Benno Nietzel

Benno Nietzel, Foto: privatDr. Benno Nietzel
(Bielefeld University)

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Propaganda, Media Mindfulness and Communications Research in the Age of Extremes: the USA, the Soviet Union and Germany from the 1920s to the Cold War

How did thinking about mass communication and politics in the 20th century become scientific? What relationships emerged between state communications policy and scholarly communications research? Benno Nietzel’s project examines these two questions, focusing primarily on developments in the United States during World War II and the early Cold War to the end of the 1950s. The Soviet Union and Germany will also be analyzed for comparison and to reveal historical connections.

Mass communication has been discursively conceptualized as a challenge to policy and science since the First World War. Totalitarian propaganda regimes and global tensions during the "Age of Extremes" both spurred thinking about mass communication and politics and left their imprint on it. During the Second World War and the Cold War, political figures and communications experts collected and used scientific knowledge in different ways regarding the importance of mass media communications. To be sure, however, it was no linear progression. Scientific knowledge in the field of propaganda and communications technology was always disputed, remained in competition with other forms of knowledge and expertise and, ultimately, failed to achieve any hegemony. In this way, the project embeds the Cold War in an alternative history of “scientification” and academic elites in the 20th century, marked by asynchronicities, clashes and contradictions.

Dr. Benno Nietzel is a research associate in Historical Political Studies at Bielefeld University. He studied modern history, theater and communications in Berlin and Moscow and earned his doctorate in 2010 at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. His dissertation, Handeln und Überleben: Jüdische Unternehmer aus Frankfurt am Main 1924-1964, was published in 2012 by Vandenhoek & Ruprecht. His current research and writing interests include 20th century transatlantic history, the Cold War and the history of science and knowledge. Recent publications include "Propaganda, Psychological Warfare and Communication Research in the USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War" in History of the Human Sciences (2016), and "Kommunikationsforschung hinter dem Eisernen Vorhang: Psychological Warfare, Politik und Osteuropa-Expertise in den USA im frühen Kalten Krieg" in Osteuropa (2017).

Benno Nietzel, research fellow at the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, was visiting scholar at the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies during the 2016/17 academic year.

Berlin Centre for Cold War Studies
Brown Bag Breakfast # 12 | Projektvorstellung am Berliner Kolleg Kalter Krieg | 2/14/2017 (in German)

Invited Lecture | War of Words: Propaganda, Kommunikationsexperten und Wirkungsforschung im Kalten Krieg and Podcast| 1/26/2017 (both in German)

Publication
Article | Kampf der Ideen: US-Auslandspropaganda im frühen Kalten Krieg, Osteuropa 1-2 (2017) (in German)