Science Discourses in Cold War European Cinemas and Media

Ed. collection, 1. July 2020.

Call for Papers

Science discourses in media and the public sphere, as we unwittingly witness in the Covid-19 era exhibit the dynamic relationship and competition among diverging political agendas, economic concerns, and state-sponsored research. Yet anxieties and fear of what’s to come are no new phenomena when it comes to the public sphere. Between 1945 and 1990, the East and West competed not only ideologically, but also in terms of their scientific feats and media representation of their successes. The Cold War offered a rich terrain for competition, showdowns, and reflection: from the release of Sputnik I in 1957, to reclaiming the cultural heritage of European scientists, to responding to Wernher von Braun’s involvement into Explorer I and II and public support or dissatisfaction with nuclear armament. The space craze engendered entertainment genres such as the utopische Filme in the East and sci-fi in the West, popular documentaries, and educational features that shaped the public imagination of both ideological systems’ achievements. Not unlike politicians, research institutions, such as the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft or science academies in socialist states, were central to reclaiming the role of science for the building of both democracy and post-1945. At the same time, popular science magazines, biographies of famous scientists, comics, cartoons, and fan clubs fed into the ever-increasing popularity of science.

We are seeking contributions to this volume that aims to bring together trans- and interdisciplinary research on epistemic shifts and the history of knowledge during the Cold War with focus especially on scientific discourses as adapted in or critiqued by European media and its institutions. Above all, with this volume we aim to explore a range of methods and approaches from cultural studies, visual and material studies, to history of science and media studies, sociology, literary studies, political science, and anthropology. 

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

-  Role of scientists in socialist societies or postwar democratization processes;
-  History of state-run and private science institutions and their relations to media
-  Science and education films and their institutional backgrounds;
-  Media and film representations of scientists and scientific innovations (including biopics, documentaries, TV shows or series);
-  Sci-fi literature and media and their commentary on scientific achievements;
-  Propaganda efforts and lobby initiatives;
-  The figure of the astronaut and cosmonaut in the popular imagination;
-  Popularization of space science in feature films
-  Children’s media and cinematographic educational efforts
-  Peace movements, social and environmental movements, and their stance on science during the Cold War; and others.

For consideration, please submit a 400-word abstract and a 2-page biography by July 1, 2020, to Dr. Mariana Ivanova (University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dr. Juliane Scholz (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin,

Contact Info:
Mariana Ivanova, Associate Professor of German Film and Media, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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