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Curtis, Neil: "Superheroes and the contradiction of sovereignty." In: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 4.2 (2013), S. 209–222.
|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Curtis2013
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Keywords: "The Sentry", Gewalt, Jenkins. Paul, Nancy. Jean-Luc, Superheld, USA
Collection: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
As permanent states of emergency, superhero universes are perfect places to study popular conceptions of sovereignty. The abiding themes in these universes include the relation between law and violence; issues of authority and legitimacy; questions of kinship; truth and justice; terrorism; pre-emption; banishment and exclusion; and the complex imbrications of friend and enemy. In many respects the traditional philosophical approaches to sovereignty that have become part of our common sense understandings of national identity and the maintenance of order are all reflected here. While this is not surprising, what is perhaps more intriguing is that superhero stories also concern themselves with issues and plot-lines that complement the contemporary critical theory challenging these traditional conceptions. Giorgio Agamben’s treatment of violence, sacrifice and the ban, or Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of the pharmakon as both poison and cure are central to the conception of the superhero. However, the aim of this article is to show how superhero comics articulate a fundamental intuition regarding sovereignty’s primary contradiction: that what is most powerful is both something (entity, person, institution) that founds and preserves law and order, and nothing, an all-consuming violence, entropy, anarchy that persistently threatens every world we build. The article considers how this sovereign nothing might be addressed using the work of Jean-Luc Nancy via a reading of Paul Jenkins’s The Sentry. It also argues that superhero comics’ treatment of this contradiction is a genuine contribution to representations of sovereignty.
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