The New Face of Global Hollywood: Black Hawk Down and the Politics of Meta-Sovereignty

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This paper uses Ridley Scott’s 2001 film blockbuster Black Hawk Down to examine the claim that popular film is the ‘newest component of sovereignty’. While the topic of the film – the 1993 UN/US intervention in Somalia – lends itself to straightforward politicisation, this paper is equally interested in the film’s production history and its reception by global audiences. While initial reactions to the film focused on its ideological commitments (e.g. racism, collusion between Hollywood and the Pentagon, post-11 September patriotism), these readings continually posed an imagined ‘America’ against ‘the world’. This paper argues that Black Hawk Down is not about sovereignty as traditionally conceived, that is, about national interest shaping global affairs. Rather, Black Hawk Down articulates, and is articulated by, a new and emerging global order that operates through inclusion, management and flexibility. Drawing on recent theoretical debates over this new logic of rule, this paper illustrates how Black Hawk Down invoked much more diffuse, complex and deterritorialized categories than national sovereignty. In effect, Scott’s film goes beyond traditional notions of sovereignty altogether: its production, signification and reception deconstruct simple notions of ‘America’ and ‘the world’ in favour of what Hardt and Negri call ‘Empire’, what Zizek calls ‘post-politics’, and what we refer to as ‘meta-sovereignty’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-192
Number of pages28
JournalCultural Politics an International Journal
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005


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