Rancière and Bowie in Dogville
This chapter extends and revises Jacques Rancière’s reading of von Trier’s Dogville (2003) as a cinematic expression of the contemporary “ethical turn.” For Rancière, Dogville expresses how, within the post–September 11 power formation, programs of ethical commitment, which oscillate incoherently between universalist devotion to humanity and defensive/vengeful loyalty to the nation, overshadow collective projects of political contestation. Hence, through many narrative, visual, and aural elements, the film records and threatens to reinforce this hegemonic formation that merges humanitarianism with the military aggressions and control technologies of the national security state. Yet as the closing track (“Young Americans”) by David Bowie suggests, Dogville also evokes a counterhegemonic politics of style that Rancière neglects but still helps theorize. Such a politics involves reconfiguring distributions of the sensible, interrogating claims to authentic knowledge of justice, and subversively manipulating commodities.
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