Life, earth and the state-as-organism in Cold War West Germany

Authors: Ian Klinke*,
Topics: Political Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: geopolitics, biopolitics, Germany, subterranea
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In an attempt to grapple with the architecture that was designed to protect and take life in nuclear war, this paper examines West German nuclear bunker construction in the 1950s and 60s. Military strategists, engineers, civil defence planners and politicians in the Bonn Republic, I argue, were animated by two crucial geographical ideas. They believed firstly, that the state should function as an organism and secondly, that the dawn of the nuclear age had limited this organism to seeking living space in subterranea. For unlike in the United States, where the need for societal bunkerisation was predominantly framed through the metaphor of the American frontier, the West German state sought refuge in the now tabooed biopolitical language of pre-war Geopolitik. In this way, the paper hopes to offer a reassessment of the history of biopolitics by zooming in on the question of nuclear survival/extermination.

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