Conference: Pop Cultures and Ecstatic States of the Body, 1950s-1980s
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
September 30 – October 2, 2021
In September 1967, the British weekly New Society published an article entitled “Pot, pop and acid.” As the title indicates, the author closely related pop music to the use of intoxicating substances: “Everyone knows that almost everyone in pop music smokes pot: has done, and will do.” Also, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, a German music producer and the main organizer of the Internationale Essener Songtage 1968, construed a close relation between pop culture and states of ecstasy. For him, the use of psychedelics, on the one hand, constituted a driving force for the creation and the spread of certain types of music. On the other hand, he attributed to pop music and pop cultural settings (for instance, concerts and festivals) the potential to create ecstatic states of the body.
These are only two examples out of a variety of contemporaries, who related pop culture to ecstatic experiences. Since the rise of pop during the 1950s, the use of substances, ecstatic sexuality, enthusiastic dancing, experiences of mass ecstasies, religious and spiritual trances, and adrenaline kicks caused by sport activities such as surfing have played an important role in pop cultures. Consequently, ecstasies, on the one hand, contributed to the shaping and the development of pop cultures. On the other hand, pop cultures acted as driving forces in the creation and spread of new kinds of ecstasies and new practices of getting ecstatic. Against this backdrop, pop cultures and states of ecstasy have been related to each other reciprocally.
Different actors looked at the linkages between pop and ecstasy from various angles and conceived them in sometimes fundamentally different ways. Some, as Kaiser, enthusiastically celebrated the alleged social and cultural potentials of pop-induced ecstasies. For others, pop cultures and the different kinds of highs constituted a way of pleasurable leisure activities. Yet others conceived pop cultures and their ecstasies as a fundamental threat for the social order and, consequently, tried to control their spread.
It is the aim of the conference to shed light on the historical entanglements between pop cultures and states of ecstasy, focusing on the period from the 1950s until the 1980s.
Possible topics of papers presented at the conference are, amongst others:
– Entangled developments: How have states of ecstasy contributed to the rise and spread of pop cultures? And how have pop cultures created and shaped (new) forms of ecstasy?
– Media representations of pop-related ecstasies: Newspapers, (youth) magazines and television frequently reported on different kinds of ecstasy of pop stars and of consumers of pop cultural products. Furthermore, movies such as The Trip popularized specific notions of ecstatic states of the body. How have different medias constructed the linkages between pop culture and ecstasies? How have the media representations effected social practices between pop cultures and ecstasies?
– Technologies and objects: Amplifier, light shows, electronic sounds or the invention of new ‘drugs’ have played an important role in pop cultures in general and in processes of getting ecstatic in particular. In which way have specific technologies and objects contributed to the creation and experience of ecstasies in pop cultural settings?
– Pop cultural spaces of ecstasy: Socio-material contexts are an important factor in processes of creating and shaping states of ecstasy. Against this backdrop, it is worthy to examine the impact of the spatial arrangements at festivals, concerts and discos on ecstatic states of the body. How did different pop cultural settings create and shape ecstatic experiences?
– Problematization and regulation: Pop cultures in general and states of ecstasy have caused notions of social and cultural crisis. Consequently, people from different social and cultural backgrounds have aimed at regulating and censoring pop cultural products. How have these debates affected the history of pop cultures?
– Gender, race, class, age, sexuality: Categories such as gender, race, class and age have significantly influenced and shaped pop cultures, the experiencing of ecstatic states of the body and their media representations. How did experiences and media representations contribute to the stabilization of the gender, race or class order or undermine them?
The organizers of the conference, Dr. Kristoff Kerl (University of Edinburgh), Prof. Dr. Detlef Siegfried (University of Copenhagen), PD Dr. Olaf Stieglitz (University of Leipzig), and Prof. Dr. Robert Stephens (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) invite interested scholars to send proposals (max. one page) and a short biographical note to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for applications is March 31, 2020.
The workshop will take place at the University of Copenhagen from September 30 until October 2, 2021. The organizers will apply for funding and, thus, will hopefully be able to reimburse the travel costs of the participants and to pay for accommodation.
- Frank Gannon, “Pot, Pop and Acid.” in: New Society, September 21, 1967, [no paging].
- Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, Rock-Zeit. Stars, Geschäft und Geschichte der neuen Pop-Musik. Düsseldorf, Wien 1972, pp. 54-55, 69, 88-89, 109-110, 120-121, 166.
- Florian Schleking, “Psychedelic Fears. Drug Use as an Emotional Practice in West Germany around 1970.” in: Storicamente Jg. 11 (2015), Nr. 24, DOI: 10.12977/stor607.