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Lecture Series: Wie amerikanisch war Elvis? (Mathias Häußler)

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In his lecture for the "Special Relations Revisited" series Mathias Häußler examines Elvis Presley's role in the development of a transatlantic youth culture. This lecture will be held in German.

Wie amerikanisch war Elvis? Die Entstehung einer transatlantischen Popkultur im Kalten Krieg

Heute zählt Elvis Presley neben Micky Maus und Coca-Cola geradezu selbstverständlich zu den bedeutendsten popkulturellen Symbolen der Vereinigten Staaten; sein ursprünglicher Aufstieg in den 1950er Jahren war jedoch zutiefst umstritten. Innerhalb der USA wurden Presleys laszive Bühnenauftritte und Adaptionen afroamerikanischer Rhythm and Blues Musik als Provokation des vermeintlichen gesellschaftlichen Konsens in Eisenhowers zutiefst konservativen Amerika wahrgenommen; in anderen Teilen der Welt stand Elvis oftmals synonym für die umstrittene Expansion amerikanischer Massenkultur und Konsumismus vor dem Hintergrund des Kalten Kriegs. Dieser Vortrag beleuchtet die Verwandlung Presleys von einer rebellischen Teenagerfigur zu einem der größten popkulturellen Ikonen der Vereinigten Staaten und untersucht, wie größere Fragen amerikanischer Identität durch die öffentliche Figur des Sängers verhandelt wurden. Er interpretiert Elvis Presley hierbei als Wegbereiter einer transatlantischen Jugendkultur und zeigt, wie Popkultur und Konsumismus das öffentliche Bild der Vereinigten Staaten während des Ost-West-Konflikts beeinflussen konnten.

How American was Elvis? The Emergence of a Transatlantic Pop Culture during the Cold War

Alongside Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola, Elvis Presley is today one of the most significant pop-cultural symbols of the United States. His original rise to fame in the 1950s, however, was surrounded by heated debate. Presley’s lascivious performances on stage, together with his adaptations of African-American rhythm and blues music, were considered a provocation by many people in Eisenhower’s deeply conservative USA. In other parts of the world and against the backdrop of the Cold War, Elvis was often treated as a symbol of the controversial expansion of US-American mass culture consumerism.

This lecture explores the transformation of the image of Elvis Presley from a rebellious teenage figure to one of the greatest pop-cultural icons of the United States. It investigates how broader questions relating to US identity were often negotiated through the singer as a public figure. I interpret Elvis Presley as a pioneer in the development of a transatlantic youth culture, showing that pop-culture and consumerism were two aspects influencing the public image of the United States within the framework of the East-West conflict.

Mathias Häußler is lecturer at the Chair of European History at the University of Regensburg. He gained his PhD from the University of Cambridge. His first book, Helmut Schmidt and British-German Relations: A European Misunderstanding (Cambridge University Press, 2019), is based on his dissertation. Alongside his interest in political history and the history of international relations, he also works on pop culture, including the figure of Elvis Presley and mass tourism in the nineteenth century.

When?  Monday, 14 December 2020, 18:15

Where?  Online via Zoom, https://uni-regensburg.zoom.us/j/85892790976, Meeting ID: 858 9279 0976

The lecture series "Special Relations Revisited: Europa und die USA seit dem 19. Jahrhundert" investigates how transatlantic relations have changed over the past 200 years. It is organized together with CITAS. Find the full programm here.

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