Document Type



Master of Arts


American Studies

First Adviser

Pettegrew, John


This thesis deconstructs a 21st-century museum photography exhibition of two mid-century pop culture icons, Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley, to foreground the significance of contemporary institutional practices in the deradicalization of socio-historic narratives in the resurrection, propagation and merger of two fundamentally radical post-modern cultural symbols. I historicize each man within his mid-20th century milieu to analyze broader communicative themes within this current exhibition and chart a roadmap of boundary transgression in a complex parallel history. To calibrate Elvis and Ali's legacies as social beings over a fifty year arc, I contemporize social contagion theory and foreground a carrier narrative mid-century media advanced in the characterization of each man as contagion. This deconstruction reframes Elvis and Ali's photographic representation as an ethnographic study to provide a greater understanding of cultural manufacturing processes engaged to resurrect identity in the perpetuation of Ali and Elvis as American icons within popular consciousness.