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Cold War Germany, the Third World, and the Global Humanitarian Regime


  • 38 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 439 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.75 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 361.2/6094309045
  • Dewey version: 23
  • LC Classification: HV555.G3 H66 2015
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Humanitarian assistance, German--Developing countries--History--20th century
    • Medical assistance, German--Developing countries--History--20th century
    • Germany (West)--Relations--Developing countries
    • Developing countries--Relations--Germany (West)
    • Germany (East)--Relations--Developing countries

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9781107095571)

This book examines competition and collaboration among Western powers, the socialist bloc, and the Third World for control over humanitarian aid programs during the Cold War. Young-sun Hong's analysis reevaluates the established parameters of German history. On the one hand, global humanitarian efforts functioned as an arena for a three-way political power struggle. On the other, they gave rise to transnational spaces that allowed for multidimensional social and cultural encounters. Hong paints an unexpected view of the global humanitarian regime: Algerian insurgents flown to East Germany for medical care, barefoot Chinese doctors in Tanzania, and West and East German doctors working together in the Congo. She also provides a rich analysis of the experiences of African trainees and Asian nurses in the two Germanys. This book brings an urgently needed historical perspective to contemporary debates on global governance, which largely concern humanitarianism, global health, south-north relationships, and global migration.

• Broad geographical scope brings the global south back into postwar European and German history • Relates the Cold War, decolonization, and the recasting of Europe to the larger process of postwar globalization • Translates the theory of transnationalism into a concrete historical research project


Introduction; Part I. Race, Security, and Cold War Humanitarianism: 1. Bipolar (dis)order; Part II. The Global Humanitarian Regime at Arms: 2. Through a glass darkly; 3. Mission impossible; 4. Back to the future in Indochina; 5. 'Solidarity is might!'; Part III. Global Health, Development, and Labor Migration: 6. Know your body and build socialism; 7. The time machine 'development'; 8. Far away, so close; 9. Things fall apart; Conclusion.


'Replete with lively prose and compelling protagonists, but also steeled by compendious historical research, this book tells the story of Cold War humanitarianism as refracted through a divided Germany. Hong unwraps the reality of global humanitarianism as ulterior politics rather than universal principle. But she also shows how humanitarian actions may be principled, in unexpected ways, because of politics.' Mark A. Drumbl, Transnational Law Institute, Washington and Lee University, Virginia

'Set very astutely in the larger context of the Cold War between the two superpower blocs, this is the first major study in English on the competition among East and West Germany to help shape 'Third World' societies through humanitarian aid and healthcare policies. Hong's focus on the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, the Congo and Zanzibar provides surprising and genuinely new perspectives on half a century of global conflict. This rich and wide-ranging, yet nuanced study will be of great interest also to researchers in the history of medicine, the UN, and its Specialized Agencies and philanthropy.' V. R. Berghahn, Columbia University, New York

'This is an inspired study of the contest between the socialist and capitalist modernizing projects of East and West Germany carried out in Africa and Asia through humanitarian aid projects deeply flawed by racist assumptions translated into the language of underdevelopment. Young-sun Hong has delved into a rich source base and emerged with a sophisticated cultural and social history of the neocolonial encounter among migrants, health workers, and ordinary people in transnational networks that transcended the framework of the Cold War. The book exemplifies the best kind of new scholarship in transnational history and presents a persuasive challenge to traditional Cold War historiography.' Max Paul Friedman, American University, Washington DC

'This is an important and provocative analysis of the construction and contradictions of the post-World War II global humanitarian order. Each of its original and evocative case studies of East and West German medical and development aid programs in North and South Korea, Indochina, and Africa shows how capitalist and socialist humanitarian discourses and projects both competed with one another and collaborated in reinforcing neocolonial and racist attitudes and inequalities vis a vis the Third World. Competing East and West German training programs for nurses from Korea and Africa were likewise similarly plagued by racism, paternalism, and sexism. Hong's masterful transnational study both expands the spatial and thematic borders of postwar German history and complicates the simple binaries that dominate much Cold War historiography. The Cold War global humanitarian order was shaped by countries, ideologies, and programs from all three worlds. This is a must-read book for those interested in the history of Germany, of development, of the Cold War, and of human rights and humanitarianism.' Mary Nolan, New York University

'Amid the welter of new studies that claim to take a transnational approach to their topic, Young-sun Hong's monograph actually delivers on that promise. Her archivally rich investigation of East and West German humanitarian endeavors in the Third World demonstrates the benefits of an analysis that looks beyond the nation-state, successfully connects the global to the local, and prompts us to reconsider dominant narratives about the Cold War. This is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature about the history of human rights.' Andrew I. Port, Wayne State University

'Well-written and charming, the book is highly enjoyable and an outstanding piece of research. The author skilfully connects disparate episodes and convincingly turns them into chapters of a consistent narrative. The impressive array of archival sources, especially on the German Democratic Republic side, complemented by interviews with some of the protagonists and fascinating photographs makes … Cold War Germany, the Third World, and the Global Humanitarian Regime an invaluable work for understanding the cultural history of development.' Sara Lorenzini, Reviews and Critical Commentary

'… this is an impressive study in terms of its scope, the way that it cuts across global and local hierarchies, and the questions it raises. Hong succeeds in her objective of showing how the two Germanys were present in the global South and vice versa. Her work will appeal to transnational and international historians as well as to those interested in the history of medicine, humanitarian aid, and international labor mobility. Likewise, students of the Cold War and of the history of communism will find much to like in these pages as well. The account of the East German model city of Hamhung, North Korea, in the 1950s and other examples of socialist internationalism are especially interesting. Hong's findings seem likely to stimulate further discussion about how to understand the global history of the two Germanys.' H-Diplo

'The book's most memorable contributions are these explorations of the gap between rhetoric and reality in both East and West and its indelible portraits of the racialized lives lived in that gap.' Quinn Slobodian, German History

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