Youth cultures under authoritarian regimes: the case of Swing under the Nazis

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This article looks at the role of a popular youth subculture as a form of resistance to dominant constructions of youth under National Socialism in Germany. At the time when youth were strongly pressured to participate in the dominant youth organization and to conform to a particular model of “youthfulness” associated with fascist modernity, there were few opportunities to construct alternative ideas of youth. However, participation in the “Hamburg Swings” subculture through going to dances, listening to music, and using certain styles of speech, walking, and dressing offered an opportunity to construct alternative ideas of youth, ones heralding a more postmodern orientation. Swing came from America and emphasized a sensuous, fun-loving, hedonistic style. It was condemned as “degenerate music.” Many members of this subculture were punished; some were even sent to concentration camps. This article draws parallels between this role of youth subcultures as a form of latent opposition to authoritarian regimes and dominant official constructions of youth under both National Socialism and the former Soviet Communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-302
Number of pages27
JournalYouth & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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