We are happy to share with you the podcast of the Debating the Cold War workshop, which took place at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 5 February 2016. (The recordings can also be found, complete with panel descriptions, via the workshop webpage).
Friday, 5 February 2016
Birkbeck, University of London
10 – 11.30am 1. How global was the Cold War?
Research on the Cold War as a global phenomenon has been growing, but the majority of narratives and frameworks are still focused on the relationship of the United States and the Soviet Union. The aim of this panel is to take stock of the contributions of global history to Cold War historiography. What conventional Cold War concepts does a global approach reinforce, which ones does it contest? What are the conceptual and methodological challenges of constructing a global history of the Cold War? How does shifting perspectives away from the US-Soviet binary change our understanding of the Cold War, its stakes and the relationship of the two superpowers? To what extent can we leave the binary behind at all?
Julia Lovell (Birkbeck)
Anne Deighton (Oxford)
Jussi Hanhimaki (Geneva)
Oscar Sanchez-Sibony (Macau)
Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck), chair
11.45am – 1pm 2. Did ideology matter?
This panel explores the common juxtaposition between the supposed waning significance of ‘ideology’ in the West with the overly rigid ideological regimentation of the East; the notion that while ideology permeated every aspect of private and public lives in the East, the Western private self was shielded from ideological influences, or that there was no dominant political ideology in the West. It also revisits other, partially contradictory themes from established Cold War narratives: the rejection of Marxism in Eastern Europe (esp. among intellectuals) after the major disappointments of 1956 or 1968; the idea that Marxism was never genuinely adopted except by a small number of brainwashed party cadres. It probes into the roles played by dissidents to maintain and amplify this binary.
Polly Jones (Oxford)
Anita Prazmowska (LSE)
Diana Goegescu (SSEES)
Dina Fainberg (Amsterdam)
Anatoly Pinsky (St Petersburg/ Helsinki)
Ana Antic (Birkbeck), chair
2 – 3.30pm 3. Was there a Welfare State in the East as well as the West?
This panel explores the thesis, proposed by Jan Gross, Timothy Garton Ash and others, that Communism was based predominantly on repression, the abuse of political power, and a lack of popular legitimacy and ‘freedom’. The panel examines potential points of comparisons between Western and Eastern states and their responsibilities for their citizens, including interpretations of social security, education, welfare, health care, social mobility, and taxation, and asks about effects and consequences of similarities and differences. As part of this comparative perspective, the panel looks at how Communism was experienced and lived in Eastern Europe, and asks questions about legitimacy and dissent in both East and West.
Sandrine Kott (Geneva)
Dean Vuletic (EUI)
Kristy Ironside (Manchester)
Bela Tomka (Szeged)
Peter Romijn (Amsterdam)
Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck), chair
3.45 – 5.15pm 4. What was Cold War Science?
Histories of Cold War science and medicine have focused on Big Science, nuclear and atomic science, and space exploration. But science in the two blocks has featured in the historiography in very different terms: on one side stand accounts of Western science funding, the relationships of science and the military, and health effects of nuclear programmes and accidents; on the other, studies of a terrain where science was led astray and corrupted by politics, and marked by crippling shortages of materials and expertise. A “declensionist narrative” of decline, desiccation and degradation (borrowing a term from the environmental historian Diana K. Davis) can be found in accounts of Eastern, but rarely of Western, approaches to knowledge and science. This panel will seek to identify possible ways of comparison, and consider the significance of collaborative projects, shared research agendas and other contact points between scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Can we talk about ‘Cold War science’?
Alma Steingart (Harvard)
Jonathan Oldfield (Birmingham)
Jon Agar (UCL)
Iris Borowy (Shanghai)
Sarah Marks (Cambridge)
Lukasz Stanek (Manchester)
Waqar Zaidi (Lums)
Dora Vargha (Birkbeck), chair
5.15 – 7pm 5. The Cold War that never ended, and the Cold War in the
Piers Ludlow (LSE)
Elidor Mehilli (Hunter College, NY)
Angela Neilson-Nagy (Blackheath High School/ Birkbeck)
Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck), chair