Call for Papers Bremen

Call For Papers:

“This Town Is Gonna Blow…” European Protest Movements and Society in the 1980s
6-8th May 2010, Bremen, Germany

On May 6th 1980, a group of new recruits was publicly sworn in with the German Bundeswehr in the Bremen soccer stadium. As a reaction, street battles of hitherto unknown dimensions between left-wing activists and (military) police took place in the area near the stadium. Since the conflicts surrounding the newly built nuclear power plant of Brokdorf a couple of years earlier, a certain “tradition” of militant mass protest had already existed. Yet with the so-called “Bremen Bundeswehr riots” for the first time protests of a comparable scale took place within a bigger city.

Viewed in the following years as the beginning of the German autonomous movement, this inner city riot marked at the same time a European phenomenon. A week earlier the coronation day of the Dutch Queen Beatrix had seen the squatting of several houses and the building of barricades in the city of Amsterdam; at the end of May the so-called Opernhauskrawalle shook the city of Zurich. The Bremen Bundeswehrkrawalle seem to have been part of a newly forming protest movement which was characterized by militancy and an attitude of non-cooperation, a concern for urban spatial politics, and its interpretation as a youth phenomenon. At the same time an alternative milieu grew in size and scope which successively addressed questions of identity and ways of living, becoming manifest in the slogan of “first person politics.”

Yet at the same time elements of neoliberal ideology entered the political discourse that have to be understood in the wider context of an encompassing conservative turn. Discourses of crisis, risk, and security created ever new forms and targets of governance; phenomena like drugs, religious sects and political radicalism – usually conceived of in terms of endangered youth – demanded an increasing regulation of deviant behaviour.

Thirty years have passed and this is usually the time when historians turn their attention to new fields of study. Taking the events in Bremen and other European cities as its starting point, this conference wants to explore the possibilities of a social, cultural and protest history of the 1980s. Guided by the question whether the year 1980 can be seen as a turning point, possible connections between contemporary conceptions of governance and a new protest culture shall be brought into focus. With a series of interdisciplinary, theoretically grounded, and transnationally oriented presentations we hope to start a broad debate that will contribute to a critical historiography of the 1980s. Apart from historians we explicitly want to encourage scholars of sociology, political science, geography, art history, music, and film studies to apply to this conference.

The conference will be held in English. Please note that the length of each presentation must not exceed 20 minutes to allow for sufficient time for debate.

Possible topics for presentations could be:

  • Changing concepts of governance; ideological transformations and the conservative turn under Thatcher/Reagan/Kohl;
  • Apparatuses (dispositifs) of security and shifting perceptions of deviance; youth and adolescence as categories; heroin consumption as an urban and/or youth phenomenon;
  • Urban planning and resistance; public space; the squatters’ movement; alternative ways of living;
  • Traditional lines of the Left from the 1960s to the 1980s; New Social Movements; between peace movement and militancy; the “autonomous” movement;
  • Migration; inter-/transnational connections of protest movements;
  • Revaluating gender in the autonomous women’s scene; the gay and lesbian movement(s); new gender concepts or return to conservative norms and values?;
  • Paradigm shift: from “counter” to “alternative;” cultural practices and “resistance;” the musical Underground; alternative media: radical video workshops, zines, city magazines.

Please send a short abstract (no more than 500 words) of your intended presentation together with a brief C.V. by 23 October 2009 to each of the organizers:

Jan-Henrik Friedrichs:
Hanno Balz:
Inge Marszolek: