Pop-Up Culture: Popular and Mass Culture in Late Soviet Society
January 24th – 25th, 2013, University of St. Gallen
Center for Governance and Culture in Europe, University of St. Gallen
Dr. Carmen Scheide (St. Gallen), Dr. Peter Collmer (Zürich), Dr. Julia Richers (Basel),
Prof. Ulrich Schmid (St. Gallen)
Popular culture is a multifaceted, global phenomenon that is associated
with such attributes as freedom or subversion. It is accessible to broad
sections of the population, and offers lifestyles that can be adopted
or adapted informally and without commitment
and which therefore - at least to some extent – remain beyond the reach
of political control. Popular culture embraces (urban) songs, dances,
light reading (pulp fiction), the entertainment stage (such as cabaret
and musicals), cinema, television, radio, sports,
leisure activities, fashion (such as jeans and trainers, as well as
hairstyles), styles of behavior, gestures, emulative postures (e.g. of
cinema stars), speech patterns, jokes, narrative styles, mass graphics
etc. Thus, popular culture has a much stronger
link with the everyday experiences of ordinary people than is the case
with what might be considered culture in an elitist sense.
The term popular culture can have many different meanings, but it does
imply a certain temporal context: first and foremost, it refers to the
musical and artistic output of American and British society from the
1950s on, which rapidly spread to different regions
of the world through a process of cultural transfer. The term 'Pop-up'
in the title of the conference reflects the rapidity of the changes
brought about by popular and trendy music groups, new concepts of style
and ways of life that sprang up not only in
the West, but also in the so-called "Eastern Bloc”. A global phenomenon
such as "Beatlemania” would not have been possible without the
technology for reproducing both sound and images. Thus, the issue of
popular culture also raises questions of consumer habits,
medialization, entertainment culture and leisure activities.
The organisers of the conference see research into "popular culture” as
offering potential insights into the interdependencies between culture
and society. Popular culture reflects concepts of order, patterns of
interaction and shifts in mass culture through
the media, consumer goods or cultural transfer. From this point of
view, it is possible to analyse processes of negotiation or loyalties
between state and society – as well as cultural practices – that point
to hegemonic concepts, distinction or integration.
Analyses of popular culture in the Soviet Union have hitherto focused
mainly on the early Soviet era or Stalinism, on film and the cinema, on
visual culture and, occasionally, on rock and pop groups as well as on
regional case studies.
By contrast, there remains a need for research focusing on the
comparative analysis of synchronic cultural developments in the late
socialist era; this conference aims to address that need. How did Soviet
society change from the late 1950s on, when the state
at times retreated to a laissez-faire position and so allowed new areas
of cultural activity to emerge? What trends were there, and who set
them? How was taste discussed, and how did fan-based communities come
into being? What was the relationship between
the new cultural dynamics and the discourse of ideology and the
politics of identity? Was Soviet popular culture an expression of
subversion and protest? Did it tend to break down the system, or rather
to exert a stabilising influence? How did popular culture
influence people’s lifestyles and leisure activities? How can processes
of cultural transfer – such as between East and West – be described?
What autonomous developments took place?
The Authors’ Conference will serve as a preparatory meeting for a
subsequent publication on the topic. Accordingly, it will focus mainly
on discussion and feedback regarding the individual contributions, as
well as on conceptual issues. The texts will be circulated
to all participants two weeks before the conference. At the conference
itself, each author will give a short presentation lasting between 5 and
10 minutes to recapitulate his or her central theses; this will provide
input for a subsequent discussion of the
manuscript. Once finalised, the revised texts should then be submitted
by May 30th 2013, with publication planned for 2014.
Length of each final text: 5,000 words.
Submission deadline: 5/30/2013
The organizers invite proposals for papers (500 words maximum), to be
submitted by 25th June 2012. Upon acceptance, each selected participant
will be asked to provide a full-length working paper as the basis for
discussion by 6th January 2013. The conference
will take place in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Accommodation and board
will be provided. Grants to cover travelling expenses will be available.
Proposals should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>.