Although the terms postwar and Cold War evoke presumably divergent experiences, events, and memories, they continue to be used interchangeably. Awareness of this referential tension dates to the 1950s, yet scholars still have neither articulated nor fully explored the meaning of the terms' overlapping semantic scopes. This article interrogates postwar and Cold War as distinct registers of cultural analysis, rather than as vague chronological markers. Photographic adaptation and recoding of the ruin motif—a foundational element of the postwar aesthetic—for Cold War purposes offers especially fertile ground for understanding the terms' multifaceted relationship.

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