Talk Explores Identity in Music Legend David Bowie’s Work

Barbara Mitra
Dr Barbara Mitra

Now a University of Worcester lecturer will be looking at the exploration and representation of identity in David Bowie’s music at an upcoming talk.

Dr Barbara Mitra, Principal Lecturer in Media & Film Studies, will be speaking on ‘David Bowie and Identities’ at The Hive, on Thursday April 18, at 7pm, as part of the library’s ‘Out Loud’ series of spring events.

In her free lecture, Dr Mitra will explore how the characters he created, such as Ziggy Stardust, as well as his lyrics and style challenged gender and sexual norms at the time.

Dr Mitra will be considering specific Bowie song lyrics and music videos and giving her thoughts on what they mean. She will be also exploring some of Bowie’s album covers, in particular The Man Who Sold the World. On this cover Bowie poses in a dress, a groundbreaking move for the 1970s.

She will also be inviting audience members to share their thoughts on Bowie’s messaging in his songs and how they have interpreted them or perhaps drawn inspiration from them.

“It’s not just about music with David Bowie,” she said. “It’s saying your identity is in flux and it’s okay to be who you are, you don’t have to be tied to societal norms and that’s what comes through in his music and his films really.

“What he was really doing was saying you are not limited and that you are not defined by societal norms. He definitely led the way, nobody else was doing that kind of thing. He’s been a big influence over many artists.”

Madonna, Lady Gaga and many others have acknowledged David Bowie as an inspiration.

Dr Mitra’s research focuses on gender, particularly on body image and beauty, in media and social media, but she has always been a David Bowie fan so wanted to explore his works.

She said: “My work is around societal norms, gender expectations about how one looks and I suppose that’s what David Bowie is challenging because the characters he’s created challenged these norms because they could be anything.”

Dr Mitra said being half-Indian half-Irish and growing up in London’s East End, she had back then herself identified with some of Bowie’s lyrics about not feeling like she belonged.

“Because his lyrics are sometimes obscure it allows us to fill in the details with our imagination and to connect with his songs and personas,” she said. “He studied Buddhism and this idea that everything is in flux and that we don’t have a fixed sense of self. He challenges us to make our own identities. He gives us a different way of being. Bowie highlights our ever-changing selves and allows us to be different.”

Tickets are free but booking is essential. Book tickets on The Hive website’s ‘Out Loud’ What’s On webpage.