Performing the Repentant Lover in the Courtroom: An Analysis of Oscar Pistorius’ Recreation of Hegemonic Masculinity

  • Alexandra MachtEmail author


Michel Foucault (1980) presented social theorists with a consideration of power as existing everywhere. Furthermore, Jonathan Heaney (J Polit Power 6:355–362, 2013) recently asserted that emotions and power should be considered conceptual counterparts. I propose that what Foucault referred in terms of the omnipresence of power refers to its deeply social connection to emotions. One emotion, in particular, romantic love, has captured the sociological imagination not only at the level of personal relationships but also in connection with capitalism, as an ideology spurring consumption and influencing the construction of discourses and places. This chapter presents an analysis of the trial of Oscar Pistorius and the analysis plays on two levels: (a) firstly, through his courtroom interactions with members of the defence, and (b) through my eyes as a viewer, witnessing the trial on television. The televised South African courtroom becomes a space for the portrayal of a power-suffused masculine identity, which is emotionally constituted through emotional control and emotional release.


  1. Awol, A. (Ed.). (2016). The Courtroom as a Space of Resistance: Reflections on the Legacy of the Rivonia Trial. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  2. Barnard, A. (2010). Coat of Arms and the Body Politic: Khoisan Imagery and South African National Identity. Ethnos, 69(1), 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burke, J. (2016a). Oscar Pistorius Sentenced to Six Years in Jail for Reeva Steenkamp Murder. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  4. Burke, J. (2016b). Emotional Barry Steenkamp Says Pistorius Must Pay for Reeva’s Murder. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  5. Chibba, S. (2014). Judge Thokozile Masipa: Reserved and Astute. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  6. Clough, P. T. (2000). Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  7. Connell, R. W. (2002). On Hegemonic Masculinity and Violence: Response to Jefferson and Hall. Theoretical Criminology, 6(1), 89–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cowell, A. (2017). Oscar Pistorius’s Murder Sentence Is Increased to 15 Years. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  9. Ellis, P. (2010, April). A Short History of the North and South Gauteng High Courts. Advocate. pp. 48–49. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  10. Evans, M. (2003). Love: An Unromantic Discussion. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Flynn, S., & Mackay, A. (Eds.). (2017). Spaces of Surveillance: States and Selves. Cham: Springer/Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1988). Technologies of the Self. In L. H. Martin, H. Guttman, & P. H. Hutton (Eds.), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (pp. 16–50). London: Tavistock Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Foucault, M. (2007). Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College De France, 1977–78. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  15. Friesen, N. (2017). Confessional Technologies of the Self: From Seneca to Social Media. First Monday, 22(6). Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  16. Galič, M., Timan, T., & Koops, B. J. (2017). Bentham, Deleuze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories from the Panopticon to Participation. Philosophy and Technology, 30(1), 9–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibson, O. (2013). Oscar Pistorius: The Golden Boy with an Edge of Steel. The Guardian. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  18. Gorman-Murray, A., & Hopkins, P. (2014). Masculinities and Place. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Graham, S., & Wood, D. (2003). Digitizing Surveillance. Critical Social Policy, 23(2), 227–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Griffero, T. (2014). Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  21. Heaney, J. G. (2013). Emotions and Power: A Bifocal Prescription to Cure Theoretical Myopia. Journal of Political Power, 6(3), 355–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jones, R. (2007). The Architecture of Surveillance. Criminal Justice Matters, 68(1), 33–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kellner, D. (2015). Jean Baudrillard. In: E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  24. Lippitt, J. (2017). Forgiveness: A Work of Love? Parrhesia, 28, 19–39.Google Scholar
  25. Messner, M. A. (1995). Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  26. Meth, P. (2017). Informal Housing, Gender, Crime and Violence: The Role of Design in Urban South Africa. The British Journal of Criminology, 57(2), 402–421.Google Scholar
  27. Mulvey, L. (1999). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In L. Braudy & M. Cohen (Eds.), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (pp. 833–844). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Noble, J. A. (2008). Architecture, Hybridities and Post-Apartheid Design. South African Journal of Art History, 23(2), 71–88.Google Scholar
  29. Noble, J. A. (2011). African Identity in Post-apartheid Public Architecture: White Skin, Black Masks. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  30. Perry, A. (2013, March 1). Pistorius and South Africa’s Culture of Violence. The Times Magazine.,9171,2137420-1,00.html
  31. Piro, J. M. (2008). Foucault and the Architecture of Surveillance: Creating Regimes of Power in Schools, Shrines, and Society. Educational Studies, 44(1), 30–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ramazanoğlu, C. (Ed.). (1993). Up Against Foucault: Explorations of Some Tensions Between Foucault and Feminism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Rorty, A. O. (1980). Agent Regret. In A. Rorty (Ed.), Explaining Emotions (pp. 489–507). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  34. Schmidt, L. E. (1993). The Fashioning of a Modern Holiday: St. Valentine’s Day, 1840–1870. Winterthur Portfolio, 28(4), 209–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Scott, J.-A. (2014). Illuminating the Vulnerability of Hegemonic Masculinity Through a Performance Analysis of Physically Disabled Men’s Personal Narratives. Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(1). Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  36. Smart, C. (2002). Feminism and the Power of Law. London: Taylor & Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sokolovejan, M. P. (2012). The Fast Life of Oscar Pistorius. The New York Times. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  38. Spaulding, N. W. (2012). The Enclosure of Justice: Courthouse Architecture, Due Process, and the Dead Metaphor of Trial. Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 24(1), 16, 311–343.Google Scholar
  39. Stahl, G. (2017). The Practice of ‘Othering’ in Reaffirming White Working-Class Boys’ Conceptions of Normative Identities. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(3), 283–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Venter, Z. (2018). Feel the Heat When You Go to City Courts. Pretoria News. Accessed 25 Mar 2018.
  41. Waterhouse, R. (1993). The Inverted Gaze. In S. Scott & D. Morgan (Eds.), Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body (pp. 105–121). Washington, DC: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations