Angela McRobbie

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Angela McRobbie
Born 1951
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Youth culture Feminism Media studies Politics
Institutions Goldsmiths, University of London
Known for Popular culture, contemporary media practices and feminism

Angela McRobbie (born 1951) is a British cultural theorist, feminist and commentator whose work combines the study of popular culture, contemporary media practices and feminism. She is a Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

McRobbie's academic research spans almost four decades, influenced by the work of Stuart Hall and the British sociologists of the school of Birmingham in its inception, and developed from the theoretical traditions of Feminism and Marxism. McRobbie has authored many books and scholarly articles on young women and popular culture, gender and sexuality, the British fashion industry, social and cultural theory, the changing world of work and the new creative economy, feminism and the rise of neoliberalism.

Her most recent book, The Aftermath of Feminism (2008, German edition published in 2010), draws on Foucault to decipher the various technologies of gender which are directed towards young woman as 'subjects of capacity'. She is currently completing a book titled Be Creative? Making a Living in the New Culture Industries, to be published in 2014 by Polity Press.

McRobbie has also served on academic editorial boards for several journals, including the Journal of Cultural Economy, Journal of Consumer Culture, Communication Review and Culture Unbound. She also reviews for various international academic journals. She regularly contributes to BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour and Thinking Allowed, and has written for openDemocracy and The Guardian's Comment is Free. She is a participant in the £5m AHRC CREAte Grant, investigating copyright and IP issues for young fashion designers in Berlin, Milan, Paris and London.


Early life and academics[edit]

McRobbie completed her undergraduate degree at Glasgow University, Scotland, followed by a postgraduate at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at the University of Birmingham. Her thesis on Jackie magazine was published, re-printed and translated into several languages.

She taught in London at Loughborough University before moving to Goldsmiths College in 1988, where she became a Professor of Communications supervising in the research areas of Feminist Theory, Gender and the Modern Work Economy, Gender and Popular Culture, The Global Fashion Industry, New Forms of Labour in the Creative Economy, Start Ups and Social Enterprise.[1]

Overview of research[edit]


McRobbie began her early research in 1974 at the CCCS in Birmingham with an interest in gender, popular culture and sexuality. In particular, she wanted to investigate the problem of romance and feminine conformity connected to the everyday phenomena of girls magazines.

This approach led to papers on the culture of femininity, romance, pop music and teenybop culture, the teenage magazine Jackie and so on. Her thesis on Jackie magazine explored the ideologies of working class femininity embedded in popular culture aimed at girl readers, and identified the centrality of romantic individualism.[2] McRobbie later described her thesis, which focused on a simplistic model of the absorption of ideology by readers, as “a kind of weak afterthought” and an “immersion in left-wing radical and feminist politics”.[3] McRobbie contends that Marxism and psychoanalysis would have provided a much wider set of possibilities for understanding sexuality, desire and pleasure, in particular, the ISAs essay by Althusser had opened up a whole world for media and cultural analysis through ideology and interpellation.[4] These earlier essays can be found in Feminism and Youth Culture (1991).[5]

In 1978, McRobbie collaborated with Simon Frith to write a pioneer essay on the patriarchal character of rock music, constituting a starting point for numerous feminist studies on popular music.


In 1980, McRobbie published the article "Settling Accounts with Subculture. A Feminist Critique," in which she critiqued the influential work of Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) for its absence of female subcultures. She argued that in understanding constructions on juvenile subcultures, it was important to consider the private sphere of domesticity as much as the public scene as at the time, access to mobility and public spaces was more restricted for girls than for boys.[6]

In the mid-1980s, McRobbie became interested in debates about decoding and analysing the representation of over-sexualised images, stereotypes and advertising in the media. She began to examine surprising shifts in girls' magazines like Just Seventeen which promoted a different kind of femininity, largely owing to the integration of feminist rhetoric—if not feminist politics—into juvenile popular culture.[7] By downplaying boyfriends and husbands-to-be, and instead emphasising self-care, experimentation, and self-confidence, to McRobbie girls' magazines seemed evidence of the integration of feminist common sense into the wider cultural field.

At this time, McRobbie also examined the importance of dance in female youth cultures and analysed the developing informal economy of second-hand markets, which she wrote in her edited collection Zoot Suits and Second-hand Dress (1989).


In 1993, McRobbie published an essay "Shut Up and Dance: Youth Culture and Changing Modes of Femininity” where she analysed the paradoxes of young women identifications with feminism. Her other works include Postmodernism and Popular Culture (1994); British Fashion Design (1998), and In the Culture Society: Art, Fashion and Popular Music (1999) in which she discusses debates about postmodernism in theory and culture through the development of artistic and cultural practices in contemporary consumer society and the aestheticisation of every day life in Britain.[8]

McRobbie also believed that the magazine industry might be viewed as a key site of knowledge transfer, especially as the industry appealed to and recruited from feminist-influenced graduates.[9] However, cultural shifts in gender soon caused her to reconsider some of her earlier arguments.

In the mid-1990s, McRobbie describes the occurrence of a “complexification of backlash” towards feminism,[10] marking a decisive shift where the forces opposing gender equality and the visibility of women in positions of power blamed feminism for the rise in divorce rates, crises in masculinity and the "feminisation of the curriculum in schools". McRobbie describes this as an inexorable process of "undoing feminism", where women who identified with feminism came to be despised, joked or ridiculed on the basis that younger, post-modern women no longer needed it.[11]


McRobbie edited Without Guarantees: In Honour of Stuart Hall with Paul Gilroy and Lawrence Grossberg in 2000 (Verso), followed by The Uses of Cultural Studies (2005: Sage), which was translated into two Chinese Editions. In The Uses of Cultural Studies, McRobbie further draws on the key writings of theorists like Judith Butler, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, and critiques their work in their connection to grounded processes of cultural and artistic production.[12]

The Aftermath of Feminism (2008)

In November 2008, McRobbie published her most recent book The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change, reflecting on what she earlier saw as an overly optimistic declaration of feminist success. She describes writing the book by constantly “drawing on contemporary empirical research … I was kind of filtering it, re-reading it, or I was drawing from a whole field of 20 years of research”.[13]

In The Aftermath of Feminism, McRobbie examines diverse socio-cultural phenomena embedded in contemporary women’s lives such as Bridget Jones, fashion photography, the television ‘make-over’ genre, eating disorders, body anxiety and ‘illegible rage’ through feminist analysis.[14] She argues against the process of taking feminism into account to propose that it is no longer needed, and looks at the notion of disarticulation carried out alongside and subsumed by a seemingly more popular discourse of choice, empowerment and freedom in commercial culture and the government.[15]

In the first part of the book, McRobbie engages with European dominant discourse by connecting gender mainstream with UK governmentality. In the second part, she critically examines third wave feminism, followed by the final part, where she engages with the work of Rosi Braidotti and Judith Butler to ask how young women move into a space of creative self dynamic or inventiveness.[16]

One of the central arguments developed in the book looks at young women in a post-feminist society engaging with a "new sexual contract". To become equal and visible young women take advantage of the opportunity to study, gain qualifications and work, but in exchange for control over their fertility, exploring their sexuality and participating in consumer culture,[17] where the threshold of power and authority has been replaced by the fashion and beauty complex. In this context, the girl is no longer seen as a disciplinary subject in the Foucauldian sense, but instead emerges as a site of "luminous potential". First termed by Gilles Deleuze, McRobbie uses the language of luminosity to argue that girls are carefully produced and regulated by a new global economy after being interpellated into subject positions that provide them with limitless capacities.[18] Contemporary celebrations of girlhood as sites of luminous potential, not feminist success, is central to this argument, and she further believes that the though promoting gender freedom, the new sexual contract ultimately secures a "feminine citizenship" that benefits consumer culture in a capitalist labour market,[19] and ultimately contributes to what postcolonial feminist scholar Chandra Mohanty calls the re-colonization of culture and identities.[20]

Ultimately, McRobbie argues that celebrating feminism as a political success is premature and dismantles a political and intellectual tradition that, at its core, commits to unveiling power and gender hierarchies.

Current and future research[edit]

Her current research focuses on the 'new culture industry', particularly on the labour practices in the world of freelance, casualised creative work and micro-enterprises of creative labour such as fashion design, art-working, multi-media, curating and arts administration.[21]

McRobbie has begun to follow up to The Aftermath of Feminism titled Feminism and The Perfect: The Pathologies of Contemporary Femininity, along with work on a book about the global fashion industry titled Faster Fashion: The Sociology of Start-Ups, Mass- Luxury Brands and Supply Chains. In 2015, she will begin work on a study of the conditions which underpinned the emergence of the Black and Asian British Artists with reference to the writing of Stuart Hall.[22]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • McRobbie, Angela (1978). 'Jackie': an ideology of adolescent femininity. Birmingham: Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS Stencilled Papers), University of Birmingham. ISBN 9780704405004. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (1991). Feminism and youth culture: from 'Jackie' to 'Just seventeen'. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan. ISBN 9780333452639. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (1994). Postmodernism and popular culture. London New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415077132.  Also available in Turkish, Chinese and Korean. Individual chapters are also available in other languages.
  • McRobbie, Angela (1999). In the culture society: art, fashion and popular music. London New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415137508. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (2000). Feminism and youth culture (2nd ed.). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press. ISBN 9780333770320.  Also available in Chinese.
  • McRobbie, Angela (2005). The uses of cultural studies a textbook. London Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE. ISBN 9781412908450.  Also available in other languages including Czechoslovakian and Chinese.
  • McRobbie, Angela (2009). The aftermath of feminism: gender, culture and social change. Los Angeles London: SAGE. ISBN 9780761970620.  Translated into German as Top girls : Feminismus und der Aufstieg des neoliberalen Geschlechterregimes. Wiesbaden: VS-Verl. 2010. ISBN 9783531162720. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (2014). Be creative making a living in the new culture industries. City: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745661940. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (2015). Feminism, femininity and the perfect. Sage. 
  • McRobbie, Angela (2016). Stuart Hall, cultural studies and the rise of Black and Asian British art.  Check date values in: |date= (help) About the sociologist Stuart Hall.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Michelle Meagher (2011) “On the Loss of Feminism” Reviews in Cultural Theory, 2: 1, 63–66. Pp. 63.
  3. ^ Angela McRobbie (2013) “Angle McRobbie Interviews Herself” Cultural Studies, 27:5, 828–832.
  4. ^ McRobbie (2013) pp. 831.
  5. ^ Baldwin, Elaine et al. (1999). Introducing Cultural Studies. Athens: The University of Georgia Press. p. 343. ISBN 0-8203-2245-8. 
  6. ^ "Keeping the Door Open" Interview with Angela McRobbie by EJ González Polledo, Maria José Belbel and Rosa Reitsamer [1]
  7. ^ "Keeping the Door Open" Interview with Angela McRobbie by EJ González Polledo, Maria José Belbel and Rosa Reitsamer
  8. ^ Meagher (2011) pp.63
  9. ^ Meagher (2011) pp.63
  10. ^ Angela McRobbie (2013) “Angela McRobbie on the Illusion of Equality for Women” Social Science Bites [2]
  11. ^ Angela McRobbie (2013) "Angela McRobbie on the Illusion of Equality for Women"
  12. ^ "Keeping the Door Open" Interview with Angela McRobbie by EJ González Polledo, Maria José Belbel and Rosa Reitsamer
  13. ^ Angela McRobbie (2013) “Angela McRobbie on the Illusion of Equality for Women”
  14. ^ Angela McRobbie (2008) The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, culture and social change SAGE: London.
  15. ^ “Keeping the Door Open” Interview with Angela McRobbie by EJ González Polledo, Maria José Belbel and Rosa Reitsamer
  16. ^ "Keeping the Door Open" Interview with Angela McRobbie by EJ González Polledo, Maria José Belbel and Rosa Reitsamer
  17. ^ Meagher (2011) pp.64
  18. ^ Meagher (2011) pp.64
  19. ^ McRobbie (2008, pp. 54) in Meagher (2011) pp.64
  20. ^ Meagher (2011) pp.64
  21. ^ "Angela McRobbie". Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2009. 
  22. ^

External links[edit]