Eye witness — memorialising humanity in Steve McQueen's Hunger

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Abstract

This paper builds on a developing field of enquiry regarding the potency of film as an intervention into normative patterns in popular culture. Such interventions are recognisably into 'legal' territory in a legal pluralist sense, in that the maintenance of ongoing normative cultural patterns with reference to an idea of culture is the core of constitutional law. The argument is developed that Steve McQueen in Hunger (based on Bobby Sands 1981 Hunger Strike to protest against the criminalisation of political prisoners in Northern Ireland) has made a film which marries a particular filmic formal device of lingering on highly aestheticised details of human behaviour with an overall filmic sensibility of refusing ‘politics’ in favour of ‘humanity’. The argument in this paper is that the ongoing processes of ‘dealing with the past’ in Northern Ireland may have something to learn from the marriage of idea and aesthetic form in Hunger, and that the film is a potent contribution to re-imagining a vision of societal constitutionality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-60
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Volume5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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