“Against the elites”

The cultural politics of anti-elitism in the current conjuncture

University of Göttingen, Tagungszentrum an der Sternwarte, Geismar Landstr. 11b, D-37083 Göttingen

Anti-elitist affects, practices and projects colour the contemporary political conjuncture as much as they shape pop cultural and media trends in many countries. Populists – right-wing authoritarian ones and others – direct their anger at specific representations of cultural, political and sometimes economic elites while supporting other elites and creating new ones. At the same time, “elitist” knowledge and expertise, decision making power and taste and recognition regimes are being put into question in societal transformations that are often discussed much more positively as forces of participation and democratization. What are the implications, the tendencies and the limits of anti-elitist formations in contemporary culture and politics in different parts of the world? What connections and resonances are there between anti-elitist themes in different fields or spheres, such as politics and popular culture? How are they diverging and coming into conflict? And who can make use of them to what effect? The conference brings together an interdisciplinary group in order to better understand how the battle cry “against the elites” shapes the current conjuncture.

OCT. 26 friday

Moritz Ege (Göttingen)
Welcome note and introduction

John Clarke
(Milton Keynes/Budapest)
Which elite is this? Populist paradox and critical ambivalence in the current conjuncture

Session I
Populism in practice (I)
(Moderator: Carna Brkovic)

Alexandra Schwell
Invoking urgency: Emotional politics and anti-elitism

Alexander Gallas (Kassel)
Production, the body and expertise: A Poulantzasian critique of the social division of labour

Paolo Gerbaudo (London)
Populism and the rhetoric of control

13:15–14:30 Lunch break

Session II
Politics of anti-elitism in art and popular culture
(Moderator: Johannes Springer)

Özgür Yaren/Cenk Saracoğlu (Ankara)
The rise of Halal Art: ‘Anti-elitist’ and Islamic claiming of the Turkish arts fields

Sebastian Dümling (Basel)
The heroic deed, the false word and the Utopia of clearness. Old-/new-right’s discourse of elitism in Germany and its pop-cultural links

Atlanta Ina Beyer (Oldenburg)
Utopias and aesthetics of provocation: Anti-elitist themes and class/identity politicsin queer punk cultural production

16:30–17:00 Coffee break

Session III
Populism in practice (II)
(Moderator: Manuel Liebig)

Jens Wietschorke (Munich)
Rethinking populism: intellectual anti-elitism and the imagination of the people

Breda Luthar (Ljubljana)
Political power of the private: Celebrity discourse and deserving elites

18:30 Reception

OCT. 27 Saturday

Rebecca Bramall (London)
Elites, anti-elites and the politics of taxation

10:15–10:30 Coffee break

Session IV
Gender and sexuality politics of anti-elitist populism
(Moderator: Katherine Braun)

Patrick Wielowiejski (Berlin)
Anti-liberal antagonisms: Why the far right embraces gays and fights ‘genderism’

Sanam Roohi (Göttingen)
Anti-elite rhetoric and the rise of Hindutva in India: a feminist analysis

12:00–13:15 Lunch break

Session V
Rage against the elites and violence: ethnographic perspectives
(Moderator: Ove Sutter)

Olga Reznikova (Göttingen)
“Social rage” against the oligarchs – justice, Jews and dreams of civilization in current Russia

Stefan Wellgraf (Frankfurt a.d. Oder)
East-Berlin Pride: (Football) popular elitism and anti-elitism

14:45–15:15 Coffee break

Session VI
Challenging new hierarchies in popular culture
(Moderator: Alexander Gallas)

Arthur Lizie (Bridgewater)
Slow Food and the anti-elitist good food backlash

Moritz Ege/Johannes Springer (Göttingen)
Against hipsters, left and right



John Clarke

In this presentation, I will explore contemporary anti-elitism as both a formation full of political paradox and a source of critical ambivalence. I begin from the paradox of elites performing as ‘ordinary people’ against elites (as in the UK) in ways that trouble established critical conceptions of elites (see, for example, C Wright Mills on the Power Elite or Janine Wedel on the Shadow Elite). This shape-shifting character of the ‘elite’ poses problems about how to analytically and politically identify concentrations of power in the present.
I will move from this starting point into questions of contemporary populist structures of feeling - particularly those of anger and loss. There are continuing debates about how to make sense of reactionary political mobilisations (for example, in the UK, USA, Hungary and more) that work with and on such sentiments. I will suggest that such debates tend to a false polarisation (outraged ordinary decent people or racist and misogynist villains) when such forms of populism demand an attention to the politics of articulation.
Attention to articulation brings into view the selective voicing (and silencing) of forms of popular discontent. It highlights the mobile and diverse mixing of multiple ‘isms’ (nationalism, racism, chauvinism, nativism, etc). It makes visible the contingent character of political blocs in the current conjuncture. And it makes it possible to imagine other voicings and mobilisations. For me, this concern with articulation, political contingency and the heterogeneity of social forces form the core concerns – and promise – of conjunctural analysis.

Alexandra Schwell

Since the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015 and the increasing influx of refugees to Europe, notions of urgency and emergency have been appearing in the vocabulary of Austrian and German populist politics and media, informing not only political debates but also legislations. These discourses create the impression that the influx of refugees is equivalent with a loss of sovereignty over the national territory and the state. In effect, it is argued, the state cannot fulfill its security promise; it is not sovereign anymore, unless extraordinary measures will be employed. Following Agamben (and Schmitt), sovereignty relates to the power to decide the instauration of state of exception and to act outside of the law; only the sovereign can “speak” exception.
While the “state of exception” as a political strategy has been subject to much research and discussion, the role of emotions has been largely overlooked and undertheorized. The paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of anti-elitist populism by linking the invocation of urgency and the “state of exception” to the study of emotions. It argues that invoking and declaring “urgency” to prevent or end the “state of exception” is a performative practice that makes a lasting impression on social actors, with far-reaching effects for democratic political culture. While the state of exception describes a crisis in the present, the notion of urgency holds projections of an apocalyptic future. It is a practice in the securitization of refugees and migrants that legitimizes extreme measures entailing the suspension of legal rights and basic freedoms while claiming to restore safety and security in the future with reference to an imagined past. Yet, urgency is not only a temporal notion; it functions as a “controlling process” (Nader) that also informs emotional practices. As such, it is an important part of affective populist politics that presents democratic politics and elected politicians as distant and detached from “the people”, unwilling, and incapable of dealing with crises and threat scenarios. Thereby, trust in democratic conceptions of the state and the society is undermined in favor of anti-elitist populism which positions itself as the “true” sovereign.

Alexander Gallas

Right-wing populists in countries like the Britain, Germany, and the US are mobilising around a critique of ‘experts’ and ‘expertise’. Their opponents often respond to this critique by defending the importance of facts, science, and experts. This was visible, for example, in the ‘Marches for Science’. I argue, with reference to Nicos Poulantzas, that the division of the population into ‘experts’ and ‘lay people’ is grounded in the social division of labour in capitalism; that it is codified by the capitalist state; and that it is reflected in two distinct embodiments of knowledge – the body of the expert and the body of the layperson. Against this backdrop, I contend that expertise is a medium in the reproduction of class domination. It follows that the left, if it wants to counter the advance of the right-wing populism, has to develop forms of counter-expertise instead of defending expertise in its existing form.

Paolo Gerbaudo

To understand current populist politics we need to start from the rhetoric of control that we have seen in a number of recent populist mobilisations, and in particular in the Brexit Leave campaign whose slogan was famously „take back control“. What is shared across left-wing and right-wing populism is the perception of being in a world out of wack in which people are not able anymore to exercise collective direction over a number of important issues affecting them collectively. This perception, counter to what is argued by the liberal elite, is not an illusion produced by the spread of fake news. Rather, it is the reflection of a situation in which the state has been deprived of some of the most important levers that allowed it to implement the will of the electorate. Amidst a chaotic globalisations marked by uncontrollable flows and a disorganised and destructive capitalism it is understandable that people are looking for some form of regaining control over their collective destiny. However, this control does not entail a „purification“ of the people, a reassertion of the coherence of the people‘s subjectivity. Rather it calls for a strenghtening of democracy, a recuperation of people‘s power, and of state power to fight back against the intrusion of financial powers that are humiliating democracy and the will of the citizenry. Namely, a politics of control, does not necessarily designate a xenophobic insularism, but can serve to construct an egalitarian and inclusive politics, adapted to current historical conditions and to the need to mend a failing globalisation and give more rootedness and stability to local communities.

Özgür Yaren / Cenk Saracoglu

The political field in Turkey has witnessed a dramatic fragmentation in the last decades, especially due to the rise of the political (populist) Islam and an accompanying discourse on the empowerment of the ‘periphery’ against the secular Western center. Changes in the political sphere have had repercussions on the field of culture and arts; Islamist thinkers and opinion leaders strongly argued that the established art forms have been under the control of an elitist (urban, secular) segment that excluded conservatives from the art field until so far. This discourse of marginalization continued even after the conservative fractions have achieved significant economic, political, cultural upward mobility and Justice and Development Party –a self-claimed conservative political movement- consolidated its power to the extent of worrying its opponents for its totalitarian tendencies. During the last consecutive sixteen years in power, the Justice and Development Party has embraced cultural policies to alter the cultural panorama, as it has been understood by Islamic/Conservative segments. First years of conservatives in power has been shaped by liberal cultural policies aiming to withdraw state (and its support) from the realm of culture and art. Nevertheless, as they consolidated their power, cultural policies made a u-turn towards an interventionist cultural policy, pro-actively aiming to create a conservative art field. Same period has also witnessed an increase in the visibility of religion as a determining component in social life. The social rise of religion is accompanied by the emergence and formation of a conservative audience, embracing conservatism as a founding component of their identity. Both the interventionist cultural policies and the rooting and the diversification of Islamic/Conservative cultural capital in civil sphere led the debate on the reactionary conservative claim in art field. In this study, we use Bourdieu’s notion of social field to assess the dynamics within and beyond the field of arts in Turkey and ask: How does ‘conservative/Islamic’ art is defined by the artists themselves? What are its elements, can we identify any reactionary component? Are there any hierarchies within this genre? What is the role played by cultural intermediaries (cultural journalists, reviewers, art experts) and cultural policy makers, on the emergence and maintenance of this Islamic ‘anti-elitist’ claim on the legitimate culture? In order to address these questions, we will use publicly available interviews held with the self-claimed conservative artists and cultural intermediaries. We will also review cultural policy documents to explore how this populist and anti-elitist discourse has shaped the structure of the cultural fields –by influencing funding schemes, festival structures, policy targets etc. Our review will contribute to the literature by demonstrating the links between field of politics and arts, in a context where elitism and populism has been the strongest discursive weapon in the struggles over political legitimacy.

Sebastian Dümling

Right wing observations of the elite often distinguish between the valuable deed and the worthless talking: Whereas the legitimate elite establishes on authentic, veritable, and heroic deeds, the illegitimate elite consists of unauthentic, dishonest, and false words. By exploring this pattern, I will show right-wing-imaginations of (post-) modern society and the utopian otherworlds these discourses subtend to (post-) modernity. Therefore, I come from the assumption that this binary construction gains semantic and narrative material belonging to the broad field of popular culture – and it is that very link that makes right wing discourses successful: It articulates a cross-discoursive discontent with (post-) modernity. Furthermore, I show that this binary construction gains semantic and narrative force because it draws on pop-culture narrative forms and semantics. I further argue that this relation is key to the success of such right-wing discourses – because they articulate a discursive disquiet about contemporary culture.

Atlanta Ina Beyer

In recent debates about the social, political and cultural reasons for the rise of rightwing-populism, the image of a supposedly ‚cosmopolitan elite‘ is employed to describe a ‚political caste‘ that has lost touch with the lower classes. According to this argument, too much focus has been put on minority and gender politics. Even within leftist debate, divisions between class and identity (here often equated with middle class) politics are common. The currently much discussed crisis of political representation of the working classes is also a problem of their cultural representation. Lacking the resources for aesthetic representation, i.e., being unable to produce one’s own image, is often connected to exclusion from political representation (Shohat 1995). I combine queer (aesthetic) theory and cultural studies to trouble the powerful distinctions made between the (often precarious) lives of queer people, class and identity politics.
In my lecture, I will discuss different functions of anti-elite themes in articulations of class/identity politics within queer punk cultural productions. To do so, I focus on two works in particular: songs by US punk band Tribe 8 and the Swedish film Folkbildningsterror (2014). Tribe 8 formed in the early 1990s as part of new queer and third wave feminist movements. The latter emerged in reaction to the continous culture war-politics of the New (neoliberal) US-Right, Aids, but also to liberal feminist and gay rights movements. Folkbildningsterror was created as an intervention into the right wing conservative neoliberalism in Sweden. Both productions relate to elitism in crucially different ways: By employing an aesthetics of provocation, Tribe 8 attack an intellectualised middle class elite within (lesbian) feminist discourse to articulate queerfeminist class politics. With its focus on precarious queer and trans lives, Folkbildningsterror drafts complex images of class(identities) and the future prospects of ‚common people‘. Against the dismantling of the Swedish welfare state, the characters form unexpected alliances to create a new welfare society. Thus, the fiction of a necessary middle class, anti-worker focus of identity politics is undermined. The queer utopia drafted in Folkbildningsterror counters the logics of current right- and partly left-wing populist rhetoric.

Jens Wietschorke

In the field of social and political science, Populism is a topical issue. Despite some very important research by historians and cultural scientists – think of Stuart Hall and others –, there are relatively few systematic analyses on populism from the distinctive perspective of culture and Cultural Studies. In my paper, I propose a historically informed reading of popu-lism that combines approaches of intellectual history and relational cultural analysis. It deals with the meaning of anti-elitism in current theories of populism as well as in historical examples of populist discourse.
Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser defined populism as a „thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic camps, the ‚pure people‘ versus the ‚corrupt elite‘, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people“. This formal definition is in-structive and points out the elementary role of anti-elitism in populist discourse. But which „people“ and which „elite“ are addressed here? And what about the social and imaginary po-sitioning of populists themselves? The paper is following this issue with focus on the under-estimated role of intellectuals in the history of populism. Although there is a strong tradition of anti-intellectual populism that relates academics sweepingly to the elites, there is also an intellectual populism that aims at an anti-elitist alliance between intellectuals and the folk. My paper will show that this intellectual populism tries to establish a distinct position bet-ween „the people“ and „the elites“ to make the „profit of generalisation“, as Bourdieu put it in his analysis of acedemic elites in France. And it will show that this technique of self-legitima-tion via the „people“ is – as well as the criticism of the „establishment“ – a key component of intellectual renewal movements throughout history.

Breda Luthar

In the popular journalistic discourse the elites are overwhelmingly represented as controversial, corrupt and unjustified in occupying a high position in society, and therefore, the anti-elite discourse and celebrity discourse seem contradictory. Yet, I would like to argue that both discourses contribute to the growing normalization and individualization of inequality and, at the same time, to the populist egalitarian invocation of „the people“ that involves the displacement of question of class at the expense of the national mobilization of „proto-national“ sentiments, radical egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism.
The central concern of this contribution will be the role of celebrity discourse, and the discursive processes of celebrification in the populist mystification of class distinctions. By focusing on the analysis of representation of Melania Trump („a slovene bride“ as she is often lovingly called in local popular media), I will try to explain how representation of femininity in celebrity narratives, which are in themselves narratives about social distinctions and class, necessarily involves “doing” nation. The discourses on nationality, class and gender intersect in stories on Melania Trump, a celebrity, that is at the same time local and ours and global and foreign. Through the humanization of local celebrities (as deserving elites) popular media establish cultural myth of social egalitarianism and culturally constructing the mythological “community of sameness” by displacing the question of class as a key stratifying principle.

Rebecca Bramall

In the ten years since the global financial crisis, tax issues have gained considerable political salience. Stories exposing the avoidance of tax by celebrities, politicians, business leaders and ‘high net worth’ individuals regularly circulate in the press and social media, and opinion polls indicate that the topic is of significant public interest.
Public discourse about taxation can thus be understood as a terrain on which elites have been imagined and defined in the post-crisis conjuncture. The issue of tax avoidance brings elites into focus, enabling ‘ordinary people’ to recognize and judge their lifestyles and privileges. Where tax avoidance was once an uncontroversial feature of celebrity remuneration, it is now widely regarded as a practice that negatively defines elite individuals.
From a theoretical perspective, rising public concern about the issue of tax avoidance can thus be seen as contributing to the establishment of an antagonistic frontier that opposes ‘the people’ and the ‘elite’, the virtuous and the corrupt. This opportunity to define political adversaries has been pursued by left populist movements such as Podemos – who have posited a new type of patriotism that contrasts with the tax-avoiding practices of ‘la casta’ – and UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.
Historically, tax has more often been successfully articulated to right-wing populisms – particularly in Denmark and Norway – in which anti-tax sentiment has served as an important element through which appeals to the ‘common people’ and demands for direct democracy have been communicated. In the current moment, many commentators agree that the political salience of tax and its avoidance can be attributed to the impacts of austerity combined with rising discontent about neoliberal globalization. While left populisms have asserted a claim on the issue of tax avoidance, the politics of taxation in the post-crisis conjuncture remains unsettled and open to further interventions.
This paper offers a deeper discussion of these developments. It reflects on the limits of a left populism based on tax as an antagonistic frontier, and considers the implications of bringing elite tax arrangements into visibility. Finally, it considers how a radical left politics might imagine and define taxation, ordinary ‘taxpayers’, and their adversaries – tax avoiding elites.

Patrick Wielowiejski

Antiliberal far-right parties and movements in Western Europe are often perceived as homophobic, an accusation that they themselves refute. Whenever they try to appear as gay-friendly, they are criticised for “instrumentalisation” or for being “strategic.” At first sight, this criticism might seem legitimate, given that traditional antiliberal nationalists have condemned homosexuals as representatives of “decadence” and “perversion” for a long time. But in neo-nationalism (Banks and Gingrich 2006), gay men and lesbian women might very well be embraced as a part of far-right national imaginaries, as long as they adhere to certain nationalist and conservative values. In this paper, I will argue that the position homosexuals were assigned in traditional antiliberal nationalism has been taken over by a new enemy, namely, “gender ideology.” The result is a gay-friendly “anti-genderism” (Hark and Villa 2015), that I will analyse as a form of right-wing populist anti-elitism.
The term “gender” occupies a central position in contemporary antiliberal discourse (Grzebalska et al. 2017). It is used as an umbrella term for different equality measures such as gender mainstreaming or sexual education, but also gender studies and “political correctness.” At the same time, emancipatory concepts such as queer or trans* are rejected: In the eyes of the far right, “gender” and queerness embody a “liberal globalism” that is imagined to be an elitist project aimed at stripping people of their identities and differences. Importantly, this connection made by the far right constructs equality and queer politics as accomplices of (neo)liberal elites and enemies of the nation. Thereby, my paper also aims at clarifying the character of neo-nationalism as a regressive response to the crisis of liberal democracy in what might be called a populist conjuncture.
My paper will be based on data from two years of ethnographic research in the right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and texts by antiliberal German authors. Using an approach that I call an “ethnographic cultural analysis of a political discourse,” my research makes visible the ways in which anti-elitism functions as a strategic element in a discourse that is produced and circulated by concrete actors in concrete locations. Specifically, I am going to explicate how far-right actors construct themselves as gay-friendly in opposition to “liberal elites”: Firstly, they differentiate between tolerable “common sense” homosexuality on the one hand and intolerable elitist “gender ideology” on the other. Secondly, they accuse liberal elites of putting European gays and lesbians at risk by allowing Muslims to immigrate. This kind of rhetoric can also be described as a “homonationalism” (Puar 2007) in which the question of “tolerance” marks the distinction between the European Self and the Muslim Other.

Sanam Roohi

Elites, a numerically tiny group having economically disproportionate access to, and control of resources, have increasingly become a target of populist politics. In Western locations, right-wing politics is fed by socio-economic inequalities, while closely connected with gendered discourses of immigration, ‘white power’, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. Much like in the West, right wing politics, and political articulation in India has also targeted entrenched power elites. Like its western counterparts, elite politics in India is equated with endemic corruption, which is challenged by right wing parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The recent electoral successes of BJP - a party adhering to Hindutva ideology, and affiliated to extremist right wing groups – have in no small measure been projected as the victory of ordinary common Indian, as illustrated by its leader’s rise from a road side tea-maker to the post of prime minister. Discursive framings of the Hindutva ideology is captured in phrases like ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (development for all, with all), and has an avowed anti-elite rhetoric which postulates its political rival the Congress Party as a party run by western educated, English speaking elites. But where anti elite politics between India and the West diverge is the way in which it has attempted to build its political constituency making its relation to (anti) elitism much more complex, thereby offering an extremely relevant yet contrasting global comparison. Like other forms of extremist nationalism, the Hindutva ideology builds upon the politics of exclusion, often with violent consequences for Muslims, women, and Dalits and backward castes, which together make up the bulk of Indian population. While it relies on populist speeches and appeals addressed to the economically disadvantaged, it creates and sustains an economically affluent constituency for itself, drawn from the upper caste, middle classes – a constituency that can be considered as the emerging elites. In this article, we examine BJP’s anti-elite discourse, and contextualise it against its practices that builds differentiated citizenship for a small minority to understand why and how such contradiction is important to sustain Hindutva politics.

Olga Reznikova

Liberal and left-wing intellectuals in Russia increasingly hope to win the fight against the „Putin-System“ with new social protests and the „social rage“ of the people. This rage is currently targeted especially at oligarchs and corruption. My talk focuses on the tension between the potential of this new movement to make social inequalities visible on the one hand and the inherent antisemitic approaches on the other. Furthermore, I discuss methodological questions concerning ethnological research on antisemitism in workers‘ movements and social protests.

Stefan Wellgraf

In my paper, I focus on the close connections between popular elitism and current anti-elit-ism. Based on ethnographic research with (mainly older) East-Berlin Hooligans, I argue, that common versions of right-wing anti-elitism do not question the principle of social hierarchi-zation, but rather aim towards another, possibly even more authoritarian kind of leadership.
Anti-elitism is widespread among East-Berlin (Ex-)Hooligans of the BFC Dynamo. The two main target groups of anti-elitist sentiments are politicians (including the state & party-system they represent) and journalists (standing for a public sphere dominated by West-Germans). In recent years, some shifts in political articulation have been occurred on the football-terraces. While open political remarks had been banished by mutual agreement among the major fan-groups for different reasons, the so called “refugee-crisis” convinced major players in the scene to rethink this internal rule, but without abolishing it altogether. While, for example, “Merkel muss weg”-chants became accepted, extreme right-wing slogans (like “Sieg Heil”) are still policed internally. With regard to the public sphere, changes have occurred as well, as many old Hooligans became recently involved in social media, not only posting themselves but also actively engaging in online discussion groups of Berlin media outlets like “Zitty” or “Tagesspiegel”.
The open display of anti-elitism strangely builds on popular forms of elitism. The broader fanbase largely ascribes to a hierarchical view of the social. The club’s official pride still rests on being the East-German record champion and on being connected to the socialist state elites. Being the offspring of former winners and leaders, still produces a sense of special enti-tlement. In other cases, simply being from (East-)Berlin is seen as a mark of extreme superior-ity. Parallel to these sources of pride run streams of self-assertion connected to the club’s for-mer subcultural status of having the most notorious hooligans in the region (a status by now lost to the rival clubs of Dresden and Magdeburg). Most Dynamo hooligans have retired from active fighting, but still pride themselves for being former elite hooligans. In addition, their groups are often strongly and hierarchical organized (having presidents and military names like “Kolonne Berlin“ or “Kompanie Berlin”).
In my presentation, I will not only sketch the underlying elitism of current forms of anti-elit-ism, but also ask how this liaison is changing its face with the rise of right-wing populism, which made some forms of anti-elitism more widespread among football fans, but also in part more acceptable and institutionalized.

Arthur Lizie

Slow Food International is a trademarked name of the non-governmental organization dedicated to the cultivation and promotion of good, clean, and fair food production, distribution, and consumption. The organization‘s work to provide systemic support for good, clean, and fair food is operationalized in a number of ways, including the defense of food biodiversity, the development of global and local food networks, food and taste education projects, and connecting producers and consumers.
Slow Food is significant because it is the first global organization dedicated to food not just as a means of security and subsistence (such as United Nations relief organizations), but also as a means of enjoyment – the good life. Although the scope of the group‘s outreach has expanded considerably since its foundation, at the core of the group‘s philosophy is an emphasis on taste and pleasure. This focus on pleasure, which calls to mind images of gluttony and decadence, is in large part the core of general critiques of the group as elitist, a luxury out of reach for regular folk.
Using reactions to the Slow Food organization and its adherents as a case study, this paper looks at anti-elite backlash to the broad, global “Good Food” Movement, including books (e.g., Desrochers and Simizu’s The Locovore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet), food industry websites, and academic articles (e.g., Lauden’s A Plea for Culinary Modernism).
For Slow Food, this is a function of the group‘s attempts to act as arbiters of taste. Although founder Carlo Petrini claims to reject objectivity in taste, the group‘s focus on normative taste education seems to indicate that „good“ taste is something that can be taught and should be valued instead of subjective, individual tastes. As in many aspects of Slow Food‘s thinking, there are echoes here of Marxist philosophy, in which the masses must be awoken from the false consciousness of industrial food pleasure by a knowing authority. Further, beyond taste, many people question the snobbery of the existence of „good“ foods and „bad“ foods and bristle at the idea that someone should tell them what they‘re eating is „bad“ or that their palate is uneducated.

Moritz Ege & Johannes Springer

The story of the hipster has been told many times and it has long ceased to be a matter of hip knowledge. However, the politics of hipster derision and hipster hate have only recently begun to be given more attention in social commentary and academic writing and may well be more relevant for cultural analysis than its object, the hipster him- or herself, who remains an elusive entity, loosely defined by taste, attitude, knowledge, or sociological attributes - with shifting contours in different places and at different times. (Perhaps most relevantly, it remains analytically quite difficult to delineate the relationship between the changes in postsubcultural formations and their practices on the one hand and shifting labelling processes on the other hand.) While, in the larger world of social problems, the critique of hipster culture can be considered a rather marginal matter, it is nonetheless indicative of the ways in which (popular and sub-) cultural capital is being accumulated, recognized, (de)valued and converted today. Ridiculing or confronting hipsters tends to have strog anti-elitist overtones: the common thread is that hipsters are believed to „think they‘re better than others“, they are wannabe cultural elites and in that sense anti-democratic, anti-common sense, anti-common people. But, crucially, in that logic, their pretensions are easy to demystify for those they look down upon.
Using examples from field research and other observations, the paper argues that the hipster figure‘s objectification (its becoming-an-object of discourse and reflection within popular culture) has given rise to specific types of anti-hipster discourse in different circumstances which allows the problematization of a variety of concerns that seem to coalesce in the hipster figure: distinction, privilege, consumerism, conventionalism, depoliticization, gentrification, but also cosmopolitianism, transnational lifestyles and antitraditionalism. While hipster derision for quite some time was broadly a question of subcultural and/or intellectual, inner-left critique, its political articulations and cultural resonances are much less clear in the present moment.


7. November 2018, 19 Uhr

‚Gegen die Eliten‘ als Konflikt zwischen Stadt und Land?

Uni Göttingen, ZHG 006, Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5, 37073 Göttingen

Wenn vom Brexit-Referendum, der Trump-WählerInnenschaft und verwandten Phänomenen die Rede ist, dann werden politische Bruchlinien oft räumlich kartiert und auf ein angespanntes Verhältnis zwischen Stadt und Land projiziert: Schnell ist von ökonomischen und kulturellen Verwerfungen die Rede, von sich abgehängt fühlenden und sozioökonomisch deprivilegierten Landstrichen – und auch von Ressentiments gegenüber urbanen Eliten, ihrer Lebensweise und ihren Entscheidungen – gerade denjenigen, die „das Land“ betreffen. Hier wie auch in anderen Diskursen leben alte Bilder wieder auf: Bilder von machtgesättigter, arroganter Urbanität (einschließlich idealisierenden Vorstellungen vom Landleben, die man sich in der Stadt macht) und „echtem“, aber politisch und medial schlecht repräsentiertem Leben in der Provinz. Wie alte Polaritäten von Stadt/Land, Zentrum/Peripherie usw. in der Gegenwart aktiviert und neu gestaltet werden und welche Grundlagen sie haben, welche Inszenierungsweisen und politischen Strategien dabei eine Rolle spielen, soll bei dieser Veranstaltung ebenso diskutiert werden wie die Frage, wie solche Dualismen überwunden werden.

Brigitta Schmidt-Lauber (Wien)
Professorin für Kulturanthropologie, beschäftigt sich seit ihrer Göttinger Zeit u.a. mit dem Verhältnis von Mittelstädten und Großstädten, „rurbanen“ Zusammenhängen und aktuellen Stadt-Land-Dynamiken in Österreich.

Marc Weiland (Halle-Wittenberg)
Literaturwissenschaftler, u.a. Gründer und Herausgeber der Reihe Rurale Topografien im Transcript Verlag, arbeitet über neue Konstellationen von Ländlichkeit und Dörflichkeit in Literatur und Film.

Jochen Dettmer (Belsdorf)
Engagiert sich als Vorstandsmitglied der ASG e.V., als Vorstandssprecher NEULAND e.V. und Präsident des Bauernbundes Sachsen-Anhalt e.V. für die Gleichberechtigung ländlicher Regionen.

Teil der Veranstaltungs- und Filmreihe: Gegen die Eliten - Zur Konjunktur eines Krisenmotivs. Organisiert von Moritz Ege und Johannes Springer (Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Universität Göttingen) in Kooperation mit der Agrarsozialen Gesellschaft (ASG) e.V.

Gefördert durch das Niedersächsische Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur.


21. November 2018, 18.30 Uhr

(Anti-)Elitismus in Fußballfankulturen

FanRaum NULLFÜNF, Obere-Masch-Straße 10, Göttingen

#2Ob im Protest gegen „den modernen Fußball“, „Scheiß-Millionäre“, die DFB-Oberen oder Leipziger „Dosen“ – in den zeitgenössischen Fußballfankulturen floriert ein Motiv, das auch in der Gesamtgesellschaft verbreitet ist: Gegen „die Eliten“ zu sein, seien diese politisch, medial oder wirtschaftlich bestimmt. Nicht erst seit rechten Kampagnen à la „Merkel muss weg“ auch in Stadien und unter Hooligans und anderen sind die Schattenseiten anti-elitärer Mobilisierungen verstärkt in der Diskussion. Diese Diskussionsveranstaltung geht anti-elitären Stimmungen und Formationen im Fußball-Zusammenhang und ihren vielfältigen politischen und kulturellen Bedeutungen und Hintergründen nach. Was entsteht da eigentlich gerade, was setzt sich fort? Mit welchen politischen Tendenzen verbindet sich das Anti-Elitäre in Fußball-Fankulturen? Und welche Arten von Elitebildung gibt es auch in den Kurven selbst? Inwiefern bilden sich dagegen wiederum anti-elitäre Affekte aus, z.B. gegen Ultras?

Stefan Wellgraf (Frankfurt/Oder)
Kulturwissenschaftler, forscht derzeit u.a. über den BFC Dynamo und beschäftigt sich mit Geschichte und Gegenwart von Elitenfeindschaft, eigener Elitenbildung und politischen Mobilisierungen im dortigen Umfeld.

Richard Gebhardt (Köln)
Politikwissenschaftler und Publizist, hat viel über Stadien und Fußballplätze als politische Arenen geschrieben und u.a. das Buch Fäuste, Fahnen, Fankulturen: Die Rückkehr der Hooligans auf der Straße und im Stadion (2017) herausgegeben.

Teil der Veranstaltungs- und Filmreihe:
Gegen die Eliten – Zur Konjunktur eines Krisenmotivs. Organisiert von Moritz Ege und Johannes Springer (Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Universität Göttingen) in Kooperation mit der Supporters Crew 05

Gefördert durch das Niedersächsische Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur.


28. November 2018, 19 Uhr

Gegen die (Geschmacks-)Eliten? Vulgarität, Demokratisierung und andere Gesten zeitgenössischer Mode

Zukunftswerkstatt im Ihme-Zentrum, Ihmeplatz 7E, 30449 Hannover

Kaum etwas ist im selben Maße „elitär“ und „populär“ wie die Mode. Was macht die Anti-Establishment-Stimmung, die unsere Zeit prägt, mit diesem Feld? Einige BeobachterInnen des kulturellen Zeitgeists haben von ästhetischem „Populismus“ und einem neuen Spiel mit der Vulgarität gesprochen, von einer Gegen-die-Eliten-Attitüde, die andere Codes der Macht wie Minimalismus, Zurückhaltung, Askese verdrängt. In der Mode hat ein Spiel mit beiden Seiten dieses Codes eine lange Tradition. Dieser und weiteren Fragen geht die Veranstaltung nach: An welche Genealogien von Subversion durch Ästhetiken des „too much“, zu laut, zu üppig, zu protzig, zu körperlich etc. knüpfen AkteurInnen in der Mode an? Wie verhandeln solche Ästhetiken gesellschaftliche Hierarchien und stellen möglicherweise Macht qua Geschmack infrage? Mit welchen anderen (z.B. medialen, ökonomischen) Veränderungen sind solche Prozesse verknüpft? Und was geschieht mit diesen Stilen, wenn sie allenthalben reüssieren und die „vulgären“ Freuden des Prallen, Verschwenderischen, Sinnlichen, Aggressiven überall – „ironisch“ oder nicht – gefeiert werden?

Mit Studierenden der Hochschule Hannover, Studiengang Modedesign.

Robin Rau (Hamburg)
Modedesigner, Absolvent der HS Hannover und der HFK Bremen (MA).

Sonja Eismann (Berlin)
Kulturwissenschaftlerin, schreibt über Mode, Pop und Gender, u. a. als Mitherausgeberin des Missy Magazines, Dozentin an verschiedenen Universitäten und Autorin u. a. des Buchs absolute Fashion (2012), einem Beitrag zur Modetheorie.

Diana Weis (Berlin)
Theaterwissenschaftlerin und Gemanistin. Sie unterrichtet Modetheorie an der AMD Berlin und der HAW Hamburg. Für „Spex - Magazin für Popkultur“ schreibt sie die Modekolumne „Abgrund & Oberfläche“ und publiziert zu Mode, Jugendkulturen, Schönheitsnormen und Geschmack.

Teil der Veranstaltungs- und Filmreihe:
Gegen die Eliten - Zur Konjunktur eines Krisenmotivs. Organisiert von Moritz Ege und Johannes Springer (Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Universität Göttingen) und Martina Glomb (Modedesign, Hochschule Hannover).

Gefördert durch das Niedersächsische Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur.


5. Dezember 2018, 19 Uhr

Unten gegen oben? Anti-elitäre Impulse in Arbeitskämpfen heute

Ver.di Bezirk Süd-Niedersachsen, Groner-Tor-Str. 32, Göttingen

Dass Auseinandersetzungen um Löhne und Arbeitsbedingungen auf einen Kampf „Unten gegen oben“ herauslaufen – eine solche Sicht klingt einerseits wie Klassenkampf-Folklore, erweist sich aber immer wieder als aktuell, wenn widerstreitende Interessen und Gerechtigkeitsvorstellungen aufeinanderprallen. Betrifft die politische und kulturelle Konjunktur anti-elitärer Stimmungen und Bewegungen auch Arbeitskämpfe? Welche Chancen und Risiken bringt sie mit sich – auch angesichts von „klassenpolitischen“ Kampagnen von links auf der einen und rechte und rassistische Mobilisierungen auf der anderen Seite? Was tragen aktuelle sozial- und kulturwissenschaftliche Forschungen dazu bei, solche Prozesse besser zu begreifen? Was hat das mit den Universitäten zu tun? Wo stehen Gewerkschaften und ihre eigenen Eliten in solchen Auseinandersetzungen? Und unter welchen Bedingungen finden sie gegenwärtig überhaupt statt? Darüber diskutieren Beteiligte an aktuellen Auseinandersetzungen und Arbeits- und StreikforscherInnen anhand von aktuellen Beispielen u.a. aus dem Logistikbereich und den Hochschulen.

Stefanie Hürtgen (Salzburg) 
Wirtschaftsgeografin, forscht u. a. über den Wandel von Arbeitsverhältnissen und Gerechtigkeitsvorstellungen.

Alexander Gallas (Kassel)
Soziologe/Politikwissenschaftler, beschäftigt sich derzeit mit Streiks und ihrem politischen Gehalt u.a. in Deutschland und Großbritannien.

Frauke Banse (Kassel)
Politikwissenschaftlerin, forschte zu internationalen Gewerkschaftskooperationen und engagiert sich in der Kampagne UniKassel Unbefristet.
AkteurInnen des Streiks bei Amazon und weiteren Gästen.

Teil der Veranstaltungs- und Filmreihe:
Gegen die Eliten – Zur Konjunktur eines Krisenmotivs. Organisiert von Moritz Ege und Johannes Springer (Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Universität Göttingen)in Kooperation mit dem ver.di
OV Göttingen und dem Arbeitskreis Arbeitskämpfe der Assoziation für kritische Gesellschaftsforschung (AkG).

Gefördert durch das Niedersächsische Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur.

Filmreihe Krisenkino

Die Filmreihe wirft Schlaglichter auf Spielarten des Anti-Eliten-/Anti-Establishment-Motivs in unterschiedlichen historischen und politischen Momenten. Das Programm soll zur Diskussion über die Brisanz solcher Darstellungen in gesellschaftlichen Krisenmomenten einladen. Was heißt es, wenn Filme sich qua Erzählung, Figurenzeichnung, Montagen, Kadrierung „gegen die Eliten“ wenden? Welche Eliten werden mit welchen filmischen Mitteln kritisiert, aus welcher Perspektive, welche nicht, und warum? Welche „normalen Leute“ und welche „VolksheldInnen“ stellen die Filme den Eliten gegenüber – und wie kommentieren und beeinflussen die Filme damit das Zeitgeschehen? Was macht solche Darstellungen zu populistischen, demokratischen oder agitatorischen? Zahlreich sind die ablehnend-karikierenden Darstellungen von Eliten unterschiedlicher Couleur: Ob es die zynischen, gierigen Figuren des Washingtoner Establishments sind, die Frank Capra mit demokratischem Pathos in den 1930ern zeichnet, oder die überheblichen Akademiker, welche die Kontrastfolie für die Figur des volksnahen Paracelsus im gleichnamigen NS-Film abgeben. Das Motiv findet sich in den 1970ern sowohl in politisch linken Artikulationen wie in Marin Karmitz‘ militantem Streikfilm „Coup pour Coup“ als auch am entgegengesetzten politischen Pol bei „Dirty Harry“, der die (neo)konservative „schweigende Mehrheit“ zu verteidigen meint. Es taucht in experimentellen Essayfilmen wie Gerhard Friedls feinsinnigem „Hat Wolff von Amerongen Konkursdelikte begangen?“ ebenso auf wie in Lone Scherfigs populär erzähltem Film über die Jeunesse dorée der englischen Elite-Universitäten, „The Riot Club“, der im Brexit-Großbritannien der Gegenwart noch einmal besondere Relevanz erhalten hat. Das Programm wurde von einem Seminar am Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie (geleitet von Johannes Springer und Moritz Ege) zusammengestellt und ist Teil der Konferenz- und Veranstaltungsreihe „‚Gegen die Eliten!‘ Zur Konjunktur eines Krisenmotivs“. Die Screenings werden von Einführungen begleitet und bieten im Anschluss die Möglichkeit zur Diskussion.

Kino Lumière
Geismar Landstraße 19
37083 Göttingen

22.10.2018, 20 Uhr
Mr. Smith goes to Washington (USA 1939, R: Frank Capra)

ZHG 007
Platz der Göttinger
Sieben 5
37073 Göttingen

12.11.2018, 19 Uhr (Eintritt frei)
Paracelsus (D 1943, R: G.W. Pabst)
Einführung & Kommentar: Rüdiger Suchsland

Kino Lumière
Geismar Landstraße 19
37083 Göttingen

3.12.2018, 19 Uhr
Coup pour Coup (F 1972, R: Marin Karmitz)

3.12.2018, 21:30 Uhr
Dirty Harry (USA 1971, R: Don Siegel)

Kino Lumière
Geismar Landstraße 19
37083 Göttingen

21.1.2019, 19 Uhr
Hat Wolff von Amerongen Konkursdelikte begangen? (Ö/D 2004, R: Gerhard Friedl)

21.1.2019, 21 Uhr
The Riot Club (UK 2014, R: Lone Scherfig)


„Gegen die Eliten!“ – das ist zurzeit ein Leitmotiv von politischen Bewegungen unterschiedlichster Couleur. Es ist ein Schlachtruf des Populismus – rechts, links, in der Mitte. Aber auch in vielen anderen Bereichen der Gegenwarts- und Popkultur werden Eliten – oder sollen wir sagen: „vermeintliche“ Eliten? – implizit und explizit infrage gestellt: ihre Führungs- und Repräsentationsansprüche und ihre Deutungsmacht in Sachen Expertise, Wissen, Bildung und Geschmack stoßen auf offene Ablehnung oder verlieren angesichts kollektiver Bewertungs- und Entscheidungssysteme schlicht an Bedeutung. So scheint es zumindest.
Vor dem Hintergr und solcher Debatten und Entwicklungen fragt unser Veranstaltungsprogramm im Herbst und Winter 2018/19 nach den Formen, den Bedeutungen und den Auswirkungen des Anti-Elitären in seinen unterschiedlichen Spielarten – und nach ihrem Zusammenwirken.
Was heißt es, heute „gegen die Eliten“ zu sein? Was unterscheidet anti-elitäre Impulse und was verbindet sie? Worin bestehen Chancen, Gefahren und Grenzen dieser Konjunktur des Anti-Elitären? Was könnte der demokratische oder sogar emanzipatorische Gehalt dieses Motivs sein? Was daran ist affirmativ gegenüber alten und neuen Herrschaftsverhältnissen und inwiefern? Welche Eliten werden eigentlich kritisiert, von wem, welche nicht, und warum?
Solchen Fragen geht die Veranstaltungsreihe nach. Die Rolle von Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften sehen wir dabei nicht nur darin, fundierte Diagnosen über das zu erstellen, was in der Welt vor sich geht, sondern auch darin, gemeinsam neue Fragen aufzuwerfen.
Die (englischsprachige) wissenschaftliche Konferenz versammelt Vorträge aus den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften. Es geht um Elitenkonstruktionen und Social Media im rechten Populismus, um Antifeminismus, um Hipster, um antielitären Islamismus, um das Antielitäre in queer-linker Subkultur, um das ästhetische Spiel mit dem Vulgären, um Antisemitismus und viele andere Themen – mit Blick auf Deutschland, Österreich, Großbritannien, Italien und Spanien, Indien, Russland, die Türkei und die USA.
Das Kinoprogramm, das von einem Seminar am Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie erarbeitet wurde, beleuchtet diese Fragen vor allem filmgeschichtlich und zeigt, wie sich das Motiv „Gegen die Eliten!“ im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert in unterschiedlichen zeithistorischen Kontexten wiederholt und verändert – und natürlich, wie RegisseurInnen es filmisch erzählen und bebildern.
In den Diskussionsveranstaltungen und ExpertInnengesprächen versuchen wir zu erhellen, wie das Motiv „Gegen die Eliten!“ derzeit unterschiedliche Konfliktfelder prägt: Stadt-Land-Auseinandersetzungen, Entwicklungen in Mode und Popkultur, die Haltungen von Fußball-Fans (Ultras und Hooligans) und Arbeitskämpfe.

Having long been identified as a hallmark of political populism, anti-elitism can also be seen as a broader cultural and social pattern. It colours large parts of pop culture and media, such as the adulation of establishment-defying folk heroes and negative portrayals of authorities, rulers and ruling classes in film, comedy or music. In the domain of cultural production and reception, anti-elitism is not only a matter of the content and form of representations, it is also connected to media technology and an ongoing re-distribution of power on that level. In recent decades, for example, rating and review systems on the internet have eroded much of the authority – and the material means – of “elite” or “elitist” culture journalism and programming in institutions such as public service broadcasting. In the crises of expert and scientific knowledge that are routinely diagnosed, and in calls for ever-widening participation, similar anti-elitist dynamics are at play.
In politics proper, however, it is especially parties and movements of the hard right that shape the contemporary situation through anti-elitist articulations: calls to “drain the swamp” in the U.S., anti-E.U./-Brussels rhetoric in Europe, attacks on “liberal elites” and intellectuals that are said to have lost touch with the population’s ways of life, or even conspiracy theories about plans by hidden elites to “replace” the European population with Muslim migrants. At the same time, democratic anti-elitism is part of the political left’s reason for being, and left-wing movements dissatisfied with Third Way social democracy muster a lot of their energies from agitating against the establishment, “the caste”, “the few”, the “one percent” et cetera.
These iterations of the anti-elitist theme are re-configuring politics, knowledge and our understandings of the popular, in new and politically highly ambivalent ways. The conference aims to explore these dynamics in relation to on-going crises – usually labelled cultural, political and economic – and asks about their interaction, resonance and articulation. What, then, is characteristic of current anti-elitist rhetoric, idioms, affects, narratives and imagery in specific case studies? In what ways are elites, authorities and leaders being imagined, caricatured and criticized, and how are the popular and the common being positioned against it? How can we make sense of the cultural politics of anti-elitist articulations?
Inspired by classic and more recent work in conjunctural analysis, we are also interested in the ways in which anti-elitist articulations are related to collective experiences in various fields, such as experiences in educational and other state institutions, experiences of precarity and re-configurations of the workplace, of consumption practices, or of electronically mediated communication and other technologies. Qualitative and especially ethnographic research that takes into account the discursive and imaginary mediation of experience and avoids facile cause-effect assumptions seems particularly important in this context.
Rendering the ambivalences and ruptures in this theme visible, the conference asks about the meanings of anti-elitism in conditions that have been described as post-political, marked by a “disaffected consent” to “capitalist realism” – but which by now may have moved on to different paradigms. In focusing on anti-elitism, we seek to better understand the implications and effects of these phenomena, and also to inquire about the role of academic research and critical theory, which are often the target of anti-elitist polemics as well.
In a normative register, quite obviously, the dangers and the democratic potentials of anti-elitist articulations are difficult to evaluate. As the Frankfurt School argued decades ago, authoritarian, antisemitic and ethnic-nationalist implications of anti-elitist tropes are in many cases far from coincidental. On the other hand, cultural studies and hegemony theorists have often stressed the emancipatory nature of ‘popular-democratic’ sentiments and movements. In what ways and in which situations are these framings helpful today, and what other concepts and perspectives are needed?