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The Cold War | THE AMERICAN YAWP

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Portland Civil Defense

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Examining topics like scientific-technological cooperation, sports events, art fairs, youth festivals or war monuments, these works are inspired by questions and methods brought forward by science and technology studies, media and visual studies, the history of emotions, memory studies and the studies of material culture see for ex.


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As for the study of public defense against nuclear weapons — or civil defense — and the management of emergency in the Cold War, however, the scholarship has been profoundly bound by a national bias. For quite some time, the main emphasis was laid on the United States, where the history of civil defense constitutes a separate subject within the ever-broadening, interdisciplinary field of Cold War culture Winkler ; Oakes ; McEnaney , Rose , Grossman , Garrison ; Davis It is only in the past decade, however, that civil protection efforts of European countries have received more scholarly attention.

Moving away from the dominant American-centric narrative, historians, sociologists and media studies scholars have recently developed research projects on non-aligned states like Switzerland and Sweden, the two neutral countries with the most comprehensive, and by far the most costly, programs in civil protection. For example, media historian Marie Cronqvist studied the ritual dimensions of Swedish civil defense activities and messages as well as the close relationship between fear and safety, and welfare and warfare f. Cronqvist In their ongoing projects, Silvia Berger and Peter Bennesved focus on the emergence, social consequences and cultural impact of the elaborate shelter programs of Switzerland and Sweden, respectively.

But there are also studies on Icelandic, German, British, Canadian and Russian civil defense efforts underway or just finished Monteyne ; Burtch ; Grant ; Molitor ; Geist ; Johannesson In a comparative perspective, political scientist Edward Geist is currently working on a monograph on US and Soviet civil defense, historian Martin Diebel just finished his Ph. All of these projects embrace the cultural turn and use frameworks that move well beyond simple organizational, institutional or policy studies.

Cold War in 9 Minutes

However, studies of public defense in the nuclear age have not yet illuminated its overt transnational and global dimensions. Thus far, scholars have only scratched the surface of the international reach of various national public civil defense images, films and campaigns, the cooperation among civil defense organizations, the bilateral accords between national civil defense agencies, the transnational circulation of technological and social knowledge between scientific experts, bureaucrats and defense intellectuals, and the close networks and friendships that developed amongst leading figures in civil defense and emergency planning worldwide.

Her work also hints at the fact that the history of civil defense as a system of concepts, practices and people that are bound by local and national objectives and interests, yet mobilized in transnational arenas and settings, still has yet to be written. These encounters and exchanges, which crossed the East-West and North-South divide, suggest that future studies would benefit from considering civil defense as a form of global Cold War diplomacy. Another aspect that has not yet gained enough attention is the international cooperation in resistance to civil defense planning, especially in the s, when tensions between the Superpowers rose again and non-governmental organizations like the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War emerged as forceful global anti-civil defense actors Kemper The previous scholarship is also marked by a strong temporal bias.

The existing literature mainly focuses on the s and s, does little to address the s and s and even less the legacies of Cold War civil defense after the conflict ended and Soviet Russia disintegrated.

25. The Cold War

Thus, few existing studies explore the persistence of civil defense images, programs and artifacts as epistemic registers, materials and affective resources since the Cold War. Joe Masco showed, also focusing on the US, how the global war on terror mobilized affective and conceptual resources established during the Cold War era.


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  • In order to gain more insight into these legacies and at times, problematic continuities, scholars must also look to Europe. For example, Swiss civil defense bunkers built in the Cold War era pose as a material vestige of a prior risk atomic warfare a constant challenge to officials when they try to integrate them into todays all-hazard policy conceptions Deville, Guggenheim, Hrdlickova The aim of the workshop is to outline a new research agenda for global and transnational civil defense studies from the Cold War era to the present day.

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    The workshop brings together an international cohort of scholars currently working in the field of civil defense history and disaster studies, including historians, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and media scholars. In order to move the field away from the particularism of nationally framed and temporally restrained histories and promote a transnational and interdisciplinary mode of thought, the workshop will adopt an innovative format for in-depth discussions that differs significantly from the conventional conference format of paper presentations and question-and-answer sections.

    Grouped into sessions with specific thematic and methodological approaches to the study of public defense and emergency management, the participants will first be asked to introduce their individual, nationally bound projects briefly and explain their methodological approach. At the same time, these discussions will maintain a critical eye on the limitations and problems of studying civil defense and emergency management across time, disciplines and national borders.

    The workshop also strives to highlight the little known legacies of Cold War civil defense in current national and international efforts to govern emergencies.