Bristol, 5-6 June 2014
Much emphasis has been placed in recent years on questions of conformity and everyday ordinariness in socialist societies. This project aims to look at increasingly forgotten elements in these societies: those who did not conform, did not live an ordinary life, yet were also part of the late socialist everyday. Ranging from teddy boys, hippies and punks to non-conformist artists, Buddhists, yoga teachers or lesbian and gay communities, the list of ‘drop-outs’ is long and varied, yet in danger of being buried by histories that left better documentation and more archival traces. We intend to write these individuals and groups into the newly emerging history of late socialism and examine both their internal functioning as well as their complex relationship with mainstream society and socialist authorities. Was it possible to drop out from socialist society? How far could one distance oneself from the realties of late socialist life? What does the existence of alternative cultures and their daily practices say about the last three decades of socialism in Europe? Did they hasten its decline – or were they indeed a factor in its longevity?