Performing the National

By Hamad, Hannah | Soundings, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Performing the National


Hamad, Hannah, Soundings


Raka Shome, Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture, University of Illinois Press 2014

Diana and Beyond examines the intersection of cultures of white femininity and discourses of nationhood in late twentieth and early twenty-first century media cultures, with a particular focus on Princess Diana as the cultural standard bearer for the values bound up within it. And the book also incorporates judicious analytical discussion of other high profile figures from millennial popular culture, including Cherie Blair, Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Jemima Khan, as a means of calling attention to the neoliberal formation of citizenship in North Atlantic nations as it is expressed through particular images of 'privileged white women' (p3).

Shome contextualises this discursive phenomenon by viewing it through a range of prisms, including motherhood, muslim masculinities, multiculturalism, (post)colonialism, transnationalism, Islamophobia and global cosmopolitanism, as well as fashion, intimacy and spirituality. Each perspective sheds light on the nature of Diana's iconicity, and the intersection of whiteness and femininity that she embodied, and examines what this means for understandings of Anglophone national modernities; and she also looks at what is at stake for people of colour within these discourses.

Shome begins with an overview of fields and issues pertinent to the discussion, including the gendered cultures of celebrity, white femininities and national identity (with respect both to whiteness and non-white ethnicities); and she contextualises her subject matter both in relation to the 'New Britain' heralded by the Labour Party in the Blair era, and the lasting impact and semiotic power of Diana's mediated image. She examines how the white motherhood of celebrity figures such as Diana operates in negotiating the shifting notions of national modernity and takes Diana as the prime exemplar of the idea that the fashionable (privileged) white woman signifies national modernity in meaningfully politically charged ways. She also interrogates the ways in which the 'nationalised' white female body is drawn on to imagine global intimacies: she suggests the term 'global motherhood' as a way of explaining the cultural positioning of celebrity white women such as Diana as symbolic mothers to vulnerable, underprivileged children in the Global South, in relation to discourses of global humanitarianism. …

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