The Sublime Splendour of Intimidation: On the Outlaw Biker Aesthetics of Power

Terror on Tour III (conference)

University of Innsbruck

29-31 March 2017


The Sublime Splendour of Intimidation

On the Outlaw Biker Aesthetics of Power

Tereza Kuldova

University of Oslo

University of Vienna

Terror, Edmund Burke argued, is the ‘common stock of everything that is sublime’, capable of producing delight when held at a certain distance. What puzzled Burke was the question of ‘how any species of delight can be derived from a cause so apparently contrary to it’. I suggest that we may look for an ethnographic answer to this question among the supporters, hang-arounds and diverse admirers of outlaw bikers, who take pleasure in being exposed, albeit at a safe distance, to the sublime splendour of the biker’s intimidation power. Grounded in ethnographic research among outlaw bikers in central Europe, analysis of popular visual culture and biker literature, the article argues that ‘sublime experience’ is one of the indispensable ingredients of the aesthetics of power of the outlaw bikers.