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WGS Research Seminar – Professor Trimble

October 15, 2014 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Regarding Ruins: State-phobic Speculations and Neoliberal Legends

Contemporary apocalypse films conduct a neoliberal pedagogy. By privileging a survivalist’s perspective on ruined landscapes, they teach ways of speculating on undone spaces as risky but potentially profitable sites of economic and affective investment. These visions of social collapse channel both “weak state” and “strong state” fantasies, simultaneously dramatizing The End of so-called big government and the rise, in its place, of a militarized authoritarian power. As a result, they’re uniquely positioned to illuminate how neoliberalism mediates the incoherence of its own theoretical framework, balancing a state-phobic ideology with the need for security apparatuses that will defend private property and entrepreneurial freedom. A critical analysis of the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies can reveal the ideological sleight of hand by which neoliberalism affixes an apocalyptic horizon to the maternally-coded welfare state—projecting a catastrophe that seemingly materializes in visions of urban decay and “menacing” youth—and proposes the paternal security state as an authoritarian corrective. Anchored by a close reading of Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (2007), this paper maps the overlapping spatial stories told by security states and (supposedly anti-state) survivalists. Reading Legend as an unstable allegory of the War on Terror that simultaneously resurfaces the American Indian as the original “terrorist,” I demonstrate how neoliberal security states are invested in representing ruined spaces as empty lands ripe for re-colonization.


October 15, 2014
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


JHB 100A, Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street
Toronto, Canada
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