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Let them come to Berlin: The geopolitical role and significance of President John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin on 26 June 1963



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President John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin on 26 June 1963 has come to be regarded as one of the greatest political spectacles of the twentieth century. During the eight hours which he spent in the city, hundreds of thousands of jubilant spectators flooded onto its streets to catch a glimpse of the US President, and to hear him declare proudly that he, too, was a Berliner. But despite the visit's now iconic status, the geopolitical imperatives which informed Kennedy's decision to appear in Berlin remain less well-known. By travelling to the divided city, members of the Kennedy administration had hoped that he would frame its western sectors as a collective bastion of liberal democracy and Western Allied cooperation, and thereby restore a much-needed sense of unity to an increasingly fractious Euro-Atlantic Alliance. Drawing together materials from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the Landesarchiv Berlin, and other archival institutions, this thesis explores whether and how Kennedy's trip to Berlin – its planning, performance, and portrayal – achieved this geopolitical objective. More specifically, it appeals to recent theoretical discussions concerning the more-than-representational nature of geopolitical discourse in order to reveal the words, bodies, practices, and affects which came together during this event to (re)define Berlin's position within the wider landscape of the Cold War. In so doing, the thesis provides new insight into the role and significance of US presidential visits as mediums through which geopolitical subjectivities are enacted, challenged, and reworked.





Jeffrey, Alex


Geopolitics, Berlin, John F. Kennedy, Cold War


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Trinity Hall Nightingale Research Studentship, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies Library Research Grant (Type B), Freie Universität Berlin