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Call for papers: Rock and Violence in Europe (1950s-1980s)

International conference, University of Rouen, 1-3 June 2017


Rock et violence en Europe est un colloque international qui s'inscrit dans une problématique émergente associant historiens, spécialistes des mouvements de jeunesse, musicologues, sociologues et professionnels du spectacle vivant. Cette manifestation est la première d'une série de deux colloques, dont le deuxième volet aura lieu en 2019 au département d'Histoire de l'Université de California State, Long Beach (États-Unis). Le premier volet à Rouen (1er au 3 juin 2017) concentre sa problématique sur l'Europe tandis que le second volet, à partir du même thème, s'attachera à la situation des Amériques. Il s'agit à travers ces deux manifestations de comprendre la place du rock dans la culture contemporaine et d'en préciser la portée et l'impact dans nos sociétés. Il s'agira également à partir d'un thème percutant d'envisager la part de légendaire qui entoure le mythe de la musique rock. L'association entre rock et violence, dans ce qu'elle possède de fantasmée et d'artificiellement construite, est cependant une donnée qui a traversé l'histoire de cette musique dans la deuxième partie du xxe siècle et que, d'une certaine manière, les événements dramatiques du Bataclan ont souligné de manière extrêmement tragique.

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Version française ici.


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 of

  • the Normandy Region,

  • the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research of Man and Society,


  • 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).

Document annexe

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