Culture Wars: Competing World Views in the Cold War

Excited to announce that from next academic year I will be teaching a course entitled, “Culture Wars: Competing World Views in the Cold War”, as part of Leiden Universiteit Honours College Humanities Lab. This is the description of the course:

Brussels expo

The Cold War is generally understood as a confrontation between capitalism and communism, represented in particular by the United States and its allies on one side and the Soviet Union and aligned states on the other. This confrontation is often portrayed foremost as a nuclear standoff which almost exploded into direct confrontation, notably over Cuba in 1962 but also during the Korean War in the 1950s and in the 1980s with President Ronald Reagan. But the Cold War was also a contest between different social and economic systems, with different views on how best to organize society and run economies, and different conceptions of freedom, justice, and equality. This wider ‘battle of ideas’ is known as the ‘cultural cold war’ and it affected all areas of social activity, permeating all fields of intellectual life and popular culture. Sometimes this was done openly, but there are many examples of covert attempts to influence opinion and thought for specific political interests. This course dives into a set of case studies to illustrate how this worked in the fields of film, publishing, music, and cultural production in general. It includes two study trips, the first to the site of the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, and the second to the city of Berlin in order to visit specific sites of public memory related to the everyday life of the Cold War in a ‘frontline state’. Connections will also be made with current-day issues of propaganda and ‘fake news’ to compare how this ‘battle of ideas’ continues in different forms today.

The course is in collaboration with Giles Scott-Smith. More information can be found here.

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