknowledged, as publications in social media seem to suggest. One particular example of that and social critique against it can be detected in this image:


It seeks to divide the world into sections according to the general reaction that a catastrophe in those areas provokes. The global village’s reaction towards a tragedy in North America, Western Europe, Australia and Japan is described in the exclamation: ‘What a tragedy!’, one in Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, Egypt, South Africa and India as ‘Oh, that’s sad!’, one in Central America, Cuba, Russia, China, and the Middle East as ‘Well, that’s life!’, one in the remainder of Central Asia, the Guyanas and South Asia as ‘Wait, this country exists?’ and one in the rest of Africa as ‘Meh!’.

On a more positive note, if this is the way the so-called ‘global village’, together with western media, looks at the world, it is definitely not how the ‘global village’ wants to and evidence of that can be easily found as well.

One can criticize the lack of interest the global community have for events happening in certain areas of the globe but it can also be appreciated how those voices are increasingly being heard and making people questioning the way they look at the world. The more those patterns of double-standards are reviled, the more people seek to listen to the previously unheard voices and look for a more ‘politically-correct’ stance as a way to overcome the bias of the ‘global village’ they live in. The social media, again, can show evidence of that. In that tragic month of November 2015, for instance, this picture, which now has 27.000 likes, appeared on Facebook, trying to raise support for all tragedies that happened in 11/13 and more generally in that week:


Evidence seems to suggest, therefore, that the global village is indeed ‘not that global’ in terms of interests and predominant voices but that it is, however, seeking to overcome such flaws.



BBC, Paris attacks: What happened on the night, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34818994

Oakley N. How to add the French flag to your Facebook profile picturehttp://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/how-add-french-flag-your-8427943

Franco D. Brasil x Mariana: Brasileiros criticam disparidade de reações nas redes sociais, http://br.rfi.fr/brasil/20151115-brasileiros-inflamam-redes-sociais-por-falta-de-noticias-sobre-rompimento-de-barrage

Levs J. 147 dead, Islamist gunman killed after attack at Kenya college, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/02/africa/kenya-university-attack/

Fathalla A. Sousse attack: Tunisia faces major terror threat, one year on, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-36629059

Wheeler M. Public Diplomacy and Global communication 2, https://prezi.com/pbjjm1zlw2by/public-diplomacy-and-global/