HomeRock and Violence in Europe (1950's-1980's)

HomeRock and Violence in Europe (1950's-1980's)

Rock and Violence in Europe (1950's-1980's)

Rock et violences en Europe (années 1950-1980)

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Published on Wednesday, April 06, 2016


This event is the first of two conferences, the second of which will take place in 2019 under the sponsorship of the History department at California State University, Long Beach. The first component, at Rouen, concentrates on Europe, while the second part, on the same theme, will focus on the situation in the Americas. The purpose of these two events is to gain an understanding of the place of rock in contemporary culture and to define its significance and impact in our societies. From this starting point, the conferences will also endeavor to consider the part of legend that encompasses the myth of rock music. The association between rock and violence, however fantastical and artificially constructed, is a given which has penetrated the music's history during the second part of the twentieth century; in some ways, the recent dramatic events at the Bataclan have highlighted this in an extremely tragic manner.



Since its advent in the United States in the middle of the 20th century, the musical genre known as "rock" disseminated an image of violent music that aroused condemnations or, conversely, evoked fascination. Evidently, its attraction to the public, which since its inception to the present has not diminished, is not limited simply to these reactions. Nevertheless, however much its public expression seems to correspond to all sorts of political, social, cultural or identity postures, the violence that was alleged to be integral to this music encouraged its notoriety and built its grassroots support, at least at its beginning, with adolescent fans, but, as well, with its expanding audience.

A number of elements contribute to the complex definition of rock music, but the forward-thinking and liberating dimension at its advent appear to have been a response to the emergence of very modern forms of violence. Whether through the clothes that accompany it (black leather jackets, safety pins, etc.), recognizable corporeal signifiers (long hair or shaved heads, androgyneity, etc.), instruments of choice (electric guitars, drums, etc.), the sound level at which it expresses itself (amplification, stereophonic, etc.) or, as well, the relationship of the music and the lyrics, rock has been stamped as taboo. In disseminating a provocative message of overcoming barriers appears to constitute one of the essential elements of the "violence" which shakes a society, that, in spite of this, is considered "permissive."

If such verdicts on rock are less important today - especially, as rock music has become part of the dominant cultural consensus - nevertheless rock emerged victorious between the beginning of the 1960s and the end of the 1970s. These two decades were marked by overreactions, at times encouraged by aesthetic conformity and the dominant manner of speaking, even triggering hostile reactions in different nations which mistook the words and the provocative attitudes of rock's protagonists for real threats to the state.

The purpose of this meeting in the form of two conferences - the first, organized at Rouen, centered on what occurred in Europe, then another to take place later in America, and which will consider the situation in the United States - is to bring together diverse specialists. The goal is to explore perspectives on different concrete forms of the fantasy of violence associated with rock between 1954 - the year that corresponds with its advent in the United States - up to the beginning of the 1980s in Europe. This third of a century would appear to correspond to a significant period in history; as such, it encourages a consideration of the "rock" phenomenon that speaks not only to musicology, but also to history and cultural sociology. 


For the Rouen conference, focused only on Europe between 1950 and 1980, we particularly encourage proposals on subjects that can fall in one of the following three broad themes:

Theme 1 - Rock, violence, youth and politics

The audience at rock concerts between the 1950s and 1980s was comprised of an emerging and numerous demographic, the post-baby-boom youth. The youth, or rather, the youths, find in this music a medium of liberation expressive of their demands, their frustrations, their passions. Whether asocial or antisocial, thug or student, "the youth" (male/female), expressed his/her convictions with force and affirmed with directness his/her opposition to the system, notably by the adoption of sartorial codes and the display of bodily hexis. These behaviors can be analyzed from the perspective of generational conflict connected to moral and societal values, as regularly relayed by the media. They can also be placed in social, political, and cultural context within the vast international movements characteristic of the period in which civilizations and models of development were contested.

Theme 2 - Live shows: musicians and audience

The second proposed topic recounts the expressions of violence on the stage and amongst the audience: interactions or oppositions between the artist and his/her audience, incitements to battle or the reverse, calls for non-violence, the rock concert is the temple where passions are unleashed, where the excesses can, in fact, lead to clashes between rival groups or against the police. But violence at rock concerts can take other forms: loud music, frenzied performances, provocations from the stage, excesses of speech or in the expressions of the body in dance, etc.

Theme 3 - Musical and Poetic Violence

A third topic will be consecrated to the means of violent expression, whether in the music or in the texts, in the relationship between music and text, in the pursuit of the right sound and the preference given to certain instruments to create the proper sound, in the confirmation of ruptures that mark the evolution of musical styles. Does a division exist in "rock violence"? What are the ingredients? Is it possible to arrive at a taxonomy of representations and of means employed? On the subject of words, in particular, papers can also examine conservative attempts at controlling the violence through censorship.

Scientific committee

  • Jean-Christophe Aplincourt (106, directeur)
  • Ludivine Bantigny (université de Rouen, Maître de conférences, historienne)
  • Arnaud Baubérot (université Paris-Est Créteil, Maître de conférences, historien)
  • Nathalie Cordier (106, responsable action culturelle)
  • Pascal Dupuy (université de Rouen, Maître de conférences, historien)
  • Joann Élart (université de Rouen, Maître de conférences, musicologue)
  • Philippe Gonin (université de Bourgogne, Maître de conférences, musicologue)
  • Gérôme Guibert (Université de Paris III, Maître de conférences, sociologue)
  • Dominique Kalifa (Université de Paris 1, Professeur des Universités, Panthéon-Sorbonne, historien)
  • Christophe Pirenne (Université de Liège, Professeur, musicologue)
  • David Shafer (Long Beach State University, Professeur)
  • Florence Tamagne (Université de Lille III, Maître de conférences, historienne)
  • Ludovic Tournès (Université de Genève, Professeur des Universités, historien)
  • Sophie Victorien (CLAMOR UMS 3726 du CNRS, Ingénieur de recherche, historienne)

Organizers and Partners

International conference put forward by Jean-Christophe Aplincourt (106), Nathalie Cordier (106), Pascal Dupuy (historian, University of Rouen) and Joann Élart (musicologist, University of Rouen), organized by the GRHIS, EA3831 of the University of Rouen, and the 106, with support from the Normandy Region, Institute of Interdisciplinary Research of Man and Society, CLAMOR, Criminocorpus and Volume ! 

Conditions of Registration

Proposals for papers should be sent in either French or English

before 15 July 2016

and addressed to Pascal Dupuy and Joann Élart; they should include the paper's title, a brief abstract (1000 characters maximum), and a short bibliography (500 characters maximum).

Papers accepted by the scientific committee will have to be presented in French or in English.

Notification to the authors: 15 September 2016.


Registration fees for participants in the conference will be 50 €. The organizers of the conference will take care of lodging, meals, gala evening, and a portion of the travel expenses (we invite participants to try to obtain partial or complete support for the financing of their trip).


  • Rouen, France (76)


  • Friday, July 15, 2016


  • rock, violence, Europe, jeunesse, contre-culture, concert


  • Pascal DUPUY
    courriel : pascal [dot] dupuy [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr
  • Joann Elart
    courriel : joann [dot] elart [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr

Information source

  • Joann Elart
    courriel : joann [dot] elart [at] univ-rouen [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Rock and Violence in Europe (1950's-1980's) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, April 06, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/uu5

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