Conference: “Pop Cultures and Ecstatic States of the Body, 1950s-80s”, Copenhagen, 30.9.-2.10.2021

Moshpit, photo: R0uge 2006. wetwebwork from london, U.K, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the 1950s, pop cultures became a phenomenon on a global scale. From the beginning, ecstatic states of the body – caused by the use of substances, by experimenting with different sorts of sexuality, by immersing into music and dancing, by reaching out to religion and spirituality – played an important part in pop cultures. Pop cultures and ecstatic bodies often depended on and referred to each other. States of ecstasy and trance, on the one hand, constituted driving forces in the shaping and the development of pop cultures. On the other hand, pop cultures created and spread new types of ecstasies and new practices of getting ecstatic.

Relying on concepts of ‘doing ecstasy,’ ‘controlling ecstasy,’ and ‘representing ecstasy,’ the conference examines important aspects of the entanglement between pop cultures and ecstatic bodies. Case studies include, e.g., punk music, Hollywood films, and marijuana usage, and they range geographically from Europe and North America to India or Nigeria, together exploring the role of gender, race, age, spaces, travelling, and various other aspects related to the corporeal dimensions of ‘getting high.’

The conference organizers are Dr. Kristoff Kerl (Feodor Lynen Fellow, University of Copenhagen), Prof. Dr. Detlef Siegfried (University of Copenhagen), Prof. Dr. Robert Stephens (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) and Prof. Dr. Olaf Stieglitz (Leipzig University). The conference is funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, the University of Copenhagen und the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

If you are interested in joining the conference, please register by writing an email to

Conference Program

Thursday, 30 September 2021

13:00 Opening of the conference by the organizers

13:30 Panel 1: Framing Ecstasy

Chair: Detlef Siegfried (University of Copenhagen)

  • Kristoff Kerl (Feodor Lynen-Fellow/Universität Kopenhagen): Pop Ecstasies. Reflections on Ecstatic States of the Body in the History of Pop Cultures.
  • Commentary by Bodo Mrozek (Berlin Center for Cold War Studies) and discussion

15:00 Break

15:30 Panel 2: Doing Ecstasy 1: Gender

Chair: Carl-Henrik Bjerstrom (University of Copenhagen)

  • Vojin Sasa Vukadinovic (Freie Universität Berlin): No Future Whatsoever. Punk as Negative Ecstasy at the End of the 1970s.
  • Tom Cubbin (HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design): Swords, Sandals and Houdini. Mass Culture Influences on the Design and Aesthetics of Gay BDSM in the 1970s.
  • Peder Clark (University of Liverpool): Big Fun. Ecstasy, Rave and Gendered Pleasure in Britain, 1988 to 1996.
  • Commentary by Joana-Isabel Duyster Borreda (University of Copenhagen) and discussion

17:30 Break

18:00 First Keynote

Chair: Robert Stephens (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

  • Julia Sneeringer (City University New York): From Bare Bulbs to Liquid Light Shows. Music Club Environments in Hamburg-St. Pauli across the 1960s.

19:00 Discussion

Friday, 1 October 2021

09:00 Panel 3: Doing Ecstasy 2: Spaces

Chair: Kristoff Kerl (University of Copenhagen)

  • Ralph Höger/Sebastian Knoll-Jung (Universität Heidelberg): Ecstatic Violence. Pogo Culture and the Body Turn in Gig Practices from Protopunk to Hardcore.
  • Nikolai Okunew (Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam): Ecstatic Escapism. Heavy Metal Concerts in East Germany.
  • Bob Beach (University at Albany, SUNY): „My whole body’s sent, I feel like a millionaire.“ Ecstasies (and Agonies) of Cannabis Intoxication in Jazz-era Tea Pads, 1930-1950.
  • Commentary by Holger Schulze (University of Copenhagen) and discussion

11:00 Break

11:30 Panel 4: Doing Ecstasy 3: Travel

Chair: Daniel Steinbach (University of Copenhagen)

  • Joshua Hill (University of St. Andrews): Spanish ‚Jippies‘, Marijuana, and the Creation of a Moral Panic under Franco’s National Catholicism.
  • Isabel Richter (University of Berkeley): ‘Drifting into Uncertainty‘. World Music, 1960-1980.
  • Avishek Ray (National Institute of Technology Silchar): The Mobile Body. Ecstasy and the Beats‘ Obsession with India.
  • Commentary by Michael Alexander Langkjaer (University of Copenhagen) and discussion

13:30 Lunch break

15:00 Panel 5: Controlling Ecstasy

Chair: Ana Antic (University of Copenhagen)

  • Lucky Igohosa Ugbudian (Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike): Pop Cultures and Ecstatic States of the Body. The Nigerian Experience.
  • Jake P. Smith (Colorado College): Archeological Ecstasies. Music, Memory, and the Built Environment in the Punk and New Wave Movements.
  • Ondrej Daniel (Charles University): Hooligan Frenzy. Ecstatic Violence and Late State Socialist East European Football.
  • Commentary by Florian Schleking (University of Cologne) and discussion

17:00 Pause

17:30 Second Keynote

Chair: Olaf Stieglitz (University of Leipzig)

  • Juliane Fürst (Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam): Ecstacy as Prayer and Salvation. Soviet Hippies and their Kaif.

18:30 Discussion

Saturday, 2 October 2021

10:00 Panel 6: Representing Ecstasy in the Media

Chair: Tobias Wung-Sung (University of Copenhagen)

  • Karl Siebengartner (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München): Unruly Bodies. Punks, Ecstasy and Pop Culture in Western Germany.
  • Robert P. Stephens (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University): The Ecstasy and the Agony. Hollywood and the Construction of Mental Maps of Addiction.
  • Olaf Stieglitz (Universität Leipzig): A Tunnel at the End of the Light. The New Hollywood, White Masculinity, and the Limits of Ecstasy.

Commentary by Ana Vera (University of Copenhagen) and discussion

12:00 Break

12:30 Closing discussion

Cite this blog post
Kristoff Kerl (2021, July 22). Conference: “Pop Cultures and Ecstatic States of the Body, 1950s-80s”, Copenhagen, 30.9.-2.10.2021. PopHistory. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

Kristoff Kerl

Kristoff Kerl is a Feodor Lynen Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation) at the University of Copenhagen. His current research project deals with politics of ecstasy in western countercultures from the 1960s until the early 1980s.

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