Pop Nostalgia: The Uses of the Past in Popular Culture

German Historical Institute London
German Historical Institute London; BSSH South Sport and Leisure History Network
10.11.2016 - 11.11.2016
Tobias Becker

Pop nostalgia, we are told, is everywhere. Our current golden age of television—from Mad Men to Vinyl, Downton Abbey to Call the Midwife—lovingly recreates earlier periods of the twentieth century, while club nights devoted to the 1980s or 1990s allow us to return to our youth. What is more, popular culture is, in the words of music journalist Simon Reynolds, addicted to its own past. It not only reminisces, it revives, reissues, remixes earlier forms and styles instead of coming up with genuinely new. Finally, our most modern technologies are always also time machines: producing sepia-coloured images of the present for an anticipated nostalgic recollection in the future.

These very different cultural phenomena, which are often subsumed under the term nostalgia, raise a number of still under-explored questions. How new is this development, given that period films are as old as the cinema and that popular culture and music has drawn on earlier periods as long as it exists? Can the recycling of old styles and forms not also be highly creative and result in innovations? Are period settings and costumes, retro and vintage styles as such indicative and synonymous with nostalgia? Is it really nostalgia that drives our interest in and our engagement with the past? And if not what other motivations are at play? What role, for example, have media technologies such as film and the internet played in preserving the culture of the past in the present?

These are some of the questions the workshop Pop Nostalgia addresses. It explores the uses of the past in popular culture across all media and genre, from literature, cinema, television, and video games to theme park, club nights and sports events. It is interested not only in representations of the past but also in their production and circulation as well as in audiences and reception. The workshop is particularly interested in the historical dimension of pop nostalgia.

If you want to attend the workshop, you can register with Carole Sterckx: sterckx@ghil.ac.uk


Thursday, 10 November 2015

Welcome and Introduction
Andreas Gestrich (London), Dion Georgiou (London), Tobias Becker (London)

Panel 1: Alternative Pasts, Presents and Futures
Chair: Deborah Sugg Ryan (Portsmouth)

Susan Baumert (Jena), The Creative and Joyful Play with the Aesthetics of the Past: A comparative study on the three main retro events

Helen Wagner (Duisburg-Essen), Past as Future? Nostalgia as a way of building a future

Tobias Steiner (Hamburg), Nazi flags on Times Square! Obverted nostalgia and the renegotiation of cultural memory in U.S. alternate history TV drama

Panel 2: Gendering the Past
Chair: Sabine Sielke (Bonn)

Elena Caoduro (Luton), Femme Rétro: The gendered politics of retro pop stars

Kim Wiltshire (Ormskirk), Re-making the Hegemonic British Male 1960s Icon in the New Millennium

Christina Bush (Berkeley), “Have You Ever Been Mistaken for a Man”: Aliens, sneaker nostalgia, and (im)proper performances of gender

Panel 3: Embodying the Past
Chair: Michael Dwyer (Philadelphia)

Heike Jenss (New York), Nostalgia Modes? Vintage and Heritage in Fashion

Josette Wolthuis (Coventry), ‘Nostalgia Feels Like an Old Tweed Coat’: Dressing the fifties and sixties on television

Michael Williams (Southampton), ‘I dream in #mycalvinss’: Sculptural longing and celebrity poses from Gloria Swanson to Justin Bieber

Friday, 11 November

Panel 4: Sensory Nostalgias
Chair: Gary Cross (State College)

Elodie Roy (Glasgow), The Consumption of Time

Bodo Mrozek (Berlin), Olfaction and Ostalgia: A sensory approach to nostalgia

Lily Kelting (Berlin), From Fried Chicken to Kimchi Grits: Restaurants and the nostalgia industry in the U.S. South

Panel 5: Digital Nostalgias
Chair: Claire Monk (Leicester)

Aline Maldener (Saarbrücken), Remembering Youth: Internet forums as digital “media memory” of 1960s and 70s youth media and their popular culture

Rieke Jordan (Berlin), Once Upon a Time on the Internet: The music album as an object in the 21st Century

Dion Georgiou (London), ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!’: Intermediality, temporality and consumer resistance in the 2009 campaign to get rage against the machine to Christmas Number One

Round Table
Chair: Tobias Becker (London)

Gary Cross (State College), Michael Dwyer (Philadelphia), Claire Monk (Leicester), Deborah Sugg Ryan (Portsmouth)


Dr. Tobias Becker
German Historical Institute
17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ

Pop Nostalgia: The Uses of the Past in Popular Culture, 10.11.2016 – 11.11.2016 London, in: H-Soz-Kult, 29.08.2016, <www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-31763>.
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