Borders, Barriers and Grievable Lives

Holger Pötzsch
2011 Nordicom Review  
Based on a close reading of Ridley Scott's war film Black Hawk Down (USA 2001; BHD), the present article 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
more » ... rievable. Having demonstrated how BHD sets up such epistemological barriers, I widen my 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 that organizes 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 of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to an analysis of audio-visual media, and of the approaches of Judith Butler, James Der Derian, and Paul Virilio to conceptualizing impacts of media representations on political discourse and practice in times of war.
doi:10.1515/nor-2017-0114 fatcat:fuuu6ipshzh7npespfcbs73qli