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The Body Politic: T-Shirts From the 2008 Presidential Campaign

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Abstract:

In the 2008 presidential campaign, political communication, consumer culture, and viral marketing converged in a way never before seen in American politics. Attempts by members of the public to use T-shirts to appropriate the systems of consumption and advertising for politically progressive ends became enormously widespread and highly visible, prompting a wave of press coverage and helping to revolutionize an increasingly interactive political merchandising industry. Yet it remains unclear whether or not these myriad attempts to use communicative commodities such as T-shirts for political purposes actually succeed in enlivening the public sphere and contributing positively to the health of the American democratic political system. The evaluation of political T-shirts becomes all the more difficult when their exact status and social function are so ambiguous and unstable, as press reports and retailer sales pitches alternately frame them as fundraising objects, measures of voter enthusiasm and support, agents of public persuasion, and markers of lifestyle fashion.
The appropriation of consumption and marketing practices for political ends clearly presents a number of risks, among them the possible trivialization of the political and the increased ability for socially problematic messages to receive public exposure. Yet for all its potential drawbacks, the political T-shirt has emerged in the 2008 election cycle as a powerful and important medium of communication, and while its exact role may remain ambiguous, its origins in far-reaching sociocultural developments means that it will only continue to grow in the years ahead as a key feature of American political and cultural life.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

shirt (217), t-shirt (172), polit (140), 2008 (137), obama (88), campaign (78), august (71), access (63), 29 (59), cultur (57), press (48), fashion (44), social (43), public (43), new (37), candid (35), american (33), consumpt (32), market (31), messag (29), support (29),

Author's Keywords:

consumer culture, material culture, advertising, marketing, fashion, politics
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MLA Citation:

Penney, Joel. "The Body Politic: T-Shirts From the 2008 Presidential Campaign" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL, May 20, 2009 <Not Available>. 2017-09-11 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p297835_index.html>

APA Citation:

Penney, J. , 2009-05-20 "The Body Politic: T-Shirts From the 2008 Presidential Campaign" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2017-09-11 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p297835_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In the 2008 presidential campaign, political communication, consumer culture, and viral marketing converged in a way never before seen in American politics. Attempts by members of the public to use T-shirts to appropriate the systems of consumption and advertising for politically progressive ends became enormously widespread and highly visible, prompting a wave of press coverage and helping to revolutionize an increasingly interactive political merchandising industry. Yet it remains unclear whether or not these myriad attempts to use communicative commodities such as T-shirts for political purposes actually succeed in enlivening the public sphere and contributing positively to the health of the American democratic political system. The evaluation of political T-shirts becomes all the more difficult when their exact status and social function are so ambiguous and unstable, as press reports and retailer sales pitches alternately frame them as fundraising objects, measures of voter enthusiasm and support, agents of public persuasion, and markers of lifestyle fashion.
The appropriation of consumption and marketing practices for political ends clearly presents a number of risks, among them the possible trivialization of the political and the increased ability for socially problematic messages to receive public exposure. Yet for all its potential drawbacks, the political T-shirt has emerged in the 2008 election cycle as a powerful and important medium of communication, and while its exact role may remain ambiguous, its origins in far-reaching sociocultural developments means that it will only continue to grow in the years ahead as a key feature of American political and cultural life.


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