Courage and Dictatorships: Cultures of Dissent, Cultures of Control in the 20th Century
This specialized theme session examines the cultures of dissent and the cultures of control under dictatorships from a global perspective. Concentrating in particular on the regulation of culture (in a broad sense), the session attempts to address the questions as how the authorities sought to frame cultural life in terms of a struggle between the official and non-conform, tolerated, prohibited and supported cultural activities. In so doing, it offers insights into the nature of “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” regimes as projects of cultural transformation. The session will focus on the following questions:
Dictatorships are recognized as controlling cultural activities in the societies they rule. Nonetheless, political dictatorships are also the hotbed of vivid, appealing and creative forms of counter culture, cultural opposition and cultural dissent. Setting aside the “totalitarian paradigm,” and rejecting the notion of a sharp divide between the “state” and “society,” between supporters and agents of the regime on the one hand and victims on the other, we encourage to shed light on the ways in which locals (individuals and groups) acted as historical agents and the extent to which they were able to influence and even reshape state policies and create a dissent culture under authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.
The communist regimes are a pertaining example all over the world: here culture meant much more than socialist realism and dull propaganda art. Cultural opposition and the survival of civic courage in dictatorships are broader, globally relevant social activities, however. Stalinist Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, but also the 20th century southeast European dictatorships as well as their Latin American and Asian counterparts were juxtaposed by a range of subcultural, often clandestine groups who cultivated the heritage of alternative forms of arts, religion or education.
This session proposes to compare the experiences of such countercultural activities in modern dictatorships all over the world. It collects papers that explore the social background and intellectual outlook of countercultural individuals, networks and groups. Speakers are invited to examine who were the typical groups of cultural opposition: what was the role and impact of alternative arts, religion, intellectual dissent, underground popular and youth culture, new social and ecological movements, and folklore or traditionalist groups in challenging and opposing dominant cultural policies in the various dictatorships? What role did the exile play by supporting these cultures? What sort of transnational impact or networks could these movements create?