Women and Cold War Border Crossings
World History Association 1
Before the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 much thinking about the Cold War imagined a strict division of the globe into two anathema, rival spheres of influence with little possibility for the transnational and transsystemic migration of people, ideas, tastes, and material goods across an Iron Curtain separating them. Accompanying this bi-furcated way of understanding the world order were other binary notions about non-transgressible borders including, for example, those thought to separate communism from capitalism, the Left from the Right, and men from women. Since the dissolution of the East Bloc new studies of contemporary history are revealing notable opportunities for multidirectional border crossings during the Cold War between not only the East and West, but also the North and South. Through the lens of women’s history, this panel will contribute to these new studies and to perspectives on migration. What do women’s experiences in a variety of global settings reveal about possibilities for migration across Cold War borders, including physical borders on the ground and socially constructed borders in the mind? How did these border crossings shape women’s experiences, practices, and values; in particular, how did they affect gender divisions between men and women? Was the migration of people, ideas, tastes, and goods across Cold War borders emancipatory for women; did they sometimes reinforce the construction of older gender divides in real and imagined ways? The presenters in this panel will examine these questions through the lens of women from Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Iran, and Turkey. Through comparisons across these diverse experiences we will identify similarities and differences useful for enriching knowledge about the complexities of the Cold War, migration, and women’s history.