What happens to a community of oppositional artists when the purpose and meaning of their opposition are undermined by social transformation? Such was the dilemma facing many underground artists in Eastern Europe following the collapse of state socialism. In Up from the Underground, Anna Szemere looks at the underground based on rock music in Hungary, showing how it anticipated, precipitated, and responded to a period of fundamental change.
Szemere's work focuses on a community of rock musicians that became popular with Hungary's urban youth culture in the early 1980s—groups with names such as the Committee, Control Group, and the Galloping Coroners. Szemere reveals the activities, discourse, and group life of musicians against the background of shifting institutional contexts. By the mid-1990s the change of regime had altered the cultural dynamics of Hungarian society, leading to a complete realignment of the underground music world. Szemere uses the opportunity presented by these developments to challenge one-dimensional representations of popular culture and transition in the region. She also addresses more general questions about the nature and uses of expressive culture, autonomy, social change, and social reproduction.
Up from the Underground is an important addition to the scholarship on the cultural dimension of the most profound societal change in Europe since World War II. It also enriches the increasingly global field of cultural sociology and cultural studies by rethinking its central assumptions and theories in the light of Eastern Europe's unique historical and social experience.