Martha Graham's Cold War: the dance of American diplomacy

Hosted by the Department of International History

Yangtze Lecture Theatre, Centre Building, LSE, United Kingdom


Dr Victoria Phillips

Dr Victoria Phillips

Dr Stacey Prickett

Dr Stacey Prickett


Professor Matthew Jones

Professor Matthew Jones

Co-organised with LSE IDEAS Cold War Studies Project, join us for the book launch of Dr Victoria Phillips's Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy (Oxford University Press), the first book to frame the story of Martha Graham and her particular brand of dance modernism as pro-Western Cold War propaganda used by the United States government to promote American democracy.

Although modern dancer Martha Graham claimed, “I am not political,” she, and her eponymous company, performed at the behest of the State Department on five continents during the administrations of eight U.S. presidents. From a White House performance for the Roosevelts in 1937, to a planned tour under George H.W. Bush to Eastern Europe in November 1989, Dr Phillips connects readers to the depths to which Graham and her company infiltrated the American propaganda machine.

Victoria Phillips is a Lecturer in History at the European Institute and Department of History of Columbia University, Associated Faculty at the Harriman Institute, director of the Cold War Archival Research project (CWAR), and Visiting Fellow at the Cold War Center at Corvinus University, and in 2020, the Department of International History at the London School of Economics. Her articles have appeared in such varied publications as the New York Times, American Communist History, Dance Chronicle, Ballet News, and Dance Research Journal. She has curated several public exhibitions in the United States and Europe. Phillips has lectured at renowned universities, colleges, high schools and international institutes. At present she serves on the boards of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the European Institute at Columbia University. She is on the editorial boards of American Communist History and Dance Chronicle. Her primary research is held at the Library of Congress as the Victoria Phillips Collection.

Dr Stacey Prickett, Reader in Dance at the University of Roehampton in London, teaches contextual studies approaches to dance and society. She convenes the MA Dance Politics and Sociology course and supervises PhDs in a wide range of topics.  AHRC and British Academy/Leverhulme grants have supported research into dance activism and social justice, dance and cultural diplomacy during the Cold War, and pedagogic shifts in South Asian dance training.  Publications include co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, the monograph Embodied Politics: Dance, Protest and Identities, and chapters in Shifting Corporealities: Danger, Im/Mobility, Politics, Dance and Politics, and Dance in the City.  Journal articles have appeared in international publications such as Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle and Dance Research. Stacey is the book reviews editor and sits on the editorial board of Dance Research Journal, and is a member of the Nominations Committee of the Dance Studies Association.  She also chairs the Board of Directors of the Sonia Sabri Company in Birmingham.

Matthew Jones is Professor of International History and Head of Department of International History at LSE.

The Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day. Sponsored by the department's The Americas in World History and Contemporary International History and the Global Cold War research clusters.

The LSE IDEAS Cold War Studies Project focuses on the new history of the Cold War, the global Cold War in Europe and Third World - not just the US and USSR, and the continuing modern day impact of the Cold War.


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