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Cigarette cultures and political cultures - towards a history of product language in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The cigarette is one of the most complex products of the last century. Its characteristics - i.e. taste, smell, and appearance -, its symbolism, usages and ways of consumption have always - and not least - had a political dimension. The cigarette can thus be understood as a material seismograph for social and political developments. It has played this role since long before it became problematized and largely ostracized.

This is the main proposition of the "PolitCIGs" research network supervised by Prof. Dr. Rainer Gries. The network brings together scholars from different disciplines who are based at Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena (FSU), Museum der Arbeit, Hamburg and Sigmund Freud PrivateUniversity (SFU), Vienna. Their collaboration started October 1, 2013 and is supported by the Federal Ministry of Edcuation and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) for the next three years, as a part of the funding initiative "The Language of Objects - Material Culture in the Context of Societal Developments" ("Die Sprache der Objekte: Materielle Kultur im Kontext gesellschaftlicher Entwicklungen").

Using the cigarette as an example, "PolitCIGs" carries out pioneering research about the connections between cigarette/smoking cultures and political cultures in Germany and Austria during the 20th and 21st centuries. The team will examine the degree to which political cultures were supported or challenged - directly or indirectly - when individuals, social groups, milieus, generations or societies communicated about and via cigarettes. What kind of "politics" were hidden behind the innocent appearence of the white paper-clad cigarette? Which political implications - obvious or hidden - can be found in tobacco blends, packages, advertisements and in the consumption of cigarettes?

In their first publication "PolitCIGs" researchers will focus on the political cultural history of cigarette smoking between World War I and World War II. In the following years, they will move on to the period from 1945 until today.