Mittwoch, 30. November 2016, 17:00 - 18:30 iCal

Wednesday Seminar

Tereza Kuldova hält ihren Vortrag zu "PROTECTING TRADEMARKS AND ‘CULTURE’ - Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs in between Subculture and Popular Culture"

Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie; Hörsaal C
Universitätsstraße 7 (NIG); 4. Stock, 1010 Wien


Today, most club logos and other important insignia of international outlaw motorcycle clubs are trademarked, following the early example of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club that has first patented the their ‘death head’ logo in 1972. The club logos, worn exclusively by full-patched members, are considered sacred and protected as such, both legally and extra-legally. Anthropologically speaking, these logos can be understood as totems that bind the exclusive brotherhoods together, encode values, internal rules, codes of behavior and facilitate solidarity, respect, and loyalty, while conferring authority. As such, they are crucial to the survival and reproduction of the clubs, to their identity and to what the members themselves call their ‘culture’. However, since the 50s, outlaw motorcycle clubs have been igniting public imagination, from instilling fear to arousing desire; they have been inspiring popular culture, from the Wild One to Sons of Anarchy. The Hells Angels MC in particular has become an American icon, a well-known ‘brand’ and subculture that only few know intimately, but everyone tends to have an opinion about. This has led to a proliferation of attempts to imitate the club logos, appropriate the dress code and aesthetics. The imitators want to possess some of the power associated with the club, which they perceive as desirable; internationally, police has a record of attempts to ‘blend in’ through imitation and politicians in countries like Germany have been trying to pass laws to prohibit wearing patched OMC vests in public and thus ‘attack the clubs identity and intimidation power’, as they say. The paper will investigate these struggles over the trademarked logos and the ways in which different actors invoke discourses of culture, subculture, and identity, relating the analysis to a larger context of the rise of identity politics and neoliberal economy since the 90s. ?


Tereza Kuldova, PhD is a social anthropologist based at the University of Oslo, currently a senior researcher on her project ‘Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights: Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Luxury Brands’ funded by the Norwegian Research Council (2016-2019). She will be a visiting senior researcher at the University of Vienna from August 2016 to July 2018, while conducting fieldwork with outlaw motorcycle clubs in Austria, Germany, Czech republic and Slovakia.

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Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie


Tabitha Schnoeller
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie