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Supercapital Management: Normalizing Batman’s ‘Best Practices’ of Neoliberal Heroism in Morrison and Porter’s JLA
October 11, 2018 @ 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Dr. Joshua Pearson, who received his Ph.D. from UCR in 2018, will be giving a mock job talk and Q&A in HMNSS 2212 from 12:30 to 1:30pm. From 1:30 to 2:30 pm, Professor Yamamoto will be giving a talk on job letters, CVs, and other supplementary materials.
Dr. Pearson current book project Managing Power: Heroism in the Age of Speculative Capital examines how the ascendance of financial capitalism and neoliberal governance impacted representations of identity and agency in Anglo-American popular culture. In this talk, he focuses on Batman’s evolving relationship with the Justice League of America between 1980 and 2001. Across this period, Batman evolves into an exemplar of the skillset and subjectivity demanded by speculative capital, and as he does so his style of superheroism as human capital management comes into increasing conflict with the social democratic, liberal humanist ethos that has traditionally animated the Justice League. In Grant Morrison and Dell Porter’s JLA (1997-2001), Batman’s “best practices” of financialized heroism finally succeed in subsuming the League’s democratic ideals, becoming the new hegemonic norm for both mundane and superheroic identity and agency in DC’s diegetic universe. Drawing on Wendy Brown, Mark Fisher, and Ramzi Fawaz, Pearson argues that JLA uses the tropes and figures of heroic fantasy both to “think” neoliberalism’s becoming-hegemonic at the turn of the millennium, serving as a popular fantasy of power that helps us cognitively map changes in the macro-scale structures of our “real” world that are otherwise difficult to grasp, intellectually, emotionally, and ethically. While JLA is, itself, a performance of finance capital’s cultural hegemony in the high Imperial moment of the late 1990s, it also crystalizes notoriously abstract relations of power into accessible forms, making them available for public debate and contestation, allowing us to articulate new avenues of resistance to the neoliberal system of sociopathic, antidemocratic power that the Dark Knight’s financialized heroism epitomizes.