Last Monday, 5 February, marked a milestone in the history of the post-Cold War era: for the first time, the period during which the Berlin Wall has been down has now lasted longer than the period when it divided its namesake city – and, more symbolically, Germany, Europe, and the world. As the height of the Cold War recedes from view – becoming, increasingly, a blip in historical time rather than a defining era against which the present is defined – historians have increasingly pioneered new periodizations, looking at the 1970s, for example, as a significant rupture between the period of the trente glorieuses and the supposed heights of the Western welfare state and the era of globalized market liberalization that followed.
Providing a sort of segue or hinge between these historiographies, a conference to be held at the University of Vienna plans to probe the connections between the emerging narrative of globalization’s rise during the Cold War and the history of the Cold War itself – focusing on the role of technology as their common denominator. “[W]e still know very little,” the organizers explain, about “how East-West technological competition fostered the processes of globalization or how technology transfers contributed to the creation of interconnected structures between the two hostile blocs and how such structures, in turn, may have facilitated the world-wide technological unification and standardization.” As such, they hope conference submissions will focus on such themes as whether the “threat of mutual nuclear annihilation or increased air travel since late 1960s inspire[d] the rise of internationalism, environmentalism and other trans-national ideologies,” whether “East-West competition in providing economic development programs to…developing countries increase[d] globalization,” how the development of international technical standards may have brought the eastern and western blocs together, and how western technology was received and used across the Iron Curtain in the eastern bloc. More detail is available here.
The conference will be held on 12-13 October 2018 and feature a keynote by Harvard’s Odd Arne Westad. The organizers especially welcome “proposals taking a comparative, transnational or systemic perspective as well as those approaching the subject from multi-/trans-disciplinary positions.” Proposals accompanied by brief CVs, both no longer than 300 words, should be delivered to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 April 2018. Selected participants will be notified by 30 April 2018. The organizers are searching for funding to cover travel expenses, which may be available, but is not currently guaranteed.