Colloquium: Archives of Salvation – The Fight to Save Humanity in Cold War Germany

  • Date: Jun 18, 2019
  • Time: 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Jennifer Allen
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
  • Room: 299
  • Host: Center for the History of Emotions
  • Contact:

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its summer semester 2019 colloquium:

Jennifer Allen, Yale University

Archives of Salvation: The Fight to Save Humanity in Cold War Germany

As the Cold War intensified, both sides of the Iron Curtain sought new ways to protect themselves against a possible hot war. Europe’s leaders recognized their relative powerlessness against the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons. Their pessimism and fears about the future led them to plan seriously for the possibility of absolute destruction and its aftermath. But what might that disaster look like? And how could the world actually be pulled back from the brink of annihilation – not only atomic destruction but also climate catastrophe, even Malthusian collapse? Who would bear the burden or the privilege of such work? And what kind of humanity would they rebuild? As the frontline of Cold War antagonism, Germans – both East and West – were particularly motivated to engage these questions. In this talk, I address some of the fascinating ways Germans answered these questions during the Cold War, from the development of a massive photo archive of German patrimony to the creation of an impressively comprehensive seed bank. The histories of these archives of salvation reveal how Germans on both sides of Iron Curtain fought to preserve their self-conception as protectors of civilization.

Jennifer Allen is an assistant professor of modern German history at Yale. She is working on a book titled Sustainable Utopias: Art, Political Culture, and Historical Practice in Late Twentieth-Century Germany, which charts Germany’s postwar efforts to revitalize the concept of utopia. In addition to the themes of utopia and anti-utopianism, Allen’s research explores the theories and practices of memory; counterculture and grassroots activism; and the politics of cultural preservation during and after the Cold War. Her work has been supported by the Volkswagen and Mellon Foundations; the American Academy in Berlin; the Institut für Zeitgeschichte; DAAD; the Institute for International, Comparative and Area Studies at UC San Diego; and the Institutes for European Studies and International Studies at UC Berkeley. Allen received her PhD in history from UC Berkeley in 2015. She is currently a visiting researcher at the Dahlem Humanities Center at the Freie Universität Berlin.

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