The vigilante strain and the spaces of the state in contemporary fiction

  • Deepthi Sebastian

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study is concerned with redefining and providing a theoretical framework for the analysis of the vigilante in select works of contemporary fiction. Vigilantism is a concept that has no stable definition and varies in terms of the vigilante’s characteristics, motivations and aims. Popular culture manifestations of the vigilante portray the figure as an avenger, seeking vengeance for personal injury as well as for other helpless members of society. Historical and political studies of the vigilante reveal the figure variously as a revolutionary, an upholder of the status quo, a prejudiced and occasionally cowardly individual afraid of social change. This thesis departs from reductive definitions of vigilantism and instead pays attention to the complex and contentious nature of the phenomenon that emerges from contact with an ineffectual State that is unable to protect the rights and liberty of its citizenry. I examine the ways in which the contemporary vigilante of fiction is birthed and how the figure functions within the different spaces of the State. The various genres that I use, ranging from superhero tales to crime fiction, horror and post-apocalyptic fiction offer a variety of milieus for the investigation of different types or strains of vigilantism: motivated by factors other than revenge, where the enforcement of enshrined values of society is no longer a vigilante prerogative and where vigilante characteristics spread among individuals and communities to assume epidemic, endemic and pandemic proportions.
Date of AwardJul 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAndrew Pepper (Supervisor) & Philip McGowan (Supervisor)

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