COAS-X 211 25385
Cold War Politics and Culture

This course meets in the Global Village Living-Learning Center, Foster Martin 012A
2:30 -- 3:20 p.m. MWF

Instructor: Christian Kanig

The Cold War – the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union lasting more than 40 years – was a truly global phenomenon. In forcing societies to choose which side they were on, the Cold War impacted countries and cultures all over the globe. Despite their cultural differences, many countries responded in similar ways to the Cold War.

Now that the Cold War has ended, we can step back and look at the interplay between politics and culture in a more detached manner. Looking back, we can see that the stand- off between the American and the Soviet bloc produced an astonishing amount of films, books and other cultural artifacts reflecting the Cold War. In turn, these films and books of Cold War events helped create what one might call a Cold War mentality – an aggressive belief in the righteousness of one’s cause that posits one’s own ideal as universally valid while deemphasizing cultural differences.

The aim informing our course is to investigate how Cold War events were depicted in popular culture, specifically in films; and in what ways these films reinterpreted the often complex historical events in a simplistic manner to make them accessible to large audiences. We will try to decipher the films’ hidden assumptions and underlying messages.

The course does not assume any prior knowledge of history nor of the respective countries we are dealing with. In contrast to traditional history classes, this one relies not on extensive readings but on short texts and films. We will discuss the films along with the readings and analyze the narratives, the hidden assumptions and value judgments. It will be our goal to analyze how historical events entered into popular culture and shaped our political consciousness. Other components of the course include guest speakers who witnessed or participated in Cold War events.

Christian Kanig is a doctoral student in History and a fellow in Germanic Studies.