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Curating knowledge: international relations expertise and the end of the Cold War in East Germany

Bertrand, Sarah (2020) Curating knowledge: international relations expertise and the end of the Cold War in East Germany. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004255


Post-1945 stability has confused us about the status of expert knowledge in studying world politics: we think that our studies about war, peace and international security are above events, and in command of them. But attention to past moments of crisis and transformation reveals a complex relation between the two. It shows that expert knowledge about world politics is transformed by events, commanded by them at least as much as it is in command of them. The end of the Cold War is one such moment of crisis and transformation. How did the ideological victory of the West impact the possibilities and impossibilities of thinking and knowing the international? How did the major geopolitical shifts of the time reshape what is considered ‘truth’, ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’ in international relations, and what is considered ‘political’, ‘ideological’ or ‘biased’? Academics, experts and intellectuals are the visible social carriers of these questions, and their fate is the symbol of the shifting limits of speech and thought’s acceptability. Drawing on interviews and archival research, this PhD thesis focuses on the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and examines the making and breaking of its international relations experts during and after the Cold War. It shows how states make experts and what happens to meaning-making elites once they no longer fit with new political structures: How did the GDR produce international relations academics, scholars and intellectuals, and what role did they play within the global Cold War confrontation? What happened to those same experts once the Cold War ended and the GDR went through both a democratic revolution and a (re)unification with West Germany? Tracing in particular the various mechanisms at play in the post-89 marginalization of the ‘fallen’ GDR experts, elites of a no-longer-existing order, the thesis aims at linking their individual fates to the wider geopolitical forces at play in shaping the possibilities and impossibilities of researching and knowing ‘the international’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Sarah Bertrand
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Barkawi, Tarak

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