Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll: The Impact of Pop Culture on the Modern Metropolis

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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