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ARTH 639 - Issues In North American Architectural History: The Cold War

M - 12:00-15:00

This graduate seminar will use the Cold War as a historical framework to study the complex webs of relations between architecture, art, design, religion and mass politics in the second half of the twentieth century. Our goal will to be assess the various ways visual and material culture (broadly conceived) have played an instrumental role in shaping everyday life and politics on both sides of the so-called "Iron Curtain". Our focus will be on Western Europe and North America, while keeping in mind the global balance of powers and the various transnational exchanges that occurred throughout the postwar era. The polycentric and thematic structure of the seminar, therefore, hopes to challenge the Manichean dichotomies enshrined in Cold War historiography (East vs West; communism vs capitalism; collectivism vs individualism; etc). The weekly readings will feature a wide array of primary and secondary sources. Specific themes and areas of study will include:

- The legacies of Fascism, technocratic rule and the postwar European reconstruction (Marshall Plan and Molotov plans)
- Imperialism and "soft power"; revolution and decolonization
- Modernism and the various debates surrounding "abstraction", "realism" and "political commitment"
- Counter-culture and the collaborative strategies of the neo-avant-gardes and protest movements
- Mass media, consumption and spectacle culture (in both capitalist and socialist States)
- Domesticity and nuclear anxieties (suburban housing, fall out shelters, bunkers, etc.)
- Diplomacy and the architecture of nationhood: World Fairs, travelling exhibitions, embassies
- Christianity’s artistic and political responses to World War II and the Cold War (the Second Vatican Council, the rise of evangelical Christianity, etc.)


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