Unfortunately we have to postpone the launch of Dr Ana Antic’s new book, Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the Violence of the Nazi New Order, scheduled to take place on Friday 19th May. We apologise for the late notice, but look forward to launching it later this term. Further details will be posted on the blog in due course.
A selection of podcasts from our conferences and workshops are now available to listen to and download. The recordings can be accessed via SoundCloud or through the central Birkbeck College iTunes channel.
The podcasts available to download include Professor Helen Graham’s (RHUL) keynote lecture at the Crossing Borders: The Spanish Civil War and Transnational Mobilisation conference and panel discussions from the Debating the Cold War workshop held in 2016. In addition, panel and roundtable discussions from our workshop on Writing ‘Outsiders’ into the History of International Public Health are also available.
More podcasts will be added in due course, including recordings from our final conference, Languages of Internationalism, in May.
The Reluctant Internationalists research group is deeply alarmed by the law passed recently by the Hungarian government that will effectively shut down the internationally renowned and acclaimed Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. CEU has been at the forefront of research on nationalism, women and gender, history of science and medicine, and transnational history. Its diverse academic community, including students and staff from all over the world, has made significant contributions to these and many other academic fields and disciplines. CEU has taken a leading role in training several generations of students whose expertise has, in turn, greatly enriched not just Hungarian life.
Members of this research group have benefitted from the unique resources offered by CEU in the region. All of us have collaborated and exchanged ideas with CEU faculty and students. We are proud to join the long list of academic institutions, Nobel laureates and individual faculty members in expressing our support for CEU and our conviction in its continuing relevance and purpose.
The bill passed by the Hungarian government, which was not consulted with any stakeholders nor debated in parliament, severely threatens the freedom of academic research, and breaches law-making procedures. Therefore, we urge President János Áder not to sign the bill and to refer it to the Constitutional Court of Hungary. Shutting down CEU would be an unimaginable loss for Hungarian cultural, political, professional and intellectual life, as well as for regional and international knowledge and research, academic freedom, and a severe loss for democracy.
The Reluctant Internationalists stand with CEU.
Dora Vargha (University of Exeter, UK)
Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Ana Antic (University of Exeter, UK)
David Brydan (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Johanna Conterio (Flinders University, Australia)
Elidor Mehilli (Hunter College, CUNY, US)
Holly Case (Brown University, US)
Brigid O’Keeffe (Brooklyn College, CUNY, US)
Friederike Kind-Kovacs (University of Regensburg, Germany)
Francesca Piana (University of Binghamton, US)
Esther D. Kim (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Siobhan Morris (Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Jessica Pearson (Macalester College, US)
If you would like to express your support, there are several ways. Please consult https://www.ceu.edu/category/istandwithceu
Week eight of our Teacher Fellowship Programme, ‘The Cold War in the Classroom‘ in collaboration with the Historical Association, asked when did the Cold War end? In the following article, originally published for The Historical Association, Ben Walsh summarises the discussions from the final week of the online course.
When did the Cold War end?
This was the final week of the online course in the Cold War in the Classroom programme. Fittingly, the teachers were looking at the historiography of the end of the Cold War and specifically the debate over exactly when the Cold War ended. Teachers were asked to look at an article by Federico Romero, a video of a discussion by the Council on Foreign Relations and also the Socialism Realised website and then review the question of when the Cold War ended.
Key points emerging in the discussion about the history were…
In the manner of good historians, they tended to move off the brief and consider why the Cold War ended as well as when. In this respect the role of Gorbachev featured prominently:
- As to why the Cold War ended, there is a surprising degree of consensus amongst historians as to the factors at work, with more disagreement focused on the structural vs the contingent factors. With most historians, this again leads back to disagreement over the major factors why the Cold War started. If like the traditionalist interpretation you blamed Stalin and his ideology, then the Cold War could conceivably end with the appointment of a Russian leader who in many ways represented the antithesis of Stalin’s ideology. If taking a revisionist or post-revisionist viewpoint, then the end of the Cold War would be much more due to larger structural factors, such as the decline of the USSR economy, driven by the draining effect of global proxy wars and the failure to reform the economy in perestroika. It is further interesting to note that Gaddis, moving beyond the post-revisionist framework with We now Know and returning in sorts to a traditionalist viewpoint, believes the Cold War ended when the USSR moved beyond Stalin’s form of Communist ideology. All of these however, represent larger long-term structural factors (ideology, communism) and some, such as opposition to the USSR within the USSR could be traced back to Poland 1980, Czechoslovakia 1968, and even Hungary 1956. From the 2009 Council on Foreign Relations panel discussion titled “Why 1989? The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of the Cold War” it is interesting to hear all of the panellists discussing which historical actors were essential: Reagan, Gorbachev, or John Paul II. Most seemed to agree that Gorbachev was the most essential due to his willingness to ‘let’ the Berlin Wall fall. While this links into the larger structural factors, such as the move away from Stalinist Communism, it is also a useful reminder that historical actors do have a sense of agency and are not pre-destined to take certain paths and decisions.
- Archie Brown contends that the Cold War ended in 1989 with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. He links the collapse of communism in these countries to Gorbachev’s reversal of the Brezhnev doctrine in his 1988 speech to the United Nations. The collapse in the SU of communism was the logical consequence, he says, of the policies pursued by Gorbachev: the liberalisation of the Soviet political system, Glasnost and Perestroika. Brown argues that Gorbachev hoped the changes would strengthen the system and that when the August coup of 1991 failed, its collapse was inevitable. He disagrees with Michael Myer who believes that there were longer term trends which led to the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. Brown believes that the first half of the 1980s were completely different to the second and that 1985 was a turning point. Gorbachev’s role is also emphasized by Jacques Levesque who states that Gorbachev sought to reconcile socialism and democracy, thinking that it would be beneficial to socialism.
- Leffler’s review essay ‘The Cold War: What do “we now know”? is very thorough in its examination of Gaddis’ most recent interpretation in light of the new evidence available at the end of the Cold War. “What is so distinctive about Gaddis’s new book is the extent to which he abandons post -revisionism and returns to a more traditional interpretation of the Cold War. In unequivocal terms, he blames the Cold War on Stalin’s personality, on authoritarian government, and on Communist ideology. As long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union, “a cold war was unavoidable”.” Leffler 1999. Gaddis’s turnaround from post revisionism to an arguably orthodox view of the Cold War has been controversial and much criticised. Indeed, Leffler clearly sets out alternative views in his essay. In contrast to Gaddis for example, Zubok and Pleshakov have argued that “Stalin’s post war foreign policy was more defensive, reactive, and prudent than it was the fulfilment of a master plan.” It seems obvious to me that the fundamental cultural and ideological aspects of the Cold War run so deep that historians have been unable to fully extricate themselves from these influences. The more we learn about the Cold War the more pervasive and all-encompassing it seems to have been. Manipulating and manipulative for the respective political agendas of opposing world super powers. “At its core, the contest was about harnessing and steering the ‘winds of change’.” Romero 2014.
Another was the curious phenomenon of nostalgia for the Cold War:
- Lawrence Freedman raises the point that we need to “untangle the Cold War from all the other strands of twentieth-century history” and “work out what was distinctive and special about it, and then assess how it interacted with all the other strands”. In other words, we shouldn’t confuse CW events with other conflicts and happenings around the world – which links to Burk’s idea that the CW could still be taking place, whilst also linking with Stephanson’s belief that it was primarily a physical contest. Jussi Hanimaki mocks those who apparently have a sense of nostalgia for the CW; he states, “To be sure, the world changed after 1989. Yet, should one really regret the end of the Cold War because it ended an era of global stability? Ask an average Pole, a Hungarian or a Czech national with experience from the pre-1989 era and the answer is likely to be negative”. As always, this raises the point about perspective and why certain people argue about the end date – and even if the end of the CW was a good/bad thing!
Impact on teaching?
The discussions were very satisfying in the sense that the teachers clearly felt that the reading they were doing was relevant to their current teaching and was helping them in challenging their students to aim higher:
- The reading this week has supported me in class work with my A-Level students. We are on the coursework element, and a few of them have chosen to explore how far Soviet economic problems were the key reason for the end of the Cold War. Consequently I’ve been immersed in this topic for a while, and reading Robert Service’s “End of the Cold War.” … Romero’s article was also interesting – it reflected my view that the Cold War historiography is becoming a bit of an unwieldy beast with a lot of events from the 20th century dragged into it. Hence our teacher based problem of where to start when planning to teach it!
- I very much enjoyed the focus of this week’s task, as questions about beginnings and endings are always pleasingly simple at face value and complex on closer inspection. I also find the 1980’s an under-appreciated area in school history and the academic literature compared to the origins (1940s) and high points (1960s) of the Cold War, and as a result it was good opportunity to expand my subject knowledge and unpick some of my pre-existing assumptions. I’m not sure my response to the task went much further beyond “it’s complicated!”, however I did enjoy trying to consider how the phrasing of this international state of conflict and tension as a ‘Cold War’ may have been responsible for part of the difficulty in charting when it started and ended. Our assumptions about how ‘wars’ have clear beginnings and endings may be obscuring some much more complicated historical phenomena, more akin to an empire like the Roman or British, or a periodization such as the Dark Ages or Enlightenment. Certainly it makes an excellent debating point, and I will be using it to frame my final Cold War in Europe lesson.
Most of the teachers also now have a broad area of focus for their planned resources, which will of course be shared via the HA website. They are now busy planning their submissions and doing the relevant thinking, planning and research. We at the HA and Birkbeck College would like to express our thanks and sincere appreciation to the teachers for the enthusiasm, dedication and sheer quality of hard work on the programme!
- HA podcast: Maria Ryan, “What did the end of the Cold War mean for American Power?”
- Federico Romero, “Cold War historiography at the crossroads”, Cold War History, 2014, Vol.14, No.4, 685-703
- Council on Foreign Relations panel discussion: “Why 1989? The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of the Cold War” (2009)
- “Good ol’ days” (2015), Socialism Realised
- Adam Roberts, ‘”An ‘incredibly swift transition’: reflections on the end of the Cold War”, Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. 3
- Odd Arne Westad, “Two Finales: How the End of the Third World and the End of the Cold War Are Linked”, in: Geir Lundestad, International Relations Since the End of the Cold War: New and Old Dimensions (Oxford, 2012) – available on Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO), either via Birkbeck eLibrary or directly (with Birkbeck login)
- Jussi Hanhimäki, “The (really) good war? Cold War nostalgia and American foreign policy”, Cold War History, October 2014, Vol.14, No.4, pp.673-683.
- Maria Todorova, “From Utopia to Propaganda and Back”, in: Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille (eds), Post-Communist Nostalgia (Oxford, 2010), 1-15
- “German Ostalgie: Fondly recalling the bad old days”, The New York Times, 7 October 2003 & “Ostalgia: Romanticizing the GDR”, Deutsche Welle, 3 October 2014
Book Launch – Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the Violence of the Nazi New Order
(19 May 2017, 3-5pm, Birkbeck College)
On Friday 19 May we will launch Dr Ana Antic’s new book, Therapeutic Fascism: Experiencing the Violence of the Nazi New Order.
During World War II, death and violence permeated all aspects of the everyday lives of ordinary people in Eastern Europe. Throughout the region, the realities of mass murder and incarceration meant that people learnt to live with daily public hangings of civilian hostages and stumbled on corpses of their neighbours. Entire populations were drawn into fierce and uncompromising political and ideological conflicts, and many ended up being more than mere victims or observers: they themselves became perpetrators or facilitators of violence, often to protect their own lives, but also to gain various benefits. Yugoslavia in particular saw a gradual culmination of a complex and brutal civil war, which ultimately killed more civilians than those killed by the foreign occupying armies.
Therapeutic Fascism tells a story of the tremendous impact of such pervasive and multi-layered political violence, and looks at ordinary citizens’ attempts to negotiate these extraordinary wartime political pressures. It examines Yugoslav psychiatric documents as unique windows into this harrowing history, and provides an original perspective on the effects of wartime violence and occupation through the history of psychiatry, mental illness, and personal experience. Using previously unexplored resources, such as patients’ case files, state and institutional archives, and the professional medical literature of the time, the volume explores the socio-cultural history of wartime through the eyes of (mainly lower-class) psychiatric patients. Ana Antic examines how the experiences of observing, suffering, and committing political violence affected the understanding of human psychology, pathology, and normality in wartime and post-war Balkans and Europe.
At the launch, Ana will introduce her book, followed by contributions and discussion from Professor Cathie Carmichael (University of East Anglia) and Professor Paul Betts (University of Oxford). This will be followed by a drinks reception. The event is free and open to all, however booking is required. To reserve a place, please email email@example.com.
On February 3rd over twenty researchers gathered at Birkbeck to discuss the history of socialist internationalism during the Cold War, a field which has seen increasing scholarly interest over recent years and which has been of particular interest to the Reluctant Internationalists project.
As Johanna Conterio (Birkbeck) explained in the introduction to the conference, recent historiography has complicated traditional images of the Cold War as a period of blocked mobility, revealing the extent of cooperation and exchange both behind and beyond the Iron Curtain. The conference aimed to discuss these patterns of mobility, promote dialogue between Soviet and East European historiographies, and explore the global dimensions of socialist exchange.
The first panel focused on culture within and beyond the socialist world. Kristin Roth-Ey (SSEES) questioned the traditional focus on the exchange of high culture in the socialist world, arguing that it was less important than the objects of mass culture – Bollywood musicals, Latin American melodramas, radio broadcasts and the press – which circulated between the Soviet Union and the Third World. Soviet cultural production, like its technology and industry, was dominated by the ‘aesthetic of the big’, and it was through this mass culture that ideas about the Second and Third Worlds were exchanged. Paul Betts (Oxford) introduced material from a forthcoming photo exhibition organised by the Socialism Goes Global project on Tito’s diplomatic missions to Africa. Official images of Tito on safari, signing trade deals, watching traditional dancers and opening new hospitals presented an aesthetics of equality, highlighting the fraternal mixing which supposedly characterised relations between Yugoslavia and socialist-leaning Africa, in contrast to the racial hierarchies of the former imperial powers. Simon Huxtable (Loughborough) discussed Cold War television as a transnational phenomenon. Intervision, the Eastern Bloc’s broadcasting organisation, was designed as a vehicle for socialist internationalism, promoting programmes such as the Intervision song contest. But while viewers in Eastern Europe were exposed to programmes from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, they also had access to western programming, in some cases broadcast directly from the West, in others cases purchased or copied by socialist broadcasters. Intervision thus created a broader space of socialist identity, while at the same time introducing Polish viewers to Sesame Street. Katarina Lichvarova (Courtauld Institute) discussed Soviet avant garde art movements, using the Dvizhenie group to explore the circulation of ideas and exhibitions both within the Eastern Bloc and across the Iron Curtain. Dina Fainberg (City University) concluded the panel by showing how Soviet journalists presented the US counter-culture protests of 1968 as evidence of the growing hold of socialist values. Appearing alongside reports of the Soviet intervention in Prague, however, these accounts lent themselves to subversive readings and risked undermining the notions of socialist international community they were intended to promote.
The second panel shifted focus to trade and exchange. Alessandro Iandolo (Oxford) used relations between the Soviet Union and Ghana in the early 1960s to explore the role of development cooperation in Cold War socialist internationalism. Soviet attempts to promote a model of economic development based on industrialisation and mechanised agriculture appealed to the Ghanaian government, which was keen to gain support for its hydroelectric and infrastructure projects, but were met with suspicion from the former imperial powers in West Africa. Kristy Ironside (Manchester) discussed the difficulties in comparing money and prices in the communist and capitalist worlds. Soviet officials systematically drove down prices for everyday goods from the early 1950s, but were frustrated by their inability to promote these achievements to the rest of the world because of the difficulty of translating socialist economic indicators to western price models. Katarzyna Jezowska (Oxford) showed how the Polish pavilion at the 1956 Damascus trade fair was designed to convey a specific sense of socialist modernity, using modernist aesthetics and technological innovation to promote the achievements of Polish reformers. Yakov Feygin (Pennsylvania) examined the history of ‘mathematical internationalism’ – economic experts in both socialist and capitalist economies united by a belief in the power of maths and computing to secure economic development. The diplomatic thaw of 1967 created a space for Soviet experts to participate in international exchanges on economic reform and development, but their attempts to introduce markets and elements of supply and demand into the Soviet economy broke down in the early 1980s.
The third panel explored models of socialist development, focusing particularly but not exclusively on medicine, urban planning and the environment. Kate Lebow (Oxford) presented her research on the memoir-writing competitions organized by Polish sociologists among workers and peasants in the interwar period, which unveiled, among other things, a number of assumptions about the place of home and homeland in global networks, and about rights and justice, in personal narratives. Timothy Nunan (Freie U, Berlin) used the case of the Afghan regime of the 1980s to explore the overlap between socialist and Islamist internationalisms. Rather than making a distinction between the two, Afghan socialists argued that they were also Islamists. Although socialist internationalism was important to them, it also acted as a bridge to wider debates about anti-imperialism and pan-Islamism. Robert Balogh (Budapest) explored Hungarian forestry research into Scots pine, showing how experiments into agricultural, industrial and environmental aspects of pine cultivation circulated between Eastern Europe, Western Europe and international organisations such as the FAO. Jo Laycock (Sheffield Hallam) examined the complex network of non-governmental actors, governmental administrators and recipients of relief and their interactions in post-genocide Armenia. Dora Vargha (Exeter) concluded the panel with a discussion of the polio vaccination campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s, which developed at the intersection of liberal internationalism, international scientific networks, and socialist internationalism. The socialist world was seen as the perfect place to carry out global vaccination trials because of the nature of socialist health system, while international experts argued at the same time that there was ‘no Cold War’ in the fight against disease.
The fourth panel continued discussions about the global spread and reach of socialist projects. James Mark (Exeter) discussed changing representation of Cubans in Hungary through photographs and photo journalism, where he detected a shift from Cubans being portrayed as heroes to featuring as poor workers on the periphery. Tobias Rupprecht (Exeter) explored the East European fascination with global forms of free-market authoritarianism in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For many reformers across the region, he argued, ‘the West’ was not the only source of inspiration; economically successful dictatorships as Chile, South Korea and Singapore also provided crucial lessons. Ana Antic (Exeter) talked about Yugoslav psychiatrists’ technical aid missions to Guinea in the 1960s, and considered the extent to which they contributed a Marxist perspective to transcultural psychiatry. Psychiatrists’ discussion of African ‘primitivism’, she pointed out, mirrored their perceptions of ‘primitive’ patients in Yugoslavia itself.
In January the Reluctant Internationalists hosted a residential course for the Historical Association’s 2017 The Cold War in the Classroom Teaching Fellowship. Ten secondary school teachers from across the country have been appointed as this year’s Fellows following an extremely competitive application process. The fellowship is being co-taught by leading textbook author, trainer and examiner, Ben Walsh and Birkbeck historians.
The two-day residential course marked the first stage of the fellowship. It was designed to provide an overview of some of the most up-to-date academic research in the field, and a forum to discuss key issues around teaching the Cold War in the classroom.
The course began with sessions from Ben Walsh on the challenges the Cold War presents for both teachers and students, and the different pedagogical approaches that
can be taken towards it. Jessica Reinisch then provided an overview of the period and discussed some of the key historiographical developments over recent decades. Despite the challenges of incorporating competing interpretations into tight teaching schedules, many of the Fellows felt that the Cold War provided the ideal opportunity to introduce students to complex historiographical concepts.
David Brydan followed this up with a session on Cold War geographies, using a series of maps to explore the different ways we can think about the geography of the Cold War, and discussing how historians have shifted perspective in recent years away from simple models of bi-polar conflict towards a more complex, global understanding of the Cold War. Johanna Conterio’s session explored the question in everyday life in the Cold War, using examples from housing, agriculture and environment in the Soviet Union to illustrate recent debates about consumption, welfare and living standards. Jessica Reinisch and Johanna Conterio then combined to lead a discussion on the legacies of the Cold War, a theme which offers a lot of potential to engage students with a topic already regarded by many as ancient history.
The course ended with two final sessions from Ben Walsh on the potential of technology in teaching the Cold War, particularly given the vast range of sources and materials available online, and on creating resources. As part of the assessment for the Fellowship, participants will be required to create classroom resources on the Cold War which can be used by other teachers. These resources will draw on both the content of the residential course, and on the online course which the Fellows are currently completing, which explores some of the key topics of Cold War history in more depth. Details about how the online course has developed and the lessons Fellows have drawn from it are available in the series of blog posts recently published on our website and on the Historical Association website.
The Cold War in the Classroom Teaching Fellowship forms part of a series of public engagement activities the Reluctant Internationalists project has been undertaking this year, and has been funded by our recent Wellcome Trust public engagement grant.
Languages of Internationalism, 24-26 May 2017, Birkbeck College
Organised in collaboration with Dr. Brigid O’Keeffe from Brooklyn College, CUNY, the Reluctant Internationalists project’s final conference will bring together historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists, and scholars in related fields, to debate the languages of internationalism.
The conference aims to shed light on the centrality of language to people’s past pursuit and experiences of internationalism. For any agents of internationalism, language presented a wide variety of challenges and opportunities. It imposed obstacles and provided avenues to mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse peoples. The relative successes and failures of past internationalist projects in large measure owed to participants’ ability to effectively communicate across not just linguistic, but also political, cultural, economic, and professional boundaries. This fundamental and literal question of (mis)communication has dramatically shaped the lives of peoples variously confronting the global realities or pretensions of their milieus.
The conference is free and open to all, however spaces are strictly limited and booking is required. Please reserve a place here. Details of the conference are outlined below or to download the conference programme in full, click here.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Panel 1: International Languages 1.45-3.15pm
- Brigid O’Keeffe (Brooklyn College), Hopeful Conversations in a Future Foreclosed: The Rise and Fall of Esperanto in the Early Soviet Union
- Valeska Huber (German Historical Institute London), One Language for All? Basic English and the power and limits of a Global Language
- Claire Shaw (University of Bristol), Sign without Borders?: The Gestuno Project and the Deaf Cold War
Discussant: Humphrey Tonkin (University of Hartford)
Panel 2: Languages of Empire and Its Aftermath 3.30-5.00 pm
- Allison Korinek (New York University), Constructing the French Imperial Interprétariat in Algeria
- Justin Jackson (New York University), Colonial Military Intermediaries: Interpreters and the Work of Local Linguistic Knowledge in U.S. Wars and Occupations in Cuba and the Philippines, 1898-1913
Discussant: Ana Antic (University of Exeter)
Thursday, 25 May 2017
Panel 1: Cold War (Mis-)Communication 9.00 – 11.00am
- Pey-Yi Chu (Pomona College), Puzzling over Permafrost: Negotiating Language in the Earth Sciences During the Cold War
- Beatrice Wayne (New York University), “What is the Tongue of Radicalism?”: Peace Corps Teachers and Ethiopian Students Approaching the Revolution
- Dina Fainberg (City, University of London), Pens instead of Projectiles: Peaceful Coexistence and the Transformation of Soviet International Reporting in the Cold War, 1953-1963
- Diana Georgescu (University College London), Lost in Translation? The Language(s) and Practices of Internationalism in Youth Camps during the Cold War
Discussant: Dora Vargha (University of Exeter)
Panel 2: Searching for a Shared Language 11.15am – 12.45pm
- Marc Volovici (Princeton University), The Many Faces of “Kongressdeutsch”: German as a Zionist Lingua Franca
- Nick Underwood (University of Colorado Boulder), Yiddish and Transnational Linguistic Belonging in Interwar Paris
- Carmen Mangion (Birkbeck, University of London), Internationalism and the Language of Governance
Discussant: David Brydan (Birkbeck, University of London)
Panel 3: The Languages of International Feminism 1.30-3.00pm
- Jocelyn Olcott (Duke University), Lost in Translation: International Women’s Year and the Languages of Transnational Feminisms
- Christine Varga-Harris (Illinois State University), Between Friends: The Language of Gender Equality and “Sisterhood” in Encounters among Soviet and “Third-World” Women
- Emma Lundin (Birkbeck, University of London), Adapting Feminism: Swedish and South African political activists’ use of second-wave vocabulary 1968-1994
Discussant: Philippa Hetherington (University College London)
Panel 4: Language and Expertise in International Organisations 3.15-5.15pm
- Heidi Tworek (University of British Columbia), Coded Language: Health,Statistics, and Telegraphic Communication at the League of Nations
- Jo Laycock (Sheffield Hallam University) Speaking the Language of Humanitarianism or ‘speaking Bolshevik’: International Refugee relief in Soviet Armenia 1920-1928
- Humphrey Tonkin (University of Hartford) & Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London), The Emergence of UN Language Policy
- Sebastian Gehrig (Oxford), The Languages of National Division: Shaping hegemonic semantics of divide in the struggle between the two German states, 1949-89
Discussant: Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck, University of London)
Friday, 26 May 2017
Panel 1: Reading and Translating Across Borders 9.30 – 11.00am
- Katherine M. H. Reischl (Princeton University), Translating Images: The Visual Life of M. Il’in’s The Story of the Great Plan
- Yuliya Komska (Dartmouth College), How International Is the Language of Action? The Global Publishing History of H.A. and Magret Rey’s Curious George at Its Limits
Discussant: Sophie Heywood (University of Reading)
Panel 2: Languages of Socialist Internationalism 11.15am – 1.15pm
- Dora Vargha (University of Exeter), Languages of Health and Disease: Hungary and the Beginnings of Socialist International Health in the 1950s
- Elidor Mëhilli (Hunter College), The Power of Russian: Ideology, Literacy, and Socialist Internationalism before and after the Sino-Soviet Split
- Rachel Applebaum (Tufts University), The “Gate to the World”: Russian as a Foreign Language in Cold War Czechoslovakia
Discussant: Johanna Conterio (Flinders University)
Panel 3: Concluding Roundtable 1.30 – 2.30pm
Week seven of our Teacher Fellowship Programme, ‘The Cold War in the Classroom‘ in collaboration with the Historical Association, addressed the Cold War in Asia, with discussions particularly focusing on China. In the following article, originally published for The Historical Association, Ben Walsh summarises the discussions.
The Cold War in Asia
Many teachers teaching the Cold War find themselves with that nagging sensation that because of the restraints of time and or curricula they don’t manage to convey to their students the full breadth and scope of the Cold War. This is particularly true of the Cold War in Asia. Some of us dip into the Korean War, and perhaps more of us investigate Vietnam in more depth. But there is the elephant in the room – China. The aim of this week’s reading and discussion was to try to get a sense of China’s role in the Cold War, particularly its role in shaping political culture internationally. The teachers were asked to summarise how an understanding of China helped to improve understanding of the Cold War in Asia and beyond. They were asked to read and listen to the work of Julia Lovell and Glennys Young (references below).
Key points emerging in the discussion about the history were…
One phenomenon which struck many of our teachers was Global Maoism:
- Julia Lovell claims Global-Maoism had effects in Western Europe, the US and Singapore, while Anthony Best also argues that the PRC had a major impact on Third World countries. According to Best, after 1959 “the PRC moved towards a more divisive policy towards the Third World” (which coincided with denunciation of the non-alignment movement). Chinese leaders spread anti-imperialist propaganda and supported national liberation movements; this led to strong ties with Jakarta, Burma, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam. However, China’s relative economic poverty (in comparison to the Super Powers) meant they weren’t always able to offer as much financial support as they would have liked, for example North Vietnam turned to the USSR for military equipment because the Chinese couldn’t compete with American technology.
- However, a less obvious influence of Mao on the Cold War as written by historians is his cultural and ideological influence. For those around the world searching for a path outside of the binary world-views of the USA and USSR Mao seemed to offer something genuinely anti-imperialist, egalitarian and empowering. This, inspired not least by his deliberate propaganda drive, influenced countless movements across the world to challenge authority in their own contexts – creating problems of opposition, control and dissent particularly in capitalist countries. Mao therefore played a unique role in the Cold War, offering an alternative source of support and inspiration to those who were disillusioned with US and Soviet power politics.
- I likewise, having taught China at IB, was in turns shocked and flummoxed by the response of Western countries to the Cultural Revolution – I guess I’ve always seen it as a cynical attempt by Mao to solve his internal political problems in China, rather than an earnest means of spreading revolution abroad. I always had Mao pegged as a ‘China First’ revolutionary after the stamp of Stalin, rather than a continuous revolutionary after the mould of Trotsky. However, when I thought about it more, especially in the context of Europe in 1968 (and Civil Rights in America after the death of MLK), it made sense that people there were looking for a movement to link themselves to. This demonstrates much more about the disillusionment in Europe and the effectiveness of Maoist propaganda than it does about the intentions of Mao in starting the Cultural Revolution.
Another was the relationship between China and the USSR, and China and the USA:
- The first and most obvious value in studying China and its revolution is to see how the USSR attempted to foster, support, and eventually control another major communist revolution. As Glennys documents in his chapter focused on a Chinese student’s reflections of his role in the USSR, even as the government’s of the USSR and PRC drifted apart, there was still a great deal of cultural exchange until January 1967 when all Chinese students were ordered to leave the USSR by the PRC. While many are keen to argue the Sino-Soviet split was inevitable, at the time Stalin and Mao seemed determined to support one another, especially on the topic of supporting burgeoning communist revolutions in South-East Asia, such as Korea. This also continued beyond Stalin’s death via economic support and the sharing of Russian Industrial technology and eventually China’s nuclear capabilities. As a result, in order to fully understand the USSR’s approach to the Cold War following the failure of the Berlin Blockade, it is crucial to take into account China. Otherwise, as many students do, it is easy to assume the USSR becomes a passive actor until the 1961 Berlin Wall crisis.
- Both the Soviets and the Americans considered China to be of such importance that they made decisions that would affect the trajectory of the Cold War. China’s fall to communism in 1949 sent shock waves through a US administration that found itself accused of having ‘lost China’. The fear and witch hunts of the McCarthy era would follow, in part influenced by the shock of the loss of the fabled ‘China Market’, leaving a legacy of fear and suspicion, a victory for the hawks who were then able to influence policy towards Cuba and Vietnam. Following the disaster of Vietnam, the US again confirmed the importance of China with rapprochement and Nixon’s 1972 visit. By the late 60’s both the US and China needed each other.
- Mao and Khrushchev’s split on the policy of ‘world revolution’ and its conflict with peaceful co-existence led to the breakdown in the relationship between the two countries. It also marks a split in Communist theory in the east, arguably weakening it. This led to a further fronts of the Cold War, e.g. the border war in 1959 between the Soviet Union and China where there were indications of the Soviet Union using the atomic bomb (a very dangerous moment in the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis). Dr Julia Lovell argues that the split paved the way to the end of the Cold War as it weakened the global communist cause. Furthermore it lead to Soviet interest in Afghanistan which weakened its position according to Lovell. Therefore China had an insurmountable impact on the relations between the Americans and Soviets towards the end of the Cold War.
Impact on teaching?
The discussions were very satisfying in the sense that the teachers were beginning to think about their practice and how the up to date academic work they had been looking at might shape future practice.
- This week’s readings have reinforced my belief that I will need to do more to include China within wider negotiations in the later Cold War, and ensure that I devote more time to the USSR’s reaction to and treatment of the PRC … the solution is almost certainly not to take excessive time away from my study of the Cold War in Europe, but to deepen my understanding of the PRC so as not to unnecessarily simplify or caricature their actions when making my brief references to them, as well as finding more opportunities to make those references where appropriate.
Most of the teachers also now have a broad area of focus for their planned resources, which will of course be shared via the HA website.
- I am still considering investigating ways to teach the historiography of the Cold War more effectively, by teaching it alongside the content, exploring the interpretations in their context. In doing this I would also like to try to bring in the experiences of ordinary people from both sides of the Cold War divide, to encourage students to challenge the official narratives and the orthodox views. I don’t know if this is too much or even if this would work but of course with more exploration this will become clear. There are many more areas of the Cold War that I would like to explore, but it is clear to me that this is the part of the GCSE course that my students require the most help with.
- I was surprised to see Rudi Dutschke’s name pop up again this week as a proponent of Mao’s ideology in Europe – this has added to my feeling that my resource will tackle introducing students to the Cold War through the stories of different players in the conflict. We discussed at the residential the challenges of students trying to define the Cold War – I’d like to find a range of representative individuals who students can use a starting point for identifying key features of the Cold War, before comparing them with what other students have found out from their similar stories. This would enable them to work out the essential features of the Cold War whilst also acknowledging its diversity. Once they’d finished the topic they could come back to the stories and add in context of what they’d learned to flesh out the stories and see how representative they were of their understanding of the conflict.
- The resource idea will hopefully be based on the kitchen debate and everyday life. I found this area particularly interesting. I think students would find a social/economic aspect of the usually political Cold War debate worthwhile. As I am focusing on KS3 I believe this area would allow students to access a source based lesson investigation connected to an interpretations question.
- HA podcast: Julia Lovell, ‘Global Maoism’
- HA podcast: Rana Mitter, ‘The Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949’
- Julia Lovell, “The Cultural Revolution and Its Legacies in International Perspective”, The China Quarterly, vol.227, September 2016, pp. 632-652
- “A Chinese Student Reflects on His Role in the Soviet Union’s Virgin Lands Campaign in 1958”, in: Glennys Young (ed.), The Communist Experience in the Twentieth Century: A Global History Through Sources (New York: OUP, 2012), pp. 98-102
- David Reynolds, One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945 (2001), Chapter 2: “Communist Revolutions, Asian Style”, pp. 39-67, or Chapter 12: “Capitalist Revolutions, Asian Style”, pp. 404-452
- Anthony Best, Jussi M. Hanimäki, Joseph A. Maiolo and Kirsten E. Schulze, International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2008), Chapter 15: “The People’s Republic of China and North Korea: ideology and nationalism, 1949-2007”, pp.357-378
- Fredrik Logevall, ‘The Indochina Wars and the Cold War, 1945–1975’, Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. 2
- ‘China Turns Left’, in Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Wested (eds.), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford, 2003), pp. 268-272
- ‘The Breakdown of the [Sino-Soviet] Alliance’, in Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Wested (eds.), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford, 2003), pp. 205-208
Workshop Report – Refugees and Children: Writing, Exhibiting and Depicting Refugee Stories for Children – Birkbeck College 3 March 2017
Earlier this month, the Reluctant Internationalists held a one-day workshop on the process of researching, writing, exhibiting and depicting stories about refugees to children. The workshop brought together children’s authors, illustrators, publishers, museum professionals and academics to juxtapose different disciplines’ ways of depicting the stories of refugees for children. Discussions in four sessions explored how factual research, both historical and contemporary, can be interpreted for children.
The first session of the workshop addressed the role of illustration in refugee narratives. Our visiting fellow, the children’s illustrator Francesca Sanna, shared details of the research involved in creating her award-winning book, The Journey. Her research included detailed interviews with refugees based in refugee camps. In her talk, she discussed some of the challenges she encountered during this process, some of which were resolved by her commitment to drawing and sketching with refugees themselves. Francesca’s presentation prompted wide-ranging discussion from workshop participants, such as on the problem of aestheticizing or sweetening the experiences of refugees when trying to interpret them for children. Francesca argued that her research on the aesthetics of UNICEF campaigns had convinced her that frequent repetition of the same images of refugees made campaigns less powerful and effective.
The second session considered how the stories of refugees are communicated in public display. Eithne Nightingale presented her current work on ‘Children, Migration and Diaspora’ in collaboration with the V&A Museum of Childhood and Queen Mary, University of London. Eithne discussed the co-production of migration stories with child refugees through film, social media and public events in museums. She raised problems such as the need to build trust between interviewer and interviewee and the importance of oral history training. These questions foregrounded the screening of the film Passing Tides from the Child Migrant Stories project. Linh Vu, whose personal story was the focus of the film, then reflected on her own migration experiences. Like Francesca, Linh also emphasised the importance of drawing as a means of depicting traumatic experiences. Following both talks, discussions zoomed in on questions of terminology and bureaucratic categories of different kinds of people on the move, particularly in the cases where individuals interviewed for the project did not adopt the term ‘migrant’ for themselves. Many of the authors present echoed their concerns about finding suitable terms for writing and depicting refugee stories for children.
The third session of the workshop centred around Dr Kiera Vaclavik from Queen Mary, University of London and her talk on lessons from literature that presents explicit historical and political narratives to young readers. Kiera examined two in some ways problematic, French books (Rêves amers by Maryse Condé, and Evelyne Brisou-Pellen’s, Deux grains de cacao). She noted that depicting the stories of refugees in children’s books can allow ‘a crime against humanity to become the background to an adventure story.’ Kiera’s talk and the subsequent discussion addressed the political limits of empathy, the importance of achieving a balance between pity and empathy, and the dangers of objectifying the reader.
The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to a discussion of the publication process of children’s literature. Harriet Birkenshaw from NoBrow/Flying Eye Books provided an introduction to the work of her publishers. Harriet noted that one in four books bought today was a children’s book and creative non-fiction is the fastest growing market. She emphasised how important it was, in such a saturated market, that children’s books had a purpose and a powerful narrative that speaks not just to children but also to an adult audience. Her presentation provided examples of works that achieved this and also provided insight into the compromises that had to be made when publishing a children’s book.
The workshop concluded with an opportunity for attendees to introduce their current projects. Attendees welcomed the opportunity to think through new ideas and identify new resources. As one attendee of the workshop noted, ‘it has been so helpful today hearing the nuanced discussions.’ Similarly, another participant commented, ‘I think it’s great, and very unusual actually, to have practitioners and academics, people from ‘the real world’ and different actors all contributing.’
Following the success of the workshop, we will organise a similar event at Birkbeck in June, with a wider range of participants. Further details of this will be available on our blog and the events page of our website soon.