From Heimat –festival to the urban event: ethnographic knowledge, festivalisation and the turning point of urban festival culture in the 1980s on the example of Berlin

The project examines the emergence of a new type of urban festival that began to develop in the 1980s. The festivalisation of urban culture meant that elements of pop-culture entered the scene, fostering a new relationship between festival and urban culture. On the one hand, local as well as national cultural traditions served as legitimation for city festivals. On the other hand, these traditions were now associated with urban practices and new strategies of staging. Berlin’s 750th anniversary in 1987 - due to its very date and the respective political and urban cultural context– set the course for the development from local Heimat-festivals to pop-cultural events which partly had almost cosmopolitan traits. This development will be analyzed from a dual perspective, including ethnology and theater studies. With this hypothesis, the project application is based on a previous project, which regarded the link between ethnographic knowledge and festival culture as an urban format of modernity. Herein, notions such as authenticity, tradition and locality were crucial. It is important to note that already during the 1970s, the examined Heimat-festivals in East- and West-Berlin were increasingly detached from their historical and cultural roots and their regional character was more and more transformed towards a metropolitan event. Berlin’s 750th anniversary however, meant a clash of two contrasting festival cultures: on the one hand a general social development visible within many cities, namely the festivalisation of urban culture. On the other hand, there was the need to display the city’s history. This gives ethnographic and historical knowledge a new relevance. Hence, the aim of this research project is a detailed analysis of the celebrations during Berlin’s 750th anniversary in East- and West-Berlin and of some particular Berlin city festivals during the 1990s. With this research, developments over time such as the festivalisation and eventisation of urban culture, not only run a historical check but are also scrutinized on a micro-social level. Again, the emphasis is put on the use and transformation of ethnographic knowledge. Based on the assumption, that the celebrations of Berlin’s 750th anniversary marked a turning point in the development of festival culture, this project asks in how far the city’s anniversary in 1987 can be seen as the end of traditional festival culture and as the starting point for the establishment of an event culture that is related to image and marketing.

Kaschuba, Wolfgang Prof. Dr. phil. (Details) (European Ethnology I)

DFG: Sachbeihilfe

Duration of project
Start date: 12/2011
End date: 10/2015

Research Areas
Social and Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology

Last updated on 2022-09-09 at 03:05