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History professor chosen
as fellow of Nobel Institute
(March 30, 1999)
Frank Costigliola, an expert in U.S. foreign relations, is spending the semester as a fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo. The professor of history was one of nine scholars selected from an international competition of more than 300 applicants to research and write on the topic "New Sources and New Approaches for Analyzing the Cold War."
Costigliola is studying how the role of emotions and cultural presumptions led to the breakdown of the World War II alliance and the beginning of the Cold War. "I bring to the discussion a background in theoretical work on gender, emotions and culture, and my expertise as an historian of U.S. foreign relations," he says.
"I am reading the documents that historians have looked at for decades, but I am reading them more closely - for evidence from the language of these documents of how emotions of pride, humiliation, contempt, disgust and fear influenced decisions that were supposedly rational but were really also very emotional," Costigliola says.
"Cultural differences between the Soviets on the one hand and the Americans and the British made it more difficult to ease suspicion and gain trust," he says. "Moreover, each side believed that it deserved more respect and consideration than it was getting from the other side.
Costigliola says gender was also a key factor. "To an important extent, these international rivalries were rivalries between men, who believed that acting 'tough' was important in order to maintain their own and their nation's masculine identities," he says, noting that "leaders used language that coded confrontational policies as masculine and compromise as feminine."
Each year, the Nobel Institute selects scholars interested in a general topic and invites them to do research and writing for a period of two to nine months.
The scholars are given offices and access to the institute's library which, according to Costigliola, has "the best collection in Scandinavia of material on international relations." The researchers meet every day for informal discussion and every two weeks one of the group presents a written paper.