Black Panther’s Rage: Sovereignty, the Exception and Radical Dissent

  • Neal CurtisEmail author


Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, became one of the highest grossing films of all time. It also received a lot of critical attention for its direct engagement with black experience and black politics. It speaks to the legacy of slavery and the exploitation of African-Americans and the ongoing post-colonial struggle represented most starkly by the Black Lives Matter Movement. However, the film was also criticised for supposedly leaving that radical black politics behind, even demonising it in its lead antagonist, Killmonger, and instead proposing a liberal, reformist agenda very much in keeping with current forms of sovereign power, bolstered under the current neoliberal regime by the charity of billionaires. To some extent this is understandable, but it is also a very limited reading of what happens in the film and does a disservice to the radical dissent that the character of Killmonger represents. To address this, the paper uses the concept of sovereignty and asks how superheroes can help us unpack this concept. It argues that rather than seeing superheroes as vigilantes, thinking of them as sovereigns helps us unpack the complex knot of law, authority and violence that is key to understanding it. In particular it draws on Agamben’s discussion of sovereignty and the politics of the exception, and how this might be relevant to Fanon’s work on counter-colonial violence to show how the film remains true to radical protest throughout. On the way it also addresses the important cultural politics of the original comic.


Sovereignty Superheroes Colonialism Dissent Black Lives Matter 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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