Cold War Practices: Politics and Culture in the Anglo-American “Special Relationship”

AHA Session 185
North American Conference on British Studies 4
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Sutton South (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Chris Waters, Williams College
Chris Waters, Williams College

Session Abstract

Chair and Commentator: Chris Waters, Williams College

Panelists: Justin Olmstead, University of Central Oklahoma

Jamie Stoops, Lone Star College

Sofia Zepeda, University of Arizona

In recent years, historians have destabilized older images of the Cold War as consisting entirely of an ideological and military conflict between two hostile superpowers and their allies. Much of this research has sought to decenter the nation-state through attention to transnational processes and movements. Other scholars have produced works focusing on tensions and moments of exchange within rather than between the Western and Eastern Blocs. Building on this branch of Cold War historiography, this panel uses the “special relationship” between US and UK as a lens through which to explore conflicts and cultural divisions between allies. Our first panelist, Justin Olmstead, discusses the formation of NATO through the lens of intra-Bloc rivalries and Othering of Germany by American and British political leaders. Shifting focus to the history of Cold War sexuality, Jamie Stoops uses mass media coverage of domestic American pornography policy to explore the ways in which the UK appeared as a cautionary example of prudishness contrasted with American defenses of free speech. Finally, Sofia Zepeda’s paper explores post-Windrush British views of American race relations as a scenario to be avoided. As a scholar of British history, chair and commentator Chris Waters brings to the panel his expertise on postwar cultural and social change in Britain. While all three papers are concerned with Anglo-American interaction and exchange, each adopts a different focus and theoretical perspective. Together, these papers address diplomatic and military history, sexuality, immigration, and race relations, dedicating particular attention to the ways in which these different historical themes intersect. The issues discussed at this panel should be of interest not only to scholars of the postwar US and UK, but also those concerned more broadly with situating policy discussions and cultural discourses in a transnational context.

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