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Colonial Legacy

French Retirees in Nha Trang, Vietnam Today

Anne Raffin

Based on interviews with thirty-eight French retirees living in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, this article queries their reasons for migrating and investigates how they make sense of their life abroad. I consider Vietnam’s historical connection with the French empire as a possible component of lifestyle migration and meaning. This small-scale study indicates that colonial memories and historical ties between France and Vietnam do influence many interviewees’ choice of place of retirement. However, for most, the personal and social amenities afforded by a tropical life in the present tend to eventually displace such memories.

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A Few Bad Apples or the Logic of Capitalism?

Neoliberal Globalization in the Economic Crime Drama Since the Millennial Turn

Sabine von Dirke

This article investigates how neoliberal globalization has been mediated through audiovisual narratives since the 2000s. It identifies a cluster of films, produced by and circulating on German public television, which use the generic conventions of the popular crime genre to constitute a sub-genre—the televisual economic crime drama. Using a content and textual analysis that focuses on the backdrop of historical context and genre norms, the article examines key tropes to assess the critical potential of this sub-genre. The analysis demonstrates that both the containment theme of “a few bad apples” and a systemic critique can structure these narratives of neoliberalism. At its best, the televisual economic crime drama argues that alternatives to neoliberalism are possible by referencing Germany’s history of the social market economy and by featuring characters as well as images of active citizenship, solidarity, and collective action in the workplace.

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Hammer and Cycle

Communism’s Cycling Counterculture in Interwar France

Martin Hurcombe

This article explores the evolving relationship of the Parti Communiste Français to cycling in the interwar years. It argues that communist press coverage of the sport enriches our understanding of how the Party evolved from a marginal force in the 1920s to a mass party that had forged both an effective and affective bond with large numbers of the French working class. It examines attempts to harness and manipulate working-class enthusiasm for cycling and to project through its coverage of the sport an idealized image of the French worker. Reading sport history into the Party’s political trajectory in the interwar years reveals how the appeal to the emotions was fundamental to its evolving image as a national workers party, but also how the Party had to make accommodations between a Soviet ideal and the realities of French working-class sports culture.

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Imperial Farce?

The Coronation of Bokassa the First and the (Failed) Manufacture of Charisma

Jason Yackee

This article explores the appropriation and translation of historical notions of “empire” into the modern era through close examination of the short-lived Central African Empire, imagined and brought to life by the flamboyant Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Curiously, in an era in which the formerly colonized francophone African nations were increasingly seeking to signal rejection of their French heritage, Bokassa presented his empire as a modern corollary to the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. This article draws on original research in French and US diplomatic archives to argue that we can understand the empire as a failed attempt to manufacture charisma, approaching farce before devolving into horror.

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Introduction

Using Popular Culture to Trace and Assess Political Change

Niko Switek

The German federal election in September 2021 marked a significant transformation for German politics. As Chancellor Angela Merkel decided not to run again, the election spelled the end of her 16-year tenure; it also signaled a major shift in the German party system. The right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Bundestag again after their first entry in 2017, implying—for the first time since 1949—the establishment and sustained parliamentary presence of a party on the national level to the (far-)right of the Christian Democrats. The challenges facing the new parliament and government after the election are paramount. The climate crisis looms as large as ever. With the exception of the AfD, all German parties (and a distinct majority of voters) see this as the most pressing issue to tackle. However, the scope of action will be limited as the extensive state debt accumulated through covid-19 relief measures exerts pressure on the specific German model of social market economy. Finally, the international environment has seen drastic changes in the last years: While the election of u.s. President Joe Biden as successor to Donald Trump implies a return to normal for transatlantic relations, the uk exit from the eu shifts the balance between the remaining member states. After the Euro, refugee, and pandemic crises, European solidarity is strained, complicating Germany’s role as the eu’s “reluctant hegemon” or “gentle giant.” This reluctance or restraint connotes far more than a strategic policy choice: it is deeply rooted in the German history of the twentieth century that witnessed the cruelty and atrocities of the Nazi regime.

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Invoking the “Yolocaust”?

German Memory Politics, Cultural Criticism, and Contemporary Popular Arts

Ralph Buchenhorst

The present study understands comedy in relation to the Holocaust as an attempt by Germany’s third and fourth generations to create alternative forms of commemoration. Analyzing the country’s history of coming to terms with the Shoah, it highlights that recent forms of subversive satire are reacting to a crystallization in official memory politics through counter-discourse to political correctness and the defenders of moralism. The article finds that it is possible to combine comedy and Holocaust memory if Jewish victimhood is not spoofed and the limitations of official memory politics are debunked. Finally, it contends that not every historical assessment based on a local/national context can serve as a global blueprint. The recognition of national historical guilt and the establishment of distinct collective memories are still crucial for understanding specific pasts. Accordingly, German popular culture referring to the Nazi past differs from u.s. comedy dealing with the Holocaust.

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Les Enfants Perdus

Asylum Reform, Parents’ Groups, and Disability Rights in France, 1968–1975

Jonathyne Briggs

Following the deaths of fourteen children at a children’s residential facility in Froissy in November 1968, a moment of national interest in France in the challenges facing disabled children led parents’ associations to press for systemic reform. Concomitantly, social critiques following the protests of May 1968 focused on poor institutional conditions as evidence of society’s failures. Though government inquiry into the incident placed the blame on the proprietors, media reports and advocates asserted the failure of the French government to protect the disabled. This viewpoint aligned with the rhetoric of reformers seeking to dismantle institutions to instigate social change. However, an alliance of reformers and parents’ groups did not materialize, even after the important reforms of the law of 30 June 1975. That law articulated the government’s commitment to the equality of disabled citizens, but it had limited impact due to its failure to address conditions for the mentally disabled.

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Navigating the Fourth Republic

West African University Students between Metropolitan France and Dakar

Harry Gamble

Through the end of the Third Republic, only tiny numbers of West African students managed to study at France’s universities. Barriers to higher education began to fall after World War II, especially after African populations collectively gained citizenship. Higher education became a high-stakes policy area, as French officials and West African students and politicians vied to influence the parameters and possibilities of the postwar order. Amid escalating concerns about West African student migrations to the metropole, French officials eventually opened an Institute of Higher Studies in Dakar. However, this inchoate institution ended up highlighting the fundamental ambiguities of overseas citizenship. As West African students turned increasingly to anti-colonial activism, French authorities finally committed to establishing a full university in Dakar. Paradoxically, the construction and consolidation of this French university took place during the period of active decolonization.

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Obscene or Exemplary? Robert Marchand’s Cycling World Hour Record

Sport, Aging, and Neoliberalism in Contemporary France

Hugh Dauncey and Jonathan Ervine

The cycling world hour record for riders over 105 years old set in 2017 by Robert Marchand was much discussed in France in a context of neoliberal discourses about work and retirement. Within a debate about work characterized by desires to encourage “active aging,” Marchand’s sporting athletic effort was variously perceived as exemplary hard work and productive old age, or as an obscene abuse of athleticism. This article examines the reception of Marchand’s record within the wider context of contemporary neoliberal trends in French politics, culture, and society. It considers Marchand’s working life, active sporting retirement, and left-wing politics. It shows how media coverage and public discussion of the sporting “work” of his “performance” exemplified competing discourses in France’s national discussions about neoliberalism.

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Political Comedy as Fuel for Populist Rhetoric?

Representations of Politicians and Institutions in the German TV Shows “Eichwald MdB” and “Ellerbeck”

Niko Switek

In popular culture, politics are frequently framed with negative stereotypes, and there is some overlap between the anti-establishment rhetoric of political humor and populist challengers. This article probes similarities shared by politicians as presented in the television comedies Eichwald MdB (about a backbencher in the Bundestag) and Ellerbeck (about a kindergarten teacher turned mayor) and supporters of the (right-)populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The analysis of the storylines uncovers representations of self-serving and incompetent politicians that align with the fundamental critique expressed by the AfD. However, the negative depictions in the shows are interwoven with positive elements that speak to a responsiveness of democratic institutions. The two case studies help us better understand the specific form of German political satire produced by a public broadcaster and how satirical entertainment oscillates between negativity and meaningful critique of political power.