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The whiteness of David Bowie

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posted on 01.01.2015, 00:00 authored by Sean RedmondSean Redmond
During the 1980s, in particular, Bowie embodied particular notions of white masculinity that were on the one hand supportive of its idealized hegemony, and on the other subverted its normative power. I will take 1983 as the year when his whiteness is particularly visible and unstable. Bowie, as either the blonde dandy from Let’s Dance; the enigmatic character, Maj. Jack 'Strafer' Celliers from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983); or the simmering vampire, John Blaylock from The Hunger (1983), crystlised the pure qualities of white masculinity while demonstrating its violent, queer and subversive nature. The chapter will suggest that Bowie has constantly operated along a white continuum, self-consciously embodying it, granting it carnal and ideological power, while drawing attention to its death-like instinct, its anti-reproductive progeny, its implicit queerness.
I have chosen to read Bowie’s whiteness through this shortened window of temporality to enable me to draw into the analysis the historical and cultural issues of the period in question. 1983 registers as the year in which whiteness is acutely imagined to be under threat from the Asian tiger and transforming geo-political realities, its own languid anti-corporeality, the AIDS ‘epidemic’, and from the rise of racism in Europe and elsewhere - realities which require it to re-position its power relations with the sexual, and ethnic Other. The whiteness in/of David Bowie speaks particularly eloquently to this historical moment.

History

Title of book

Enchanting David Bowie: Space/Time/Body/Memory

Chapter number

11

Pagination

215 - 230

Publisher

Bloomsbury

Place of publication

New York, N. Y.

ISBN-13

9781628923056

Language

eng

Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Bloomsbury

Extent

16

Editor/Contributor(s)

S Redmond, T Cinque, C Moore

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