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, interrogating the very concept and stakes of the Cold War, as well its relationship to other organizing principles in U.S. and global history. What changes, for example, when we re-frame the Cold War not as an existential battle between the United States and the Soviet Union, but rather as part of a shared history of Western colonial/imperial conquest? What are the origins and legacy of Cold War ideology? What role did race, class, and gender play in the geopolitical conflict? What influence did the Cold War have on twentieth-century literature and culture? How do these alternative frameworks shape our understanding of the Cold War in contemporary politics? Students will write 2 shorter close-reading essays and a longer research paper in which they delve into a specific aspect of the intellectual and political debate that interests them.