Cancel culture: conceptualization of the term and its use in foreign policy

Cancel culture: conceptualization of the term and its use in foreign policy

Rustamova L.R.,

MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia; Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 718273 | ORCID: 0000-0001-9803-9904 | RESEARCHER_ID: AAP-3766-2021

Adrianov A.K.,

MGIMO University, Moscow, Russia,

elibrary_id: 1190016 | ORCID: 0000-0001-5135-8369 | RESEARCHER_ID: ITU-4434-2023

Article received: 2023.04.03. Accepted: 2023.05.02

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2023.04.04

For citation:

Rustamova L.R., Adrianov A.K. Cancel culture: conceptualization of the term and its use in foreign policy. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No. 4. P. 37-53. (In Russ.). EDN: TXMHBX


The article studies how cancel culture can be used in foreign policy. The precursors for the “cancellation” of certain states appeared at the end of the 20th century, when the US foreign policy discourse began using such terms as “state sponsors of terrorism”, “rogue states”, “failed states” and “axis of evil”. As a result, conditions have arisen under which a state or a coalition of countries is pursuing a deliberate policy aimed at excluding a certain country from the international community in order to completely isolate it. In 2022, this phenomenon affected Russia, which was subjected to cancellation after the start of the special military operation in Ukraine. It is noted that the effect of cancel culture is based on the mechanism of the spiral of silence, according to the definition by E. Noel-Neumann. Fearing isolation, people tend to hide their true opinion if they feel they are in a minority. Some people can publicly renounce their former views without actually changing them, while others silently join the majority. This concept can also be applied to studying the “cancellation” of Russia, in which the discourse promoted by the Western media creates a false impression that the majority of the world’s population condemns Russia. The same goal is pursued by the eradication of the traces of Russian culture in world history, as well as the cancellation of Russian cultural figures, and preventing Russian teams from participating in international competitions. To combat the “cancellation” of Russia, it is necessary to break the spiral of silence, that is, to openly and as widely as possible convey the Russian point of view to the world audience using broadcasting tools, social networks, streaming services and mechanisms of public and academic diplomacy. The main target audience should be non-Western countries where a neutral or positive attitude towards Russia prevails, but which could change their position under the influence of global pro-Western media that have the upper hand in some states. At the same time, it is necessary to continue looking for ways to convey the Russian point of view to the population and politicians of Western countries in order to break the spiral of silence, and, consequently, prevent the “cancellation” of Russia in the West. 

cancel culture, spiral of silence, cultural diplomacy, public diplomacy, Russian culture, policy of isolation.


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