History, Growth & Structure of Cities
"Capitalizing on Socialism: The Berlin Wall and American Victory Culture"
After visiting Berlin with a class Freshman year, I was intrigued by the Berlin Wall's artistic presence in the city today, and how the world has collectively decided it would make a beautiful piece of art rather than a solemn memorial. I am also interested in politics, so the wall segments in America proved to be the perfect crossover.
When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, Berliners and foreigners alike seized the opportunity to smash, chop, and haul away the barrier that had symbolized the global division of the Cold War for nearly three decades. Through the deliberate and powerful rhetoric of his conservative supporters, the historic destruction was immediately credited to American President Ronald Reagan, and the wall was promptly redefined as a kind of trophy for the broader American victory in the Cold War. Separated from its formerly unified structure, the wall gradually became a more flexible commemorative icon, allowing each segment’s owner to project their personal interpretation of the Cold War’s conclusion onto their specific piece. Over the course of the next decade, these segments emerged across the country to serve as trophies to a seemingly infinite series of secondary victories. From mass suburban sprawl and individual political success to academic prestige and economic freedom, this thesis outlines the evolution of the acquisition of Berlin Wall segments in the United States throughout the 1990s in an effort to illuminate the shifting interpretations of what it meant to win the Cold War.