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The insignificance of David Bowie: Latin America’s refusal of a “world icon”


David Bowie doesn’t matter very much. That seems like a bizarre remark, particularly in a special issue dedicated to the opposite view. But in Latin America, he is of minimal importance by contrast with other prominent English-language pop-music exports that journal readers will know, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Smiths or The Cure. How can this be true of an artist who is routinely labelled a world icon? Our paper identifies several reasons: nation-building and rock music’s first steps in Latin America, progressive cultural politics, conservative gender norms and a continent dominated by dictatorships when Bowie was becoming a putative ‘world icon’.

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