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Juliane Brauer

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Clashes of Emotions: Punk Music, Youth Subculture, and Authority in the GDR (1978-1983)

This article aims to show that the conflicts that took place in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) between youth culture and state and society were resulted in part from clashing emotional styles. As such, it draws upon methodological insights taken from the newly emerging field of the history of emotions. It considers the specific educational policies propounded in the GDR in the postwar years, which have been described as constituting nothing less than an “educational dictatorship” based on the deeply held conviction that it was possible for the state to shape the hearts and minds of young people. In particular, it examines the various ways in which beliefs about the emotional impact of music were used to “train” the emotions of young citizens for service to the communist state. Against this background, it then considers the reaction of state agencies to the development of the Punk scene in the GDR in the 1970s and 80s. In particular, the emergence of Punk music, and its construction as a rebellious and “Western” cultural form, posed one of the greatest challenges for the East German state. The article traces the development of government fears over the Punk scene and its potential to disrupt their perceived control over youth culture. It argues that the increasingly brutal repression of Punk groups that became visible during the late 1970s and early 1980s was primarily driven by a fear that “Western” notions of youth culture and behavior were successfully penetrating into East Germany. It also examines the reactions of young East Germans to this state crackdown and the associated criminalization of their activities.

history of emotions, Punks, German Democratic Republic, GDR, youth culture, educational dictatorship, musical education, emotional styles

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 38, No. 4 (2011): 53-70

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