Second Culture, Good Vibrations, and Writings on the Wall: Hip-Hop in the GDR as a Case of Afro-Americanophilia

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Leonard Schmieding


This essay examines Afro-Americanophilia in the German Democratic Republic by analyzing the cultural transfer of hip-hop between 1983 and 1990. It argues that the individuals who participated in this transfer from the United States into East Germany shared an appreciation of African Americans and Black culture and thus facilitated the import, growth, and dissemination of breakdance, graffiti, rap, and deejaying. Focusing on three individuals, it details the specific characteristics of their Afro-Americanophilia and scrutinizes their roles for the hip-hop scene in state socialism. While a cultural critic interpreted hip-hop as ‘second culture,’ which, according to Marxist-Leninist ideology, was to be endorsed as international working-class culture, a radio host from East Berlin spread information and music throughout the country, equipping the teenage audience with what they needed for their own practice of hip-hop. Finally, a look at a graffiti writer from Dresden shows how hip-hop artists imagined themselves into the community of hip-hop in New York City and fashioned themselves as Black youth living in the Bronx.


Article Details

Afro-Americanophilia in Germany Special Issue July 2015 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Leonard Schmieding, German Historical Institute, Washington DC

Leonard Schmieding joined the GHI as a Research Fellow in October 2013. He studied History, American Studies, and English in Freiburg im Breisgau, Bloomington (Indiana), and Leipzig. In 2011, he received his PhD in History from the University of Leipzig. His dissertation on hip-hop culture in the German Democratic Republic between 1983 and 1990 was awarded the Rolf-Kentner-Prize of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies for the best dissertation in the field of American Studies in 2012. For his current project, he is researching how German immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area constructed their ethnicity on the basis of food culture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.