Mittwoch, 06. Juni 2018, 17:00 - 18:30 iCal

Wednesday Seminar

On the Rise of Popular Support of Outlaw Bikers: When Fictions and Weakening States Collude

Tereza Kuldova

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


On the 4th of January 2017, the former president of the Hells Angels MC charter in Leipzig was arrested in Vienna on suspicion of murder of a member of United Tribuns. A troop of hundred men, policemen and a Cobra unit, stormed the Hells Angels clubhouse in Vienna, parking their spectacular armoured car in front of it. The suspect did not resist. The arrest captured the headlines for several days and created waves across the social media. While there were some cheering the police action, there were surprisingly many mocking it, making fun of the police that needed hundred men to re-capture one suspect who was not even resisting and according to the insiders of the biker subculture was not even trying to hide, as the media and police claimed. To them, this action yet again proved the increasing ‘weakness’ of the state and its false prioritization – given what they perceive as the real security threat, namely illegal immigration. This further colluded with their mounting resentment of the establishment and the rise of the right, in the process resulting in the celebration of the outlaw bikers as the heroes rather than villains. This popular support for the rebel anti-establishment heroes, which draws heavily on the pop-cultural and fictional myth of the outlaw biker, is no longer a marginal phenomenon, but is on rise especially in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods, where such organization increasingly take on state-like functions, including provisions of social welfare and charity and distribution of ‘justice’. The recent emergence of the Bikers for Trump in the United States, can be read along similar lines of disillusionment with the establishment, perceived weakness of the state and a nostalgia for heroic masculinity. Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork in Austria and Germany, netnography and analysis of biker movies, the talk seeks to understand not only the massive expansion of outlaw biker clubs in the last decade, but also the increasing popular support of these clubs by outsiders to the subculture. The talk is also a teaser for the speaker’s forthcoming book How Do Outlaws Win Friends and Influence People (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).


Tereza Kuldova, PhD is a social anthropologist and Researcher at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, and Visiting Senior Researcher at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna. In her concluded research she studied the elite segment of the Indian fashion industry and the relations of production. Currently she works on a new individual research project ‘Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights: Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Luxury Brands’ funded by the Norwegian Research Council. She is the author of Luxury Indian Fashion: A Social Critique (2016) and editor of Fashion India: Spectacular Capitalism (2013), as well as Urban Utopias: Excess and Expulsion in Neoliberal South Asia (2017) and Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Street Gangs: Scheming Legality, Resisting Criminalization (2018), as well as of numerous journal articles. She is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Extreme Anthropology. Contact:

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Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie


Tabitha Schnoeller
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie