This is a marvelous collection of essays that illuminates the role of world’s fairs in shaping the cultural contours of the Cold War. The essays are far-reaching, including pieces on the US and USSR as well as illuminating analysis of world’s fairs and the Cold War in Australia, Japan, and Singapore. The breadth and depth of the scholarship is impressive and sets the stage for understanding the most recent wave of world’s fairs in the 21st century.
The post–World War II science-based technological revolution inevitably found its way into almost all international expositions with displays on atomic energy, space exploration, transportation, communications, and computers. Major advancements in Cold War science and technology helped to shape new visions of utopian futures, the stock-in-trade of world’s fairs. From the 1940s to the 1980s, expositions in the United States and around the world, from Brussels to Osaka to Brisbane, mirrored Cold War culture in a variety of ways, and also played an active role in shaping it. This volume illustrates the cultural change and strain spurred by the Cold War, a disruptive period of scientific and technological progress that ignited growing concern over the impact of such progress on the environment and humanistic and spiritual values. Through the lens of world’s fairs, contributors across disciplines offer an integrated exploration of the US–USSR rivalry from a global perspective and in the context of broader social and cultural phenomena—faith and religion, gender and family relations, urbanization and urban planning, fashion, modernization, and national identity—all of which were fundamentally reshaped by tensions and anxieties of the Atomic Age.
Presenting new perspectives on the staging of the Cold War, this valuable book examines superpower rivalry and the peculiar technological optimism of that era. The authors show how expositions offered visitors improbable utopian visions, politicizing urban planning, architecture, the space race, digital technologies, consumer goods, and nuclear energy.
Scott Gabriel Knowles is professor and head of the department of history at Drexel University. He is a research fellow of the Disaster Research Center of the University of Delaware. Knowles is the author of The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America and editor of Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City.