From September 23 to 26, 2014, over 3000 scholars, teachers and students will convene at the University of Göttingen for the 50th Convention of German Historians, the German Historikertag. The event is one of Europe’s largest humanities conferences. “Winners and Losers” is the motto of next year’s anniversary convention. There will be a panel about the history of popular culture. Here is the concept:
(A German version of the following can be found here.)
“The Winner Takes It All”
Narratives of 20th Century Pop History between Exploitation and Emancipation
A truck driver becomes a world star, a punk turns into a celebrated fashion designer, a ghetto kid makes a fortune as a record producer. Pop culture produces many such stories of success. The star is an emblematic figure in the attention economy of the 20th century. Since it lacks the recognition of an institutionalized culture, success stories are needed as a legitimization. Stories about losers serve as moral correction, reporting about drug use, personal declines, and the erosion of entire businesses such as in the music industry. Such narratives display individual and collective beliefs about the right or wrong way of living, and they function as moral economies.
The panel questions popular stories of failure and success as well as established academic narratives. In academic debates, the roles of winners and losers are clearly casted: Youths, for example, appear either as victims of a commercialized culture-industry or they are presented as opponents of a hegemonic culture. In the case studies of the panel, such contradicting approaches will be confronted with each other in order to stimulate a controversial debate.
Thereby pop history is presented as a vast set of different methods and concepts. We do not intend to claim for a new “turn.” Instead, we would like to present a new field of research that not only affiliates with established problems and questions, but also explores new sources and different perspectives. Pop culture, as one of the central action fields of media, economy, and politics of the 20th century, deserves more attention by historians.
1. Prof. Dr. Detlef Siegfried (University of Copenhagen):
“Pop history: Problems and perspectives” (introduction).
2. Dr. Astrid Kusser (Universidade Federal Rio de Janeiro):
“Dance Craze, Dance Circle: Competition in media-dance spectacles around 1900 and around 1980.”
3. Dr. Klaus Nathaus (University of Edinburgh):
“Royal roads or dead ends: Path dependence as an explanation for Anglo-American dominance in (West-)German pop music 1900–1980.”
4. Bodo Mrozek, M.A. (Free University Berlin/Center for Contemporary History, Potsdam):
“Taste communities: Fan-Clubs as avant-gardes (Nineteen-Fifties–Eighties).”
5. Dr. Alexa Geisthövel
(Institute for the History of Medicine, Charité University Medicine Berlin):
“The value of wasted youth: ‘Lived life’ in pop culture’s narratives of the self.”
6. Prof. Dr. Thomas Mergel (Humboldt-University Berlin):