Summitry as intercultural communication



    1. Professor of International History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge.
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      This article is an extended version of the 2008 Martin Wight Lecture, delivered at the University of Sussex on 20 Nov. 2008.


Summitry is regularly in the news, most recently because of the G20 meeting in Washington DC in November 2008. This article explores the sometimes neglected cultural dimensions of summitry, drawing on recent work by cultural international historians and by theorists of intercultural communication, much of which addresses western relations with Asia. This article, however, argues that all international summitry is an intercultural act. Three historical case-studies are explored: Chamberlain and Hitler in 1938, Kennedy and Khrushchev in 1961 and Reagan and Gorbachev in 1985. In each case, cultural perceptions and expectations played a significant part in the outcome of the summit. The article also comments on the role of translation in international summitry.