In recent years much has been written about what is seen by some writers as a ‘site of struggle’ within popular culture—the representation of Madonna as a postmodernist postfeminist cultural phenomenon. The following analysis considers some of the debates around Madonna positioned at the interface of postfeminism and popular culture. A collection of essays which focuses on some of the key issues raised by these debates is contained in The Madonna Connection, edited by Cathy Schwichtenberg (1993).

Madonna and her work are used as a paradigm case in the book, which documents ‘cultural struggle’, based around ‘the political effectivity of Madonna’s multifaceted representations’ (Schwichtenberg 1993:3). Schwichtenberg argues that Madonna’s performances integrate symbolic aspects that reference different subcultural groups including African Americans, Hispanics, gay men, lesbians, feminists and others who represent minority or subordinate positions. Issues of subjectivity and identity figure largely here and, as Schwichtenberg maintains, ‘Madonna’s subculturally evocative texts may very well present the conditions for the coalescence and mobilization of identities yet to be pacified by commodity culture’ (ibid.). As Schwichtenberg notes, Madonna has inscribed herself on the public consciousness in multiple and contradictory ways. She argues that, in drawing on Madonna as situated at the interface of postfeminism and popular culture, we are following Edward Said’s directive ‘to that intersection of politics and popular culture where as cultural critics and theorists we make connections between culture as it is lived and culture as it is theorized’ (Schwichtenberg 1993:4). Schwichtenberg’s book, using Madonna as a ‘multifaceted site of contestation’, sets out to achieve Said’s directive.