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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article seeks to understand and speculate on the significance of certain visual features of the communist past after communism. Focusing in particular on East Germany, it considers the interplay of futures remembered and pasts experienced and the relevance of that interaction to our understanding of the GDR. It looks at the enduring appeal of cosmic culture and especially the figure of the cosmonaut as referenced across a range of media. Surveying its representation in both historical and contemporary culture, it traces the evolution of the cosmonaut as symbol, which was originally representative of socialist achievement and progressive humanism, and examines the ways in which it has come to be represented in visual and popular culture at a time when “the pendulums of the public mindset and mentality,” as Zygmunt Bauman has argued, have performed “a U-turn: from investing public hopes of improvement in the uncertain and ever too obviously un-trustworthy future, to re-investing them in the vaguely remembered past, valued for its assumed stability and so trustworthiness.”

Keywords: East Germany, GDR, cosmonaut, cosmic culture, utopia, visual culture, speculative history, propaganda

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