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The future(s) of risk: Barthes and Baudrillard go to Hollywood

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Elaine Campbell



Hollywood cinema is rarely acknowledged as an important counterpublic sphere which not only works to stimulate a critical and inclusive dialogue on the nature of risk technologies, but which also facilitates a deliberative engagement with the politics and ethics of risk-management. And yet, it is commonplace for the futuristic films of the science fiction genre to take seriously the implications to `justice’ of intensified surveillance in liberal democratic societies faced with different kinds of risk. Filmic representations of ‘imagined’ technologies for responding to crime, especially those based on identificatory and predictive capacity, are typified in box office successes, such as Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). These films may (simply) be entertaining as `action-packed’ science fiction thrillers, but they also create a Baudrillardian hyperreality which allows us to glimpse alternative frameworks of risk-management which, ambiguously, reflect both the horror and the hope for systems of `justice’, law enforcement and punishment in a `risk society’. Through an analysis of these films, and drawing on Barthes’s notions of jouissance and the enigmatic, this paper explores the critical, subversive and disruptive possibilities of the simulated worlds of `Hollywood risk-management’ paying particular attention to how they work to destabilise and scrutinise the conceptual scope and empirical instantiation of `risk’ as well as challenge its ethico-political meaning in contemporary life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Campbell E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Crime, Media, Culture

Year: 2010

Volume: 6

Issue: 1

Pages: 7-26

Date deposited: 05/08/2010

ISSN (print): 1741-6590

ISSN (electronic): 1741-6604

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1741659010363039


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