Dis-/Сonnecting the World: Subjectivities, Networks, and Transcultural Encounters across Cold War Boundaries

Dis-/Сonnecting the World: Subjectivities, Networks, and Transcultural Encounters across Cold War Boundaries

Bielefeld University, History Department
Universität Bielefeld, Universitätsstraße 25
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In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
05.10.2023 - 06.10.2023
Alexey Tikhomirov, Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft, Philosophie und Theologie, Universität Bielefeld

The workshop will explore multiple Cold War encounters, subjectivities, and networks that dis-/connected the world during this global conflict, from the perspective of entangled and cultural history. To go beyond the analytical binary of the USA-USSR confrontation, we are eager to investigate the polycentricity of the Cold War by exploring the web of transcultural exchanges, contacts, and solidarities of people, institutions, ideas, emotions, and materialities across boundaries.

Dis-/Сonnecting the World: Subjectivities, Networks, and Transcultural Encounters across Cold War Boundaries

Traditional avenues of research, such as political, military, and diplomatic history, have long dominated „Cold War“ studies, obscuring the significance of the individual in this global conflict. Current re-evaluations of „Cold War“ scholarship, which treat the conflict as a dynamic space of transnational communication, put actors who were marginal or invisible to previous historiography at centre stage. The present state of the art in the field indicates that ordinary people played a crucial role in making the global conflict part of their daily life by constructing hybrid identities, flexible belongings, and multiple lifestyles, and by developing communities of experience that were interconnected through a web of ideological, intellectual, professional, gender, and emotional codes of solidarities.

The workshop aims to explore models, spaces, and practices of the formation of transcultural subjectivities, networks, and spaces during the Cold War. The ways ordinary people understood themselves and their environment were, on the one hand, anchored within the framework of the global confrontation of capitalism and communism. On the other hand, however, they resulted from expanding opportunities for mobility, communication, and access to diverse information and media. The lives of most actors who crossed nation-state, cultural, and symbolic boundaries – various kinds of professionals, academics, physicians, religious activists, athletes, artists, musicians, journalists, sailors, tourists – personify the global conflict. First, we intend to understand the different ways in which the „Cold War“ may have shaped the modalities of individual biographical vectors. Second, we aim to explore how border-crossers (re-)defined, used, manipulated, lived, and practiced „Cold War circumstances“ in their lives. Third, with the Soviet Union as our starting point, we will explore transnational subjectivities in their global entanglements, networks, and transcultural encounters across different geographic areas.

Methodologically, our aim is to develop a global microhistory of the „Cold War“ by combining the approach of entangled history with a „Cold War“ history from below. Using traditional institutional sources along with newly declassified KGB files, oral history interviews, private archives, and ego-documents, our workshop aims to reconstruct the dynamics of transnational networks and subjectivities, by taking several „Cold War“ biographies as representative case studies. Putting transnational spaces of subjectivity formation at the centre of our attention, enables us to overcome the limits of the national dimension of subjectivity and enrich our understanding of how different „Cold War cultures“ functioned. By exploring the individual dimensions of transcultural communication, spaces of agency, and networks – that is, the dynamic interrelationships of subjects with (and in opposition to) different people, cultures, languages, knowledge, objects and ideas about world orders – we intend to help develop a better understanding of the entanglements between the private, the public, the national, and the global which became a driving force of historical change.


05 October 2023

Welcome – Frank Grüner (Bielefeld U)
Introduction – Alexey Tikhomirov (Bielefeld U/Münster U)

Section 1: Experts across Cold War Borders
Chair: Frank Grüner (Bielefeld U)

Oxana Nagornaja (Independent scholar), Cultural Brokers of the “Cold War”: Soviet UNESCO Experts, Global Spaces of Culture, and the Search for Transnational Subjectivity

Rachel Applebaum (Tufts U), The Linguistic Cold War: Russian and English Language Teachers in the Global South

Nataliya Shok (Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC), Physicians against Nuclear War: Soviet-American Medical Cooperation and Solidarities in the 1970s and 1980s

Discussant: Klaus Gestwa (Tübingen U)

Coffee break

Section 2: Literature, Media, and Communication through the Iron Curtain
Chair: Nadezhda Beliakova (Bielefeld U)

Anja Schade (Hildesheim U), From the Manuscript to its Distribution: Sechaba as an Example of the Transnational Dimension of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle during the Cold War

Rósa Magnúsdóttir (Iceland U), Birgitte Beck Pristed (Aarhus U), Forbidden Love: The Thorn Birds and Soviet Readers’ Emotional Responses to Translated Western Bestsellers during the Late Cold War

Luca Nigro (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa), Translating and Exporting Revolution: The Role of Italian “Foreign Experts” in Maoist Internationalism in Western Europe (1956–1966)

Discussant: Miriam Dobson (Sheffield U)


Section 3: Subjectivities in Flux: Migration, Humanitarian Aid, and International Exchange Initiatives during the Global Conflict
Chair: Anastasiia Zaplatina (Bielefeld U)

Galina Zelenina (Independent scholar), Notes from the Top of the Intourist Hotel: How Western Travelers Helped Soviet Jews Betray Their (Step)Motherland

Vitalij Fastovskij (Münster U), Narrating Migration in the Cold War: The Tolstoy Foundation, Displaced People, and “Eastern Bloc Refugees” (1949–1989)

Wallace L. Daniel (Mercer U) Henry Dakin, Personal Diplomacy, and the Cold War

Discussant: Rósa Magnúsdóttir (Iceland U)

Coffee break

Section 4: Mastering Space and Mapping the “I” in Transnational Solidarities
Chair: Konstantin Kotelnikov (Bielefeld U)

Irina Kotkina (New Europe College, Bucharest), To What Extent was the “Iron Curtain” Soundproof? The Bolshoi Theatre Opera and In-/Formal Relationships with the West, 1955–1989

Maria Zolotukhina (Independent scholar), Soviet Schools in a Non-Soviet Environment: Growing Up Abroad in the 1970s and 1980s

Uladzimir Valodzin (European University Institute, Florence), “You Came to Study, Not to Amuse Yourself”: Conflicts between the University Administration and Students from the Global South in Soviet Minsk in the 1960s

Discussant: Eleonora Gilburd (U of Chicago)

Dinner for participants

06 October 2023

Section 5: Art and Music through the Iron Curtain: Entanglements and Exchange
Chair: Olga Olkheft (Bielefeld U)

Dorine Schellens (Leiden U), “Where Is the Line between Us?”: Cross-Cultural Entanglements in the Early History of Moscow Conceptualism

Szabolcs László (Institute of History, Budapest), Democratizing Music through the Kodály Method: Mapping a Transnational Network of Hungarian and American Music Educators during the Cold War (1960s–1970s)

Simo Mikkonen (Jyväskylä U), Negotiating Transcultural Space: Soviet Musicians in Cold War Era Finland

Discussant: Birgitte Beck Pristed (Aarhus U)

Coffee break

Section 6: Religious Activists and Networks across Political Blocs
Chair: Luise Fast (Bielefeld U)

Miriam Dobson (Sheffield U), “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told”: Western Missionaries and Soviet Evangelicals in the Late Cold War

Nadezhda Beliakova (Bielefeld U), Smuggling Bibles through the “Iron Curtain” as Personal Experience and Cold War Adventure

Johannes Dyck (Museum for Russian-German Cultural History, Detmold), “I Drew Árpád Arder's Attention to the Fact That He Is a Citizen of the Soviet Union”: A Citizen of the World within the Confines of Estonia

Discussant: Katja Tolstaya (Amsterdam FU)


Section 7: Divided Ideologies, United Ways of Life: Cold War Materialities, Universal Values, and the Search for Global Modernity
Chair: Alexey Tikhomirov (Bielefeld U/Münster U)

Susan Reid (Durham U), Global Assemblages: How Cold War Connections and Disconnections Shaped the Late Soviet Home

Ksenia Tatarchenko (Singapore Management U), On Rights and Autonomous Agents: Тhe 4th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the Conflict of Cold War Universalities

Anna Ozhiganova (Erlangen-Nürnberg U), Soviet-American New Age Diplomacy in the 1980s: Ambassadors, Projects, and Mutual Impacts

Discussant: Simo Mikkonen (Jyväskylä U)

Coffee break

Concluding Remarks and Roundtable:
Dis-/Connections, Entanglements, Translations, Ruptures: Cold War Subjectivities, Networks, and Spaces in Understanding Historical Change
Chair: Katja Tolstaya (Amsterdam FU)

Miriam Dobson (Sheffield U)
Eleonora Gilburd (U of Chicago)
Frank Grüner (Bielefeld U)
Oxana Nagornaja (Independent scholar)

Dinner for participants


Dr. Alexey Tikhomirov
Akad. Rat a.Z.
Osteuropäische Geschichte
Abt. Geschichtswissenschaft
Universität Bielefeld
Gebäude X A2-214
Postfach 10 01 31
D-33501 Bielefeld

Tel.+49 521 106 3009
E-Mail: alexey.tikhomirov@uni-bielefeld.de

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