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First-Year Research Seminar: The Cold War: What Was It and Why Does It Matter?

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number FIRST-UG740
Section 001
Instructor Hannah Gurman
Days TR
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


The Cold War occupies a central, but contested place in the contemporary political imagination. Some say we are in a new Cold War, while others argue that the Cold War is a relic of a bygone age. Despite these disagreements, such proclamations operate on the shared assumption that we know what the Cold War was and why it mattered. This course seeks to challenge such assumptions. Rather than study a stock textbook version of the Cold War, we will examine interpretations and framings of the conflict that interrogate the very concept, framing, and stakes of the Cold War, as well its relationship to other organizing principles in U.S. and global history. What changes, for example, if we re-frame the Cold War not as an existential battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but rather as part of a shared Western history of colonial/imperial conquest? What might both Puritans and the U.S. Civil War have to do with the Cold War? How did the Cold War shape twentieth-century literary and cultural theory? What is gained by shifting the framework away from geopolitics to study the role of race, class, and gender in the conflict? How do these alternative frameworks revise our understanding of the Cold War in contemporary politics? Possible readings will include works by Anders Stephanson, Arne Westad, Richard Hofstadter, Mary Dudziak, and Francis Fukuyama. Students will write 2 shorter close-reading essays and a longer research paper in which they will delve into a specific aspect of the historiographical and theoretical debate that interests them.


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)