Overline: Fellowship
Headline: Sustainable Nightlife: How clubs contribute to social transformation

Clubs consume a lot of electricity, popular DJs live a jetset life. But there are growing efforts in the club scene to protect the climate, for example with green energy and mobility. In addition to ecological sustainability, social sustainability plays an important role, with club managers and ravers taking a stand against racism, violence against LGBT people and other forms of oppression. At RIFS, social scientist Kerstin Meißner will take stock of sustainability efforts in club culture during a one-year fellowship.

Kerstin Meißner
Kerstin Meißner RIFS/Bianca Schröder

"When discussing transformation processes, people often don't look at the cultural sphere, and certainly not at clubs, which always have a hedonistic and individualistic function as a place to escape from everyday life. In fact, however, clubs are also places where issues of sustainable living are negotiated in many different ways. That’s why they can even serve as a blueprint for other areas of society", says Meißner. Interviews with various actors from the club scene will serve as the backbone of her research.

Slow gigging and discourse programmes

Among the interviewees are DJ Nono Gigsta, who is committed to "slow gigging" and avoids flying, DJ Juba, who is advocating for more diverse perspectives in environmental activism, the organisers of a queer festival with a discourse programme, and the founders of the community radio Refuge Worldwide, which supports refugees and local initiatives. In addition to these individual approaches, Meißner also analyses the influence of larger initiatives such as the Code of Conduct, which Clubtopia, a project of BUND, published in 2021 together with the Berlin Clubcommission, a lobby organisation for club culture. The signing clubs commit to more climate and environmental protection.

Clubs have a long history as a safe space for marginalised groups such as trans people, people with experiences of racism, and gays and lesbians. Cultural expression and political activism go hand in hand for many actors in the club scene, says Meißner: "Clubs are a progressive part of society that can be anti-hegemonic and subversive and question ways of living together. They often see themselves as very open and want to welcome very different people."

The dancefloor as a safe space

The importance of the clubs' community-building function became clear during the Corona lockdowns: "In the pandemic, we saw that people who face exclusion, racism and sexism on the street suddenly didn't have these places where they can meet and switch off. Many of them missed these experiences." The dancefloor as a place that is removed from our highly structured everyday lives offers an opportunity to meet oneself and others in a new way, while also coming into contact with one's own feelings in a different, "corporeal" way.

During the course of her research project, Kerstin Meißner is planning to organize workshops and to produce a podcast and a website as a collection of resources.