Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 



This course will provide a selective overview of metropolitan popular culture from the early 20th century until the present, comparing the cities of Berlin, Istanbul and St. Petersburg. Especially in US-influenced Western Europe, popular culture developed towards a true mass culture disseminated by the continuously expanding branches of the mass media. The course deals with many facets that make up contemporary popular culture, but in particular will concentrate on the development of youth culture and lifestyles in relation to popular music such as rock, punk, rap, techno and industrial. The course also touches the development of spectator sports and advertising. The course will examine post-war popular culture in Turkey, the Soviet Union and both parts of Germany, and the situation after German unification. Differences and commonalities between German, Turkish and Russian popular cultures with a special focus on Berlin, Istanbul and St. Petersburg will be discussed. Among other things, the course will explore the specific role of popular music for shaping national identities as well as countercultures.

A variety of subjects and their comparative pop cultural representations will be covered, e.g.:

  • Americanization and Anti-Americanism
  • National identity
  • Coming to terms with Nazism and Stalinism
  • Sex and Gender in pop culture
  • Left and right wing youth cultures
  • Multiculturalism
  • Islamic youth and pop culture

Musical Genres to be covered include:

  • Rock’n’Roll
  • Alternative music
  • Skinhead Rock
  • Punk
  • Rap
  • Techno
  • Industrial

In the course, we will listen to music, watch films and video clips, and visit popular culture events in Berlin. These excursions will be selected according to their accessibility for non-German speakers.

Possible Field Trips (Time and destination to be announced in class)

  • Pop cultural walk
  • Pop cultural workshop (Rap and/ or DJ)
  • Soccer game at the Olympic Stadium or other sports event
  • Pop cultural event and/ or relevant exhibition
  • Guided tour of squat
Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Unexcused absences will negatively affect the grade for participation. Excessive absenteeism will negatively affect the final grade. Field trips are part of class.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will have:

  • Gained knowledge about the concept of popular culture, the main tendencies in European popular culture,
  • Gained knowledge about the differences and similarities between German, French and Russian popular culture in the 20th century.
  • Gained expertise on at least one artist, group, film or comparable single aspect of German, French or Russian popular culture.
Method of presentation: 

Classroom teaching with continuous discussion, video and audio presentations, student assignments, excursions and personal encounters with representatives of German popular culture. Moodle will be used to enhance students' learning experiences.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • A Midterm Exam - 15%
  • Two Papers - 30%
  • Final Exam - 30%
  • Participation In Class Discussion - 25%
Week Topics Audiovisual Materials
Week 1 Session 1

Introduction and Course Organization
Overview of possible topics for term papers, Introduction to the Berlin popcultural scene

Personal Introduction: Please bring a piece of music, a video clip or anything else that gives an impression of your pop cultural taste and preference.  Tell us what you like about it.

Week 1 Session 2 Field Trip  

Week 2 Session 3:

The Roaring Twenties in Berlin, Paris and Bolshevik Russia (St. Petersburg) in comparison with Istanbul


Topics to be discussed: Paris and Berlin: twin sin cities, dancing, revues and cabaret; gender trouble, Weimar: life-affirming sex versus decadence, Soviet youth in the Twenties: flappers and foxtrotters, bourgeois dances in communist Russia

Required Reading:

  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, In 1926.  Living at the Edge of Time.  Cambridge, London 1997, pp.67-73
  • Timothy W. Ryback, The French in Love and War: Popular Culture in the Era of the World Wars, Yale University Press 1997, pp. 68-83
  • Anne E. Gorsuch, Youth in Revolutionary Russia: Enthusiasts, Bohemians, Delinquents, India Univeristy Press 2000, pp. 116-138


  • Berlin in the Twenties, Legendary Sin Cities.  Paris and Berlin Additional films: Cabaret, The three penny opera
Week 2 Session 4:

Youth Culture in Post War Germany: The Impact of American Pop Culture


Topics to be discussed: pop cultural rebellion in Nazi Germany, Conflicts over American popular culture, ambiguities of cultural Americanization, American culture in East and West Germany, German masculinity and female sexuality in the German Cold War, German reactions to Elvis Presley

Required Reading:

  • Ralph Willett, Hot Swing and the Dissolute Life: Youth, Style and Popular Music in Europe 1939-49, in: Popular Music, Vol. 8, No.2 (May 1989), pp. 157-163.
  • Uta G. Poiger, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany, University of California Press 2000, pp. 169-185.
  • Winfried Fluck: The Americanization of German Culture?


  • Die Halbstarken (the would-be toughs), Berlin under the Allies

Week 3 Session 5:

Youth Culture in East Germany

Topics to be discussed: Rock and rebellion in the GDR, youth counterculture and alternative life styles, Punk in the GDR: non-conformism and provocation, Right wing youth cultures: Skinhead Rock, popcultural nostalgia for East Germany

Required Reading:

  • Mark Fenemore, Sex, Thugs and Rock 'N' Roll: Teenage Rebels in Cold-War East Germany, Berghahn Books 2007, pp. 219-230.
  • Michael Boehlke, Henryk Geri in England and Germany, in: Journal of Social History, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 164-171.


  • Punk in the GDR - Too much future? Skinheads

Week 3 Session 6:

Pop Culture in Leningrad and St. Petersburg: From Soviet times to post-Soviet Russia

Topics to be discussed: The St. Petersburg Rock community, irony and provocative performances, counterculture, music and politics: between rebellion and indifference, money and music, the cult of money, Russian encounters with the West, Rock as a vocation: indifference towards success and politics

 Required Reading:

  • Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation, Princeton University Press 2005, pp. 146-155, 198-202, 239-246.
  • Yngvar B. Steinholt, Kitten Heresy: Lost Contexts of Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer, in: Popular Music and Society, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2013), pp. 120-124.
  • David-Emil Wickström & Yngvar B. Steinholt, Visions of the (Holy) Motherland in Contemporary Russian Popular Music: Nostalgia, Patriotism, Religion and Russkii Rok, in: Popular Music and Society, Vol. 32, No. 3 (July 2009), pp. 321-326

Recommended Reading:

  • Thomas Cushman, Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia State University of New York Press, 1995, pp. 56-58 66-70, 92-95, 98-102, 106-107, 109-119, 119-133, 150-152, 157-165,165-169.
  • Clips: Leningrad, "Holy Rus"
Week 4 Session 7: Film Screening: Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul  

Week 4 Session 8:

Turkish Pop Culture


Topics to be discussed: Islamic youth in Turkey, Islamic pop culture: images, sounds and motions mediated by Islamic cultural codes, Islamic identity through pop music

Required Reading:

  • Ayhan Erol, Understanding the Diversity of Islamic Identity in Turkey through Popular Music: The Global/Local Nexus, In: Social Compass, Vol. 58 no. 2 (June 2011), pp. 195-198.
  • Leyla Neyzi,  Object or Subject? The Paradox of "Youth" in Turkey, in: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Aug. 2001), pp. 414-427.
  • Pierre Hecker, Contesting Islamic concepts of  Morality: Heavy Metal in Istanbul. in: Karin van Nieuwkerk (ed.): Muslim Rap, Halal Soaps, and Revolutionary Theater: Artistic Developments in the Muslim World, University of Texas Press 2011, pp. 55-61, 65-70

Recommended Reading:

  • Meral Özbek, Arabesk Culture: A case of modernization and popular identity, in: Sibel Bozdogan, Resat Kasaba (eds.), Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, University of Washington Press 1997, pp. 211-232.

- Tunca Arican, Dance Culture in Turkey: A Case Study in Ankara and Istanbul, in: International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 43, No. 1 (June 2012), pp. 212-224.

Week 5 Session 9:


 Midterm exam  

Week 6 Session 10:

Sex and Gender in Pop Culture


Topics to be discussed: Youth rebellion and popular culture, the life style of counterculture and its musical representation, the sexual revolution: sexuality makes you free, the morality of pleasure, Popcultural representations of sex and gender, Commercialization, liberalization and politicization of sex, playing with gender: machismo and the new (soft) man, the Red Army Faction (RAF)

Required Reading:

  • Dagmar Herzog, Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany, Princeton University Press 2007, pp. 141-148.
  • Catherine C. Fraser, Dierk O. Hofmann: Pop Culture Germany, ABC Clio 2006, pp. 61-64.
  • Maria Stehle, Pop-Feminist Music in Twenty-First Century Germany: Innovations, Provocations, and Failures, in: Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 25, No. 2, pp. 222–239.
  • Martin Stokes, The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music, University Of Chicago Press 2010, pp. 127-145.
  • Ayşe Öncü, Global Consumerism, Sexuality as Public Spectacle, and the Cultural - Remapping of Istanbul in the 1990s, in, Deniz Kandiyoti ,Ayse Saktanber (eds.), Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey, Rutgers University Press 2002, pp. 172-175, 178-184.

Recommended Reading:

  • Barbara Sichtermann, Femininity. Polity Press 1986, pp. 7-16.
  • Robert Merle, Behind the Glass. Simon and Schuster 1970, pp. 25-36.
  • Gulsah Seral Aksakal: Sexual Pleasure as a Woman's human right. Women in Turkey, in: Andrea Cornwall, Susie Jolly, Kate Hawkins (eds.) Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure:  Sex, Gender and Empowerment, Zed Books 2013, pp. 58-76

Week 6 Session 11:

Pop Cultural Workshop Rap and/or DJing  

Week 7: Pop Music Genres

Session 12

Film screening: Berlin Calling  
Week 7 Session 13:

Topics to be discussed: Love Parade in Berlin, the electronic music scene in Berlin, Daft Punk: Creativity and show business, New German Rock: Rammstein, Heavy Metal in Istanbul

Required Reading:

  • Robert G.H. Burns, German symbolism in rock music: national signification in the imagery and songs of Rammstein, in, Popular Music (2008) Volume 27, No.3, pp. 461-467.
  • Corinna Kahnke, Transnationale Teutonen: Rammstein Representing the Berlin Republic, in, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 25, No. 2, pp. 185-191
  • Rammstein: Lyrics and excerpts from interviews.
  • David Looseley, Popular Music in Contemporary France: Authenticity, Politics, Debate, Berg Publishers, 2004, pp. 189-197.

Recommended Readings:

  • Hugh Dauncey & Steve Cannon (editors), Popular Music in France from Chanson to Techno: Culture, Identity, and Society, Ashgate Publishing 2003, pp. 225-242.
  • Thomas Solomon, 'Living Underground Is Tough': Authenticity and Locality in the Hip-Hop Community in Istanbul, Turkey,  in: Popular Music, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan. 2005), pp. 1-20.



  • Einstürzende Neubauten: Listen With Pain, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk

Week 8 Session 14:

Popular Culture and Politics

Topics to be discussed: Pop cultural propaganda, contested national identities: pride and shame, nationalism and multiculturalism, coming to terms with Nazism, pop cultural references to former glory: visions of a spiritually charged Rus, playing with fire: pop cultural representations of Nazism, Islamic themes in Turkish rap

Required Reading:

  • Eliot Borenstein, Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture, Cornell University Press 2007, pp. 61-70, 93-97.
  • Michael T. Putnam, Music as a Weapon: Reactions and Responses to RAF Terrorism in the Music of Ton Steine Scherben and their Successors in Post-9/11 Music, in: Popular Music and Society Vol. 32, No. 5 (December 2009), pp. 595-601.
  • Thomas Solomon, Hardcore Muslims: Islamic Themes in Turkish Rap in Diaspora and in the Homeland, in: Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 38 (2006), pp. 59-73.

Recommended Reading:

  • Vladimir Vysotsky: Hamlet with a Guitar, Progress Publishers Moscow 1990, pp. 14-28.
  • Video clips: Russian propaganda clips, Laibach: Birth of a nation, Moers Bunker, Die Prinzen, right wing clips, punk clips


Week 8 Session 15:

Pop culture in the global age: New media and the Internet

Topics to be discussed: digital dating, facebook and youtube, chat cultures, sex on the internet, computer games, Islamic fantasy serials

Required Reading:

  • Zek Cypress Valkyrie, Cybersexuality in MMORPGs: Virtual Sexual Revolution Untapped, in: Men and Masculinities Vol. 14 No.1, pp. 76-78.
  • Dennis D. Waskul, Justin A. Martin, Now the Orgy Is Over, in: Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 297–318.

Week 9 Session 16:

Jazz Club  

Week 9 Session 17:

Fashion and Advertising

Topics to be discussed: Differences and commonalities in national advertising and fashion cultures, global consumerism

Required Reading:

  • Hilary Pilkington et. al. (eds.), Looking West? Cultural Globalization and Youth Cultures. Pennsylvania UP 2000, pp. 165-174.
  • Study Guide, Killing Us Softly 4. Advertising’s Image of Women.


Recommended Reading:

  • Elif Izberk-Bilgin, Infidel Brands: Unveiling Alternative Meanings of Global Brands at the Nexus of Globalization, Consumer Culture, and Islamism, in: Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 39, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 663-687.


  • Jean Kilbourne, Killing Us Softly (excerpts)


Week 10

Session 18 and 19

Student's presentations


Week 11 Session 20:

Final Exam  


Required readings: 

See Content

Other Resources: 

Recommended films (partly screened in class):

  • Run Lola Run
  • Changing Skin
  • Die Halbstarken – Teenage Wolfpack
  • Christiane F. - We Children from Bahnhof Zoo
  • Three Penny Opera
  • Good Old Daze (Le Péril Jeune)
  • Legendary Sin Cities - Paris and Berlin
  • Ostpunk! too much future
  • Berlin Calling
  • Skinheads
  • Mall Girls (Galerianki)
  • Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul