Popular Places to Kick Back


Popular Places to Kick Back

In his 256-page book, cultural studies researcher Michael Fischer describes and analyzes how rural clubs were perceived between the 1970s and 1990s. Photo: Verlag Waxmann, Münster.

There were discotheques in the small towns and villages of Buggingen, Kirchzarten, Freiamt, Hausach and even in Schönwald. A new study done by the cultural studies researcher Dr. Dr. Michael Fischer of the Center for Popular Culture and Music (ZPKM) of the University of Freiburg investigates the disco scene of southwestern Germany’s entertainment and leisure culture which views discotheques primarily as “popular locations.” “First of all, it’s about the spaces, the programs on offer, and ultimately, the conflicts connected to operating dance clubs,” emphasizes Fischer. In his 256-page book, he describes and analyzes how the rural clubs were perceived between the 1970s and 1990s. The promise of the discos went beyond mere entertainment – they opened opportunities for cliques see and be seen and even the possibility of erotic adventure.

In order to obtain information about the discotheques back then, Fischer visited different archives and sifted through old files – in Waldkirch, for example, to learn more about the “Arche” disco. Many of the conflicts were typical of the times and nearly all of the clubs had them: neighbors who complained about noise and racket the youngsters made when they drove up; and police ensuring drug consumption was limited and enforcing licensing laws. “At the same time, interviews paint a completely different picture. Disc jockeys, club operators, and fans describe fascination with the music, the technologies used, or the fun they had dancing and going out,” says the culture researcher. The study aims to bring together these two aspects – perceptions gleaned from official documents and viewpoints of those who were part of the disco scene.

Up to now, discotheques in rural areas have rarely been a focal point of examination. Research, says Fischer, avoids these topics. Even studies of popular culture tend to concentrate more on urban, avant-garde, or subculture topics. He continues, saying that’s why there are more studies about popular clubs or music styles like techno or hip-hop rather than disco, especially in the countryside. “That’s a shame,” says Fischer, “because it is precisely the seemingly unspectacular rural leisure locations that are part and parcel of a region’s social and cultural history. The discotheques in the Black Forest were central locations of youth socialization. Today, youngsters who’ve grown old still enthusiastically recall their experiences of music, dance, and friendship at the clubs.” And last but not least, these discos also show how rural societies modernized and responded by offering youngsters new experiences.

Fischer’s research emphasis pertains to the history and cultural anthropologic significance of popular music and its mediatization. He teaches cultural anthropology and media culture studies at the University of Freiburg.

Original publication:

Fischer, M. (2020): “Diskotheken im ländlichen Raum. Populäre Orte des Vergnügens in Südwestdeutschland (1970-1995).” Münster. (Discotheques in Rural Areas. Popular Leisure Locations in Southwestern Germany (1970-1995)).

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