Icons of Dissent

The Global Resonance of Che, Marley, Tupac and Bin Laden

Jeremy Prestholdt

Through the medium of iconic figures, Prestholdt traces the development of shared global imagery, highlighting the mutability of common references and the commodification of political sentiment since the 1960s

Bibliographic Details
Icons of Dissent Hardback
December 2018£17.99
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The global icon is an omnipresent but poorly understood element of mass culture. This book asks why audiences around the world have embraced a small number of iconic figures and what this tells us about cross-border, trans-cultural relations since the Cold War. Prestholdt addresses these questions by examining one type of figure: the ‘anti-system’ icon. These popular icons are symbols of alienation and aspiration that can be integrated into diverse political and consumer cultures.

To illustrate these points the book examines four of the most evocative and controversial figures of the past fifty years: Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur and Osama bin Laden. Each has embodied a convergence of dissent, cultural politics and consumerism, yet the popularity of each reveals the dissonance between shared, global references and locally contingent traditions. By examining four very different figures, Icons of Dissent offers new insights into transnational symbolic idioms, the mutability of common references and the commodification of political sentiment in the contemporary world.


Jeremy Prestholdt is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego and author of Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization.


‘This lucidly written book combines perspectives from several disciplines and links the analysis of markets and commerce to that of branding and political dreams. Impressive and clear, it will be of great interest to scholars of anthropology, sociology and consumer studies.’ — Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU

‘In this extraordinarily well-written and luminously crafted book, Prestholdt makes a powerful case for why four diverse icons became emblematic of worldwide popular dissent. This book is “crucially crucial” reading for anyone who wishes to understand the twentieth century.’ — Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Professor of Africana Studies, Wellesley College and author of The Slave Master of Trinidad

‘With an acute grasp of art, history, political science, and the essence of human struggle, Prestholdt adeptly explains how the iconic representations of certain personalities capture people’s imagination to transcend, and often contradict, their flesh-and-blood lives.’ — Michael Casey, author of Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image