Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Arthur Knight


Using jazz trumpeter Miles Davis (1926-1991) as its primary example, "Seeing (for) Miles" attempts to build on a growing discourse related to the intersection of jazz, race, and visual / material culture that has heretofore largely ignored the role of consumption. Davis' numerous decisions to spend money on expensive things and/or have them custom made, insisting these things be seen by others, and overseeing his image in advertisements are a reminder that famous musicians often found themselves straddling the line between being consumers and objects of consumption. Following Davis on both sides of that line also necessitates following him on and off the stage, in the eye of his fans as well as the general public. Each of the chapters of this dissertation seek to understand how Davis negotiated this variety of viewpoints as a musician, consumer, and African American via his colored trumpets, tailored suits, sports cars, an expensive home, and instrument advertisements.;The decisions Davis and others made with regard to their positions as consumers and African Americans reflected back on a longer history of black interaction with the marketplace while positioning themselves within existing debates concerning racial equality, jazz's status as high art, and the merits of capitalism as a catalyst for democracy. at the same time, their careers as public performers, status as celebrities, and the increasing presence of the visual mass media ensured that their consumer-related decisions reached bigger and wider audiences than ever before. In such a context, the marketplace can be understood as having constituted a unique venue in which black jazz musicians performed a variety of roles relative to their musical and racial identities. Understanding the ways Davis and others negotiated this process allows us to shed light on a relatively unexplored aspect of jazz culture while also suggesting ways in which racial and musical identities continue to be impacted by visual / material culture in modern society.



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