Marlene Schrijnders

From London to Leipzig and back: Goth scenes in the GDR between Endzeit and Revolution.

Supervisors: Dr Sara Jones and Dr Joanne Sayner

My PhD looks at Goth scenes in East Germany in the 1980s. The project identifies the function and meaning of subculture as a phenomenon that reacts to societal transition in modern industrial nations. It investigates the reciprocal relationship between subculture and socio-political issues. Goth subculture addressed a key conflict of the late Cold War. The subculture's very presence questioned the orientation towards a secular future that underpinned the opposed political systems. In this study the GDR and its subcultural landscape are approached from a transnational perspective by analysing utopian and dystopian perceptions of the future that went beyond ideology.

The project considers youth as an 'agent in social transition' and analyses 'history from below' combined with 'history from above'. The dissertation is based on detailed empirical research and socio-historical analysis. Goth subculture is deployed as a magnifier and compass to analyse how societal conflict is expressed in the subcultural praxis, as well as to analyse how subculture can be a ‘social agent’ for both transnational as local transitions. This study will add an original perspective to the historiography of youth- and subcultures, by examining connections between political power and protest movements. The research provides a new insight into the role and function of marginal groups in the context of major international issues. What may seem like a rather eccentric, marginal subculture provides an original perspective on key societal, cultural and political issues of the 1980s.


Marlene Schrijnders has a Bachelor’s Degree in German Language and Culture with a Minor in Media Studies and a Master’s Degree in German Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She also studied at the Freie Universität Berlin through the Erasmus Exchange Programme. After extensive archival research in Berlin Marlene submitted her MA thesis titled Heiße Musik im Kalten Krieg. Jugendmusikkultur in Ost-Berlin 1956-1966 which was awarded with the bi-annual prize of the German Institute Amsterdam and the national newspaper Volkskrant in January 2013. On this occasion she received invitations to radio and newspaper interviews and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and German Embassy. After presenting a paper at the DAAD conference at the Institute for German Studies in Birmingham in July 2013, Marlene came to the University of Birmingham in September 2014 for which she receives a scholarship from the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The title of her PhD project is: From London to Leipzig and back: Goth scenes in the GDR between Endzeit and Revolution.


  • BA German Language & Culture, University of Amsterdam
  • MA German Studies, University of Amsterdam with Distinction

Research interests

  • Social, political and cultural history of Germany and the GDR (1950-1990)
  • Cold War culture
  • Youth and subcultures, protest and avant-garde movements
  • Perpectives on modernization, progress and emancipation
  • Aufbau and Wirtschaftswunder
  • Socio-cultural notions of (ideological) utopia (and dystopia)
  • Social and cultural history and present of Berlin
  • Rock and electronic music culture
  • German film

Conference Papers

Heiße Musik im Kalten Krieg. Jugendmusikkultur in der DDR in den Fünfzigern und Sechzigern, German Institute Amsterdam, 9th Mai 2014.

Heiβe Musik im Kalten Krieg. Jugendmusikkultur in Ost-Berlin und den Berliner Randgebieten 1956-1966, DAAD Nachwuchskonferenz ‘Die deutsche Vergangenheit und das europäische Gedächtnis: Diktatur und Demokratie im 21. Jahrhundert’, Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham, 24th – 26th July 2013.

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