Friday, 14 April 2017 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316
Audra J. Wolfe, “The Fight for Science and Freedom: Recovering the Role of Science in Cold War Cultural Diplomacy”
Audra Wolfe’s current book project, Freedom’s Laboratory, explores how the United States attempted to use visions of science as a tool for cultural diplomacy in the Cold War, whether those measures were covert, overt, or something in between. This talk considers the role of science in the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), probably the best known of the CIA’s attempts at covert cultural diplomacy. From its first appearance at the organization’s opening meeting in Berlin in 1950, this strand of the CCF’s agenda continued throughout the 1950s, with a major conference on Science and Freedom chaired by Michael Polanyi in Hamburg in 1953 and three smaller meetings in Paris, Milan, and Tunis. From 1954 to 1961, the CCF’s Committee on Science and Freedom published a bulletin called Science and Freedom. But despite pushes from the CCF’s Paris office, Science and Freedom never lived up to the CIA’s expectations, and the Agency finally cut off funding in 1961 in favor of a more mainstream journal, Minerva. Science never took on the central role in the CCF’s operations that Michael Polanyi originally envisioned for it, but it did play a role, and there is evidence to suggest that U.S. policymakers wanted it to play a larger one.
Audra J. Wolfe is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, and historian. She is the author of Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Her articles have appeared in both scholarly and more popular venues, including the Washington Post, The Atlantic.com, and Slate.