Close to the Edge: The Representational Tactics of Eminem

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This manuscript examines Marshall Bruce Mathers III, known both as Eminem and Slim Shady, as he employs pedestrian speech acts to walk the edge between “here and there.” Walking is the discursive process through which a subject is constituted by the relationship it creates with the Other. de Certeau outlines three stages through which this process occurs: (1) appropriation, in which the speaker acquires the language of a given culture to bear the burden of his/her own experience; (2) a “spatial acting-out of the place,” through which the speaker airs his/her position with relation to the language; and (3) allocution, through which the speaker posits the Other as the reference point for the speaker’s own subjectivity and negotiates the relationship between the two positions (97-98). Eminem’s commercial success is examined in terms of these three stages as a method for understanding his representative strategy and his continued commercial success in a popular music as a transracial medium.

“Close to the Edge: The Representational Tactics of Eminem,” Journal of Popular Culture 43 (2010): 463-485.


A Review of My Article

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"Close to the Edge: The Representational Tactics of Eminem," a comprehensive essay written by Marcia Alesan Dawkins, provides a concrete, insightful examination of the strategy and tactics used by a Caucasian artist to integrate himself into the predominantly African-American and Latino dominated sub culture of hip-hop. The purpose of this document is to illuminate the methods utilized by what Dawkins calls the Other to seamlessly sneak into a racially charged social group and gain acceptance amongst its critics and audiences. This is someone who would otherwise be labelled as an outcast from the point of view of its patrons.

Such methods draw from Michel de Certeau’s stages of cultural navigation, which Dawkins makes use of to support the analysis. The focus of this analysis is of course Eminem’s conscious and effective employment of these three stages: appropriation, “spatial acting out of the place” and allocution, in order to represent himself as a talented artist. The significance of Dawkins' paper lies in its clear and concise ability to communicate with other spectators and critics of hip-hop and in doing so offer insight as to why others haven’t been able to mimic the same path Eminem has taken to be successful in the art form. The general idea inferred from this article is that of the sameness and otherness, which is believed to be a large component of America’s racially divided entertainment industry. Dawkins therefore refers to this concept continually as the underlining argument to reinforce her analysis of Eminem’s representational tactics.

The author explicitly gives credit to Eminem (in conjunction with his management and record label) for his conscious implications of de Certeau’s three stages of cultural navigation. Beginning with appropriation, the author states that Eminem is able to adopt the hip-hop vernacular and formula required to establish himself as an innovative white rapper as opposed to just another discredited emcee...