Urban Ethics

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Stefan Wellgraf

Hooligans. (Im-)morality and urban conflict
Stefan Wellgraf (Anthropology/Viadrina, Frankfurt/O.)

For the hooligans of BFC Dynamo Berlin, the pleasure to provoke, bully and to be hostile is at the centre of their cultural self-conception. As moral criticism is articulated as aestheticised immorality it is systematically misinterpreted. Over the years the line of attack has changed: In the late 80s they provoked the socialist state apparatus, which they perceived as hypocritical and corrupted, with violence and right-wing slogans. In the 90s defiant nostalgia for the former GDR and nationalism was their reaction to degradation as Eastern Germans in unified Germany. At the example of soccer, discrimination towards Eastern Germans was directly felt and the unification process criticized as being unjust. By now, their rebellion is more generally against alienation and the boredom of living in conformity to “the system".

If we understand hooliganism as an antagonism with specifically urban aesthetics, we need to investigate into the hooligans’ place in cultural power structures and conflicts in urban space. Especially in the quarter Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, where the BFC is located, Hooligans are perceived as a German version of “White Trash”: Being proud of the East with ostentation, displaying traditional forms of heroic masculinity, and entertaining a provocative-defiant attitude towards society in general and stately authority in particular. By opposing middle-class codes of conduct about physical restraint in public space, hooligans provoke aversion and defense mechanisms. These mechanisms comprise the everyday construction of no-go areas, urban „moral panics“ in the media, policies of clampdown in which hooligans are understood as a form of right-wing terrorism and the criminalization of a whole subculture.