Advanced Study Center Holds Year-Long Seminar on Cold War
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The Cold War is over. Long live the end of history! A little less than five years ago, when these words were commonplace, a seminar on the Cold War would have been imagined in the context of history department offerings. While the contemporary contours of that conflict are still not well understood, we are even less well prepared to consider how the Cold War's effect, if not practice, lives on. That, at least, is the premise of a seminar.
The core seminar for this inaugural year of the International Institute's Advanced Study Center promises to consider the historical contours and still?continuing effects of the confrontations and tensions of the Cold War across the globe. Entitled "The Cold War and its Aftermath," this seminar is offered to a maximum of 15 students for 3 hours credit, and will meet regularly on Thursdays from 3:00?6:00 pm in the fall and winter terms. International Institute director and historian/anthropologist in African studies David William Cohen, Middle Eastern historian Shiva Balaghi and I will coordinate the seminar. This year's Advanced Study Center pre-doctoral fellow is Thomas C. Wolfe, a student in the Program in History and Anthropology. The seminar's meetings will be conducted in a variety of styles. In some sessions, we shall attend public lectures by ASC fellows. In other meetings, we shall have informal discussions with visiting fellows on their work. In still other sessions, we shall meet amongst ourselves, preparing for the visit of another scholar, while discussing the relationship of the previous lectures to the overarching theme.
One of the central issues we will address is the relationship between communism and the Cold War. On what grounds did communism fail, and in what ways was the Cold War responsible for this failure? Similarly, what were the dynamics of communism's historical evolution that gave the Cold War its specificity? The seminar will consider this problem at length. In the first term, Jadwiga Staniszkis will discuss sections from her book in preparation, where she attempts to describe the transformation from communism to postcommunism, not only in her native Poland, but in Russia and China too. Nikolai Bolkhovitinov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, will consider the past and future of historical sciences in his country. Susan Eckstein, author of the just published book on Cuban communist development, Back from the Future, will consider this country's prospects in the aftermath of Cold War. Ivan Szelenyi, a Hungarian native and now chairman of the sociology department at the University of California Los Angeles, will analyze the return to power of the Hungarian 'Left', and what that says about the nature of communism's end. Ted Hopf, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, will consider Central Asia in a new global context.
While the end to the Cold War is most noticed in nations of the former Soviet bloc, the forces and effects of bipolar competition and conflict were felt on every continent. Anti?colonial movements, the projects of decolonization, and the processes of emergence of new nations from two?thirds of the globe drew energy from and were shaped by the Cold War. In the fall term we shall hear from Sara Berry, an economic historian from Johns Hopkins, on developments in Nigerian political economy, and from the Sudanese scholar, Abdullahi Ibrahim, on how the contest influenced political developments in this part of Africa.
And finally as we turn from the Cold War's global stage to those of the advanced industrial nations that played central roles in the Cold War's victory, it is evident that our societies too will continue to feel the Cold War's effects. Massive immigration pressures from the east have already prompted changes in asylum policies in Germany. European Union countries must now facilitate the transformation and incorporation of formerly communist-led economies. The US economy, for decades fueled by the Soviet threat to its interests around the globe, must find a new footing at the same time as our sense of our national economic and social interests are in a state of flux and realignment. And there are many more examples. While these can be construed as the effects of the Cold War's end, we are just beginning to see how profoundly the West was shaped by the War. In the fall term Georgetown University's Sam Marullo will help us consider the character and consequence of the shift from an emphasis on military competition to one that focuses on the marketing of US foreign policy to politically besieged and financially ailing governments. Nuclear engineer John Foley, formerly of Los Alamos, will consider the ethics of scientists in the light of the Cold War and its end. And that focus on intellectual culture takes us onto the final dominant theme for the seminar's operation.
In our examination of the Cold War, we will not only consider the transformations of economies, societies, cultures and polities, but also scrutinize our own tools of analysis. They too were shaped by the very forces and conditions emerging within the protocols of bipolar competition and conflict. Modern social science, the critical methodologies of the humanities and the technologies and theoretical frames of the natural sciences (not to speak of the modalities of area and international studies) were all formed in the shadow of this contest. This seminar is thus also about our own theoretical imagination. We are not only studying how the Cold War affected other social processes, but also our own conceptions of these effects as well. To help us in this enterprise, we ask each visiting fellow to provide a brief intellectual autobiography reflecting on the ways the Cold War has affected their own ways of thinking and practicing their intellectual craft.
We are thus studying the constitution and contours of the Cold War itself, but at several steps removed from the familiar theatres where we have seen this drama played out. Our ambition is to analyze the Cold War in a way that has not been done before: to view it in its multiple effects, contemporary and historic, structuring not only its most obvious domains but even those apparently far removed from it. The variety of fellows that visit our seminar will help us see this variety as will our own internal diversity as a community of scholars. While it may be too much to say that we want to develop a theory of the Cold War, it isn't wrong to say that we want to begin outlining questions that need to be addressed in order to come to a reckoning with this conflict that defined the last part of the twentieth century.