Batmobama and ObaMarx: The meanings of the material and visual culture of Obama Mania

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This paper argues that the countless objects created in Barack Obama’s image during the Obama Mania of 2008–2009 were more than mere tokens of cool or examples of the spontaneous, irrational consumption usually held to characterise a mania. These objects were charged with meaning for their makers and consumers—demonstrating political leanings, jubilation over the election of the first African-American President and the future implications of this historic event, hope for change on the domestic and international front and belief that individuals could effect change politically and socially. Among the Obamabilia discussed, handcrafted objects take centre stage, as Obama’s message of change and the grass roots activity associated with the 2008 election meshed closely with the aspirations and actions of the craft community. This paper further examines the shifting meanings of Obama-themed material and visual culture leading up to the 2012 presidential election, by analysing both pro- and anti-Obama themed design and craft in relation to each other. While Obama may no longer inspire as many objects proclaiming the message of hope and change key to his first presidential campaign, the craft community are demonstrated to have remained resilient in social and political action through their craft.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-361
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


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