Chapter 11: From Air Jordan to Jumpman: The Black Male Body as Commodity

Michael Jordan’s body as commodity and spectacle continues to receive a great deal of attention within academic and popular debate. My interest rests in a critical engagement of Jordan’s symbolic body—in the form of Air Jordan—as Nike’s property. Therefore, what I term Jordan’s “figuratively literal” body is central here. In questioning whether Jordan could buy his figuratively literal body from Nike, this chapter illustrates how representations of race and gender undergird commodification at the bodily level, thereby demonstrating the historical resonance of the black male body as commodity during the contemporary period. By examining the shift in identity that has occurred at the iconic level in Jumpman “replacing” Air Jordan as the namesake of Nike’s logo, the argument here is that even under co-optation, there remains space for resistance. In engaging the complexity of commodification, this paper also applies interdisciplinary methods in the engagement of cultural theory.