An Archaeology of the Iron Curtain: Material and Metaphor

The aim of this thesis is to explore what knowledge about the Iron Curtain  can be archaeologyreached through the material traces it has left behind as well as the  effects these remains have on people around them.

The aim is also to  contribute to the continuous discussion and methodological development  of the archaeology of the contemporary past.  Why use the Iron Curtain as material? Whenever you deal with Cold  War history the term Iron Curtain is never far away. Sentences such as “behind the Iron Curtain” or “after the fall of the Iron Curtain” are often  used. But what was it really? When I had just started as a PhD student I  explained to a friend of mine what my research was going to be about. He  looked quite concerned and then said “But you know that the Iron Curtain  never actually existed? It was a metaphor.”

This inconsistency, the paradox  of the real and imagined Iron Curtain is what makes it such an interesting material study. On the one hand there was the metaphor of the Iron  Curtain: an idea of a Europe divided by two political blocs. On the other  there were a series of heavily militarised borders running through Central  Europe physically dividing it. Do they tell the same story? If not, does one  story take precedence when we write our Cold War history? How do the  stories that emerge from the metaphor and the materials fit within the local  and world history?

Another reason why this is such interesting material is that it is now in  the process of becoming heritage. In some places it has already come a long  way, in others it may never be seen as heritage at all. What are the processes  involved in this ‘becoming’?

An Archaeology of the Iron Curtain: Material and Metaphor


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