Cinema and the Cultural Cold War in Asia

Research output: Journal PublicationsEditorial/Preface (Journal)


Over the past two decades, a significant body of research has been published on the clandestine psychological warfare programs developed by the US government at the height of the Cold War. The pivotal work in this area is Frances Saunders’ The Cultural Cold War (2000). Saunders examined how the CIA funded intellectual magazines, musical performances, films, art exhibitions, and the like to be used as «weapons» against the Soviet Union and its allies. A closely related body of work has since then documented the cultural conflict between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. Greg Barnhisel, in his study of the role of modernist art and literature in Cold War diplomacy, argues that «modernism» became a weapon in what has become known as the «Cultural Cold War» the struggle for cultural prestige and influence between the Soviet-led Eastern and the US-led Western blocs. Cultural diplomats during the 1950s, Barnhisel argues, presented American modernism in painting, literature, architecture, and music as «evidence of the high cultural achievement of the United States». The Eisenhower administration (1953-61) made use of the President’s Emergency Fund for International Affairs to subsidize trade fair presentations by private industry, US national exhibitions in Europe and the Soviet Union, publications, and tours abroad by artistic groups. The US State Department’s Cultural Presentations program likewise sent its finest performers of modern dance and ballet, classical music, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, blues, and jazz to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Soviet Union to win the hearts and minds of the Third World and to counter perceptions of American racism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-457
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

As part of "Reframing the Cultural Cold Was" 20 Years after Stonor Saunders' Case"


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