Author: Neal Curtis

This book explores the concept of sovereignty through an analysis of superhero comics. Sovereignty is traditionally understood to be the legitimate monopoly on the use of force in a given territory. It is therefore a complex mix of authority, strength, law and violence, which are all used to a secure a physical and existential identity for a defined community. Another defining trait of the sovereign is the capacity to suspend the law and declare a state of emergency. Given that superheroes are themselves composites of authority, law and violence, while also being exceptional figures operating in a seemingly extra-legal space, they are perfect for working through the problems associated with the concept of sovereignty. However, rather than use superhero comics to simply illustrate the problems associated with sovereignty, the book argues that superhero comics—using a range of stories and characters from the Marvel and DC universes—explicitly engage with the themes in a critically reflexive and politically progressive way undermining the charge that they are simply conservative defenders of the status quo or dumb vigilantes. The book also argues that at the heart of superhero universes is a fundamental intuition about the contradictory nature of sovereignty, that it is at once both absolutely powerful and absolutely nihilating. The book claims that this intuition should inform our theories of what sovereignty means.

International society and the International Criminal Court

This book takes the transatlantic conflict over the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the lens for an enquiry into the normative foundations of international society. It shows how the way in which actors refer to core norms of the international society, such as sovereignty and human rights, affect the process and outcome of international negotiations. The book offers an innovative take on the long-standing debate over sovereignty and human rights in international relations. It goes beyond the simple and sometimes ideological duality of sovereignty versus human rights by showing that they are not competing principles in international relations, as is often argued, but complement each other. The way in which the two norms and their relationship are understood lies at the core of actors' broader visions of world order. The book shows how competing interpretations of sovereignty and human rights and the different visions of world order that they imply fed into the transatlantic debate over the ICC and transformed this debate into a conflict over the normative foundations of international society.

Neal Curtis

7 Sovereignty at the limit Having addressed how sovereignty seeks to secure an identity by policing its kinship structure, in this chapter I would like to return to the spectre that haunts sovereignty, and has done so in this study since the opening chapter, namely the ‘nothingness’ out of which Carl Schmitt (2005: 32) claimed the sovereign’s legitimacy arises. Although Schmitt tried to fill this void with the divine presence of God, the Father, this only masked the fact that something limitless and potentially abyssal lies at the foundation of sovereignty

in Sovereignty and superheroes
Sibylle Scheipers

2 The configuration of sovereignty and human rights The transatlantic debate over the ICC is located at the interface of sovereignty and human rights. Regarding the latter, the ICC mainly targets political and civil rights, but leaves aside questions of economic, social and cultural rights.1 Additionally, in the context of political and civil rights, the provisions included in the Rome Statute target the most ‘urgent rights’ (Rawls, 1999: 79): the prohibition of genocide, of crimes against humanity (such as the persecution and displacement of ethnic or

in Negotiating sovereignty and human rights
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Robert Lister Nicholls

During the course of Britain's relationship with Europe, the concept of sovereignty has been raised as an issue by the political elite of both major political parties. Whilst it is suggested that this malleable concept was used in a rhetorical rather than in a precise manner, there remains a need to determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of sovereignty, particularly in respect of Britain and Europe. The concept of sovereignty is examined from a British historical perspective and specifies the diversity of existing

in The British political elite and Europe, 1959–1984
The Queen’s currency and imperial pedagogies on Australia’s south-eastern settler frontiers
Penelope Edmonds

assay the currency of Queen Victoria, the British sovereign, among Kulin Aboriginal peoples. 4 In this frontier encounter, seemingly quotidian yet compelling enough for Adeney to record in his diary, is revealed an intriguing sovereignty performance. In a scene rendered as a theatrical vignette, Adeney showed the coin and tested the small Aboriginal group when he asked if they

in Mistress of everything
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Sovereignty and superheroes
Neal Curtis

Introduction: sovereignty and superheroes Stories of the super-powered beings we have come to call superheroes have now been written for over seventy-five years. In that time, vibrantly colourful tales of hope, courage and the search for justice have adorned the pages of innumerable comics that have filled countless shelves of news-stands and bookshops. Regularly derided and marginalised, these stories have nevertheless come to be one of the most dominant popular art forms. Supported by their ability to leap from the pages of comics into the cathode ray tube of

in Sovereignty and superheroes
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Neal Curtis

3 Law and violence The concept of sovereignty is a constellation of many elements, but it is primarily a relationship between legitimacy, law and violence. From the writings of Thomas Hobbes to the work of Max Weber sovereignty has been defined as the exclusive, legal right to the use of violence, which in turn becomes the expression of sovereign legitimacy. Having addressed the issue of legitimacy in the previous two chapters, it is now time to consider law and violence, and the specific treatment these supposedly antithetical yet intimately related concepts

in Sovereignty and superheroes
Neal Curtis

6 Symbolic authority and kinship We have seen that the primary political act of the sovereign is to define who is friend and who is enemy; who is protected as part of the community and who is excluded or banished. This suggests that an understanding of kinship is also essential to any analysis of sovereignty. Understood from this perspective, the sovereign is a symbolic authority organising, regulating and policing the activities of those who live within a territory. The fact that the sovereign traditionally has his analogue in the despot (despotēs in Greek) or

in Sovereignty and superheroes
Neal Curtis

human freedom. It is therefore surprising to find that in the original stories Superman is announced to the world as ‘a champion of the oppressed’ 12 Sovereignty and superheroes (Siegel and Shuster, 2006: 4) and appears to be far more socially liberal than we have come to expect. Although perhaps not quite a socialist, he was certainly a means ‘to call for interventionist government on the side of the common citizen’ (Coogan, 2006:  235), and demonstrated few qualms about killing, destroying private property, kidnapping or disregarding the authority of the police

in Sovereignty and superheroes