Borders, barriers and grievable lives : the discursive production of self and other in film and other audio-visual media
On the background of a close reading of Ridley Scott’s war film Black Hawk Down (USA 2001; BHD), this paper investigates the formal properties through which a certain strain of war and action movies discursively constitutes the other – the enemy - as less than human. I develop the argument that the emergent relation between friend and foe in these films can be read through the concept of the border as an epistemological barrier that keeps the other incomprehensible, inaccessible, and ultimately ungrievable. Having demonstrated how BHD sets up such epistemological barriers, I widen focus and show that similar formal properties can be found in other audio-visual media, such as video games or news items. I then proceed to investigate how the societal impacts of this audio-visual rhetoric might be conceptualized. Do the mass media constitute a logistics organizing audiences’ perceptions of war, violence, and the other? Does the barring of the face of the enemy from the public sphere of appearance render particular lives ungrievable and therefore unprotectable? The main theoretical frame of the paper consists of an application of the discourse theory by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to an analysis of audio-visual media, and of the approaches by Judith Butler, James Der Derian, and Paul Virilio to conceptualize impacts of media representations on political discourse and practice in times of war.
This article is part of Holger Pötzsch's doctoral thesis, which is available in Munin at http://hdl.handle.net/10037/4103
SiteringNordicom Review 32(2011) nr. 2 s. 75-94
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