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Das Collegium Carolinum lädt herzlich zu einer Vortragsveranstaltung ein:


Donnerstag, 13. Februar 2014, 17 Uhr c. t.

Seminarraum des Collegium Carolinum (Hochstr. 8, 2. OG, München)

Cathleen M. Giustino

(Auburn University)

  Simply Child’s Play? Toy Design and Creative Possibilities in Socialist Czechoslovakia

This paper explores the history of toy design in socialist Czechoslovakia with special attention to possibilities for creativity and imagination embedded in children’s playthings. During the early 1950s toys featured in the design journal, Tvar, reflected concern with the practical skills and collective spirit deemed necessary for building a workers’ state. A loosening of these Stalinist-era expectations started to occur in the latter half of the 1950s and the early 1960s when Tvar toy designs showed more encouragement of individualistic imaginative roaming in whimsical worlds. This shift took place while an equally important continuity persisted. Throughout the first decades of Communist Party rule folk traditions continued to influence Czechoslovak toy design, just as they had influenced toy designers belonging to the country’s avant-garde during the 1920s. Czechoslovak folk toys had simplified, abstracted features which invited creativity that was important not simply for children’s imaginations, but also for artists seeking some autonomy from the constraints of socialist realism. The study of toy design in Czechoslovakia after World War II raises important questions about the ability of the state to colonize and control its citizens’ lives, including the recesses of their minds. This paper focuses on artistic toy design, but also provides some details about mass-produced toys and children’s books. Most of it treats the period before 1968, although questions regarding normalization will be considered.


Cathleen M. Giustino (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1997) is the Mills Carter Professor of History at Auburn University. Her specialization is the history of the politics of architecture, design, and display in modern Central and Eastern Europe. She is author of "Tearing Down Prague’s Jewish Town: Ghetto Clearance and the Legacy of Middle-Class Ethnic Politics around 1900" (2003). Her new book, co-edited with Catherine Plum and Alexander Vari, is "Socialist Escapes: Breaking Away from Ideology and Everyday Life in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989" (2013). Her journal articles include “Rodin in Prague: Modern Art, Cultural Diplomacy and National Display” in Slavic Review (2010), and “Industrial Design and the Czechoslovak Pavilion at EXPO ‘58: Artistic Autonomy, Party Control, and Cold War Common Ground” in Journal of Contemporary History (2012). She is writing a book-length study of confiscated cultural property, including castles, chateaux, art, and antiques, in postwar Czechoslovakia. Her work will deepen our appreciation of how heritage and value are determined, and advance our understanding of property and revolution. She has held research awards from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the American Council of Learned Societies, the International Research Exchange Board, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the American Philosophical Society and, most recently, the TEMA Erasmus Mundus European Master’s Programme.



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