Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Thy Phu


Residues of the Cold War: Emergent Waste Consciousness in Postwar American Culture and Fiction argues that garbage of the post-World War II period can be read as an index of the Cold War cultural landscape and its structure of feeling. This dissertation treats these remainders as archival materials, documents with a kind of textuality, and suggests that when rendered legible their function as crucial sites of conflicting ideologies and discourses can be recognized. Employing the interdisciplinary methods of ecocriticism and cultural materialism, I read Cold War trash to provide a new account of American Cold War culture and literature by tracing the emergence of household garbage as a significant trope in varying cultural contexts. Considering the material effects of the American Cold War project on American landscapes, I elucidate garbage’s role within Cold War matrices of spatial organization and show how some postwar fiction uses garbage and the discourses of disposal as grounds for a critique of dominant Cold War discourses of gender, consumption, and politics. In analyzing the ways waste is represented in different Cold War spaces in literature—the kitchen, the fallout shelter, public urban and suburban spaces, the sanitary landfill—my project argues that proto-ecological conceptualizations of waste concurrently emerged alongside, and challenged, the dominant discourses of Cold War waste management.