Branding and the self: Manifestations of violence in narrative encounters

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Self-branding is a central practice in the freelance labour market of the digital knowledge economy. Previous research suggests that self-branding is a form of affective and immaterial labour distinct to advanced capitalism (Arvidsson, 2006; Hearn, 2008). Social media offers a platform for celebrity experts to foster a distinct self-image, which can feed into their lifestyle brands (Gandini, 2016). Thus far, however, relatively little is known about branding as a cultural expression of an advanced capitalist logic and its consequences for the self.
This paper adopts Benjamin’s (1980) concept of violence to examine the relation between branding practices and self. The paper examines how idealised fantasies and myths of white privileged femininity help to sustain violence in contemporary self-branding practices through a reading of Joyce Carol Oates (2000) epic novel Blonde, which deals with the myth of Marilyn Monroe. It is argued that Oates literary fiction reveals and resonates with the sexual, racial and gender politics that underpins manifestations of violence in accounts of self-branding. Branding is constantly under the threat of the loss of differentiation and control, which - in the context of personal branding - ultimately leads to a loss of selfhood. Hence, branding here becomes a form of violence, because it involves a threat against the subject and a denial of the self’s autonomy.


Arvidsson, A. (2006). Brands: Meaning and value in media culture. London: Routledge.

Benjamin, J. (1980). The bonds of love: Rational violence and erotic domination. Feminist Studies, 6(1), 144-174.

Gandini, A. (2016). Digital work: Self-branding and social capital in the freelance knowledge economy. Marketing theory, 16(1), 123-141.

Hearn, A. (2008). Meat, Mask, Burden: Probing the contours of the branded self. Journal of Consumer Culture, 8(2), 197-217.

Oates, J.C. (2000). Blonde: A novel. New York: Harper Collins.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 5
EventBrand Camp 4 - Obergurgl University Centre , Innsbruck, Austria
Duration: 2018 Apr 52018 Apr 7


ConferenceBrand Camp 4
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Communication Studies


  • critical branding
  • narratives
  • violence
  • self-branding
  • subjectivity


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