Berlin, Detroit, Race and Techno Music

When Tom Smith sets out to research allegations of racism in Berlin’s club scene, he finds himself face to face with his own past in techno’s birthplace: Detroit. Visiting the music distributor Submerge, he considers the legacy of the pioneers Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, the influence of Afro-futurism and the work done in Berlin to popularise techno by figures including Kemal Kurum and Claudia Wahjudi. But the vibrant culture which seeks to be inclusive has been accused of whiteness and the Essay ends with a consideration of the experiences of clubbers depicted in the poetry of Michael Hyperion Küppers.

Tom Smith is a New Generation Thinker who lectures in German at the University of St Andrews. You can find another Essay from him called Masculinity Comrades in Arms recorded at the York Festival of Ideas 2019 and a New Thinking podcast discussion Rubble Culture to techno in postwar Germany

New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by the BBC with the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select ten academics each year who turn their research into radio.

Producer: Robyn Read