Popular Culture(s)

The Research Group

What is popular culture? (How) does it differ from modern mass culture, pre-modern folk culture, and the culture of daily life? And what about the distinction between popular and élite culture(s)? What makes a cultural object popular? How is cultural popularity defined and what is it based on? Is it the culture of the "lower class(es)" as opposed to a supposedly representative élite culture monopolized by the ruling class, which may even be subverted by the former as a kind of subculture? In fact, the antithesis between popular "folk culture" and a bourgeois "high culture" ascribed to the élite, which frequently implies a presumption of mutual exclusiveness, can hardly be maintained, neither for the past nor for the present. Such labels are often assigned as a result of a conscious effort on the part of a self-confident intellectual "élite" to distinguish itself. The popular component of culture is rather more complex, and the boundaries between "popular" und "élite" elements are blurred.


The research group Popular Culture(s) deals with historical and contemporary expressions of popular and folk culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. Transcending disciplinary boundaries and fostering networking and collaboration on the research topic of "popular culture", it seeks to develop a new approach to the subject as well as expand and refine theories on popular culture.

Above all, we are interested in the interrelationship between elements defined as popular and non-popular in culture, language, literature, music and art, as well as in science and society. Popular and erudite speech, colloquial and standard language, electronic and pop music, popular fiction and literary classics, academic research and popular science are suitable examples. Who are the agents and recipients of popular culture? What are the representative functions and effects of popularity? What messages, cultural identities, values, ideas and ideologies are expressed, understood, and shaped? How does popular culture affect social interaction? What are the intellectual discourses, the political concepts, and the structures of social power and hegemony behind the contingent construction of certain texts, objects, or activities considered to be popular?

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