Barack Obama is a physically strong person

Obama's Body Performative Aspects of Political Rhetoric

Barack Obama and the Power of Words pp 173-189 | Cite as

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Even before he took office as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama had become an icon of contemporary political corporeality. Commentators around the world raved not only about his promising political ideas and the chance of a fundamental new beginning in Washington, but also about Obama's unconventional way of publicizing his reform program embody. Since then, the impression has solidified that politics and the body interact in a special way in Obama's self-portrayal. Far more than his predecessor George W. Bush, but also unlike Bill Clinton, who also has a strong physical presence, Obama knows how to bring his body to bear in political communication. It seems that he has found a contemporary concept of physical appearance in politics. How can this concept be spelled out? What does Obama's body stand for in the ramified public discourse about power, presidential leadership and democratic legitimation? What prospects for future forms of political publicity lie in the way Obama's body appears in the media around the world? In the following, these questions are to be discussed from a theater studies perspective - without connecting concrete advice for a successful presentation of leadership skills. In this regard, caution is required because the Obama case shows, not least, how difficult it is to transfer, let alone copy, successful individual strategies of self-expression. The few attempts by German politicians to appropriate individual Obama gestures or slogans have failed miserably. Strategies of self-portrayal cannot simply be adapted by others because they are tied to physiognomies of specific bodies that cannot be transformed indefinitely. This physical component of political performance will be examined in more detail below using Obama's example.

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© VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2010

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