Conflict Aesthetics and the displacement of the Cold War in US and Soviet popular culture

This subproject will examine the political imaginary produced by commercially successful films and books in the US and the USSR, respectively. Focusing on the displacements of the Cold War's major East-West conflict in the long 1960s, it will analyze how the conflicts of the Cold War found their expression in popular culture. The displacement of the East-West conflict was twofold. On the one hand, there was a direct displacement of the conflict for example into the world of cinema, a re-enactment on the screen of the existing conflict between "capitalists" and "communists". On the other hand, there were also forms of displacements without "capitalists" and "communists", forms that, rather than directly depicting the existing political conflict, displaced it into other arenas, such as conceptions of the home, of gender conflict and notions of the family, revolving around the generational conflict that emerged as part of the Civil Rights Movement. The claim of this subproject is that in the course of the long 60s, both in the US and the USSR, the opposition between "them and us" transforms with ever more poignancy into one of internal cultural difference regarding class, gender, and race. And this eruption of internal cultural difference is tracked by Hollywood and Soviet popular culture.

This subproject aims to expand existing research to include critical issues which scholarship has by and large neglected. It shifts the focus from the major conflict between the US and the USSR, with its externalization of the enemy, to those many and varied internal, domestic conflicts that took place beneath the overarching East-West antagonism. The project asks how the existing socio-political conflict between East and West came to be translated into cinematic and literary representations of a home under siege. The project will look at films that explicitly address the Cold War conflict but also – and more importantly – those in which the logic and logistics of Cold War culture come to be thematically re-encoded.

The goal of this subproject is a comparison of the popular culture of the US and the USSR that will shed light on both the conflict aesthetics produced by each side and the processes of aesthetic exchange and transfer between the two. These conflict aesthetics stood in a relationship of mutual observation and aesthetic. A shared cultural imaginary can be identified not only in the stories told on screen and in literary texts, and in the forms chosen to transmit them, but also at the level of production. In fact, the correspondence between content and form turns out to be particularly valid for the conflict aesthetics of the Cold War.

Methodologically this project employs a comparative approach to analyse the cultural transfer of representations of "home and conflict" in popular culture. It addresses how the major conflict East vs. West is culturally transcoded, and how the forms of conflict aesthetics circulated between the US and USSR. By foregrounding issues of transfer, this subproject highlights mechanisms of choice, strategies of acquisition and network structures.

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