Bodo Mrozek

Youth – Pop – Culture - From Juvenile Delinquency to Pop Culture: A Transnational History

(German title: Jugend – Pop – Kultur)
ca. 700 pages
Bodo Mrozek
Foto: Bodo Mrozek

Bodo Mrozek is a historian at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam – ZZF) and teaches history and popular music studies at various universities in Berlin. He was a visiting scholar Columbia University in New York, Lindsay Boynton Fellow at the University of London (Queen Mary), chercheur invitée at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines as well as scholar at the German Historical Institutes in Washington, D.C., London and Paris. He regularly writes for German national newspapers (Die Zeit, FAZ) and has frequently given interviews for English and French-language media such as Arte, BBC, NPR and CNN.

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Clamorous sounds, unruly behavior, and colorful fashions: the sonic vocabulary used by contemporaries to describe the new youth scene in the mid-20th century mark a cultural dividing point. Aesthetic conflicts culminated in street riots and produced police measures, censorship, and laws. Spectacular court cases against youths led to negative social clichés of male urban youth: the American juvenile delinquent, the British teddy boy, the French blouson noir and the German halbstarke.

Under the pressure of new formats like DJ radio, European radio broadcasters, first and foremost the BBC, hesitantly opened up to new content. New kinds of youth and music magazines influenced pop-specific semantics. Like cinema, these media played an important role in the international expansion of new youth styles: hipsters, existentialists and beatnik, mods, and hippies presented alternatives to national youth ideals. However, images of race, class, and gender were also negotiated controversially in their body images, fashions, hairstyles and language codes.

In his comprehensive pop cultural history, Bodo Mrozek describes a profound transformation that took place in the fifties and sixties, and also influenced adult society: what was still combated as delinquent youth in 1956, was already considered the epitome of urban culture under the seal of pop. This uneven decade could be considered a “saddle period” of pop history.

Containing numerous illustrations, this book is systematically conceived in a transnational way: its material comes from more than five countries including audiovisual media, but most of all, archive sources. The study encompasses Great Britain, France, the US as well as both East and West Germany. In particular, the drastic criminalization of pop culture in Socialist states is reconstructed using the example of the GDR. In addition, nations from the Southern Hemisphere are tied in through digressions. Deeply informed by theory, the gripping book by the historian and bestselling author could become a standard reference: it offers the first decisive transnational history of pop culture and simultaneously impressively depicts the beginnings of globalized cultural industry, as we know it today.


»The far-reaching transnational perspective over five countries (and at times even more) with truly deep-probing archival research – in addition to the tremendous amount of printed sources, 27 archives in six countries were scoured – is spectacular. Overall, Bodo Mrozek has presented an extraordinary scholarly achievement that depicts the emergence of international pop culture in previously unseen breadth, embedded in wide-reaching lines of development, and analyzed with a diverse, up to date theoretical arsenal. From my perspective, we have a milestone work of pop history that demonstrates the great analytical potential of the combination of approaches from sound studies, visual history, body history, and approaches. In addition, the author continuously opens up new perspectives and writes so brilliantly, making reading an invigorating pleasure.« Detlef Siegfried, Historian at Copenhagen University