Spy Novels; Ritual Communication; Cold War Culture; Movies: USA, GB, USSR; Popular Culture; Urban Planning; Political Imaginary; Mass Media
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The overall purpose of this project is to study Cold War culture from the perspective of the political imaginary. Conflicts not only use culture, they are themselves culturally constructed, framed and reframed. What are commonly referred to as the “Eastern and the Western blocs” did not just employ cultural means to political ends; they were themselves profoundly shaped by the repertoire of cultural forms which governed the antagonism of the Cold War. This project moves from the idea of a “cultural Cold War” to that of “Cold War culture”, which entails a move from a predominantly instrumental understanding of culture to an active one, focusing on culture as a sphere of production of meaning. Consequently, instead of accepting the Cold War as an explanans - mainly emphasizing the uses of culture through propaganda - this project understands the Cold War as an explanandum, that is, as a process and an object of cultural construction. In this project, Cold War culture is understood through the concept of the “political imaginary”. The political imaginary is a repository of images, metaphors, narratives, notions and ideas that inform and frame our perception and understanding of the political. Exploring the interdependence between forms of cultural expression and the political is an endeavor that has to move beyond the boundaries of established academic disciplines. On the one hand, the project aims at revealing the processes through which existing cultural figures have conditioned the content of political action. At the same time the project traces the redefinition of these figures which was triggered by their shaping of the political conflict. Combining the expertise of historical, literary and media studies, the project analyzes the interweaving threads of meaning production that constituted the political imaginary of the Cold War. “West” and “East” were essentially shortcuts for conflicting cold war modernities, spelled out by the political actors in the United States and the USSR. Methodologically at the core of this project is a change from representation to re-imagination of the Cold War antagonism. Cold War culture not only narrated or visualized political threats but eventually became a platform for criticism and re-imagination of the Cold War itself. Binary concepts of the Cold War, predominant in the 1950s - such as East/West, Good/Evil or Modern/Traditional - were replaced during what is referred to as the “long 1960s” by more hybrid and ambiguous imaginaries. These were characterized by self reflexivity and feedback mechanisms, effectively underpinning a reciprocal model of communication in Cold War culture. The guiding hypothesis of this project is that, in this crucial period, cultural constructions of an external threat were gradually translocated into a threat within society: “we vs. them” was culturally transformed into “we vs. us”. Accordingly, the long 1960s presented a number of new and different Cold War cultures. Cultural analysis of the political imaginaries of these cultures reveals that the 1960s constitute a major paradigm shift, since binary imaginations, once deconstructed, could not then be reemployed when politics decided to do so, in what is sometimes called the “second Cold War” after 1979.Carrying out cultural analysis of the Cold War entails tracing these processes of growing reflexivity, feedback mechanisms, ambiguity and internalization throughout Cold War cultures: in the patterns and plots of popular culture, and also in the cultural coding of diplomacy. The project enables junior scholars to develop an interdisciplinary perspective which corresponds to the contemporary standards of the international community of scholars.