Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

New World Disorder: Black Hawk Down and the Eclipse of U.S. Military Humanitarianism in Africa

Abstract:
Abstract:

This article argues that Ridley Scott's film Black Hawk Down (2001) may be seen with the benefit of historical hindsight as a portrait of the fear of imperial overreach and failure as written through the psyche of elite U.S. soldiers. In Black Hawk Down, Mogadishu and its denizens are made to stand in for the worst fears of the American military and the civilian policymaking establishment: the city, and, by extension, urban Africa, is represented as a feral zone in which the U.S. military's unmatched firepower and technology are overwhelmed in densely populated slums. The Mog, as the film's Special Forces troops call the city, is a ramshackle megacity whose residents are armed to the teeth with the military detritus of the Cold War. Mogadishu thus embodies the new Heart of Darkness, a stateless urban world of vicious Hobbesian war of all against all. This view of Africa as the vanguard of anarchy is shared by a significant segment of the elite in the global North, who see the criminalization of the state in Africa as a direct threat to U.S. interests. If, as these analysts hold, it is from such feral zones that future threats to American society are likely to originate, then potent new weapons systems must be developed to deal with this racialized new world disorder. This article unpacks the ahistorical character of such selfserving representations of urban Africa, underlining the extent to which policies pursued during the Cold War and neoliberal era by powers such as the U.S. have helped to create the conditions that Black Hawk Down represents in such spectacular excess.

Résumé:

Cet essai soutient que le film de Ridley Scott Black Hawk Down (2001) peut être considéré, grâce à un recul historique à propos, comme un portrait de la crainte de l'ambition et de la défaite impériale percue au travers de la psychologie de l'élite militaire américaine. Dans le film Black Hawk Down, Mogadishu et ses habitants sont destinés à incarner les pires craintes de l'armée américaine et de l'establishment politique civil. Par extension, l'Afrique urbaine est représentée comme une zone sauvage dans laquelle la puissance militaire et technologique a priori inégalée des américains est submergée dans les bidonvilles surpeuplés. Dans le film, la ville ou le “Mog” comme l'appellent les troupes des forces spéciales, est une méga cité délabrée dont les résidents sont armés jusqu'aux dents avec les détritus militaires de la Guerre Froide. Mogadishu incarne ainsi le nouveau “Coeur des Ténèbres,” un monde urbain apatride en guerre à la Thomas Hobbes, de “tons contre tous.” Cette perception de l'Afrique comme avant-garde anarchique est partagée par une partie importante de l'élite des pays du Nord, qui considèrent la criminalisation de l'état en Afrique comme une menace directe contre les intérêts américains. Si, comme l'indiquent ces analystes, les futures menaces contre la société américaine sont censées provenir de ces zones sauvages, alors de nouveaux systèmes d'armement doivent être conçus pour faire face au désordre racialisé de ce nouveau monde. Get essai dévoile le détail des aspects non historiques de ces représentations partiales de l'Afrique urbaine, soulignant de quelle manière les mesures prises pendant la Guerre Froide et la période néolibérale par une puissance telle que les Etats Unis ont participé à créer les conditions représentées avec un excés si spectaculaire dans le film Black Hawk Down.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      New World Disorder: Black Hawk Down and the Eclipse of U.S. Military Humanitarianism in Africa
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      New World Disorder: Black Hawk Down and the Eclipse of U.S. Military Humanitarianism in Africa
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      New World Disorder: Black Hawk Down and the Eclipse of U.S. Military Humanitarianism in Africa
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
BarkawiTarak. 2004. “Globalization, Media, and War: On the Popular Mediation of “Small Wars.” Cultural Critique 58 (Fall): 115–47.
BayartJean-François, EllisStephen, and HibouBéatrice. 1999. The Criminalization of the State in Africa. Oxford: James Currey.
BhabhaHomi. 1993. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.
Black Hawk Down. 2001. Directed by ScottRidley. Columbia Pictures
BurlasJoe. 2002. “‘Black Hawk Down’ Reflects Army Values.” Army LINK News, January 16. www.dtic.mil/armylink/news.
ChabalPatrick, and DalozJean-Pascal. 1999. Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument. Oxford: James Currey.
CohenMitchel. 1999. “Somalia and the New World Order: You Provide the Collateral, We'll Provide the Damage.” http://archives.econ.utah.edu.
DahbourOmar. 2007. “Hegemony and Rights: On the Liberal Justification for Empire.” In Exceptional State: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the New Imperialism, edited by DawsonAshley and SchuellerMalini Johar, 105–32. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
DavisMike. 1997. Planet of Slums. New York: Verso.
DawsonAshley. 2007. “Combat in Hell: Cities as the Achilles Heel of U.S. Imperial Hegemony.” Social Text 91: 169–80.
DawsonAshley, and SchuellerMalini Johar. 2007. “Introduction.” In Exceptional State: Contemporary US Culture and the New Imperialism, edited by DawsonAshley and SchuellerMalini Johar, 136. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Der DerianJames. 2001. Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network. Boulder, Colo.: Westview.
ElderRobert K. 2002. “The War Stories of Black Hawk Down.” www.metromix.com/movies.
FergusonJames. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
FukuyamaFrancis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
GlennRussell, SteebR., and MatsumuraJ.. 2001. Corralling the Trojan Horse: A Proposal for Improving US Urban Operations Preparedness in the Period 2000–2005. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Arroyo Center.
GrahamStephen. 2005. “War and Peace: Redesigning the U.S. Military–Controlling Global South Cities,” Z Magazine online 18.9 (September), www.zmag.org.
HahnRobert F.II, and JeziorBonnie. 1999. “Urban Warfare and the Urban Fighter of 2025.” Parameters 29 (2): 7486.
HarveyDavid. 2003. The New Imperialism. New York: Oxford University Press.
JeffordsSusan. 1989. The Remasculinizalion of American Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
KaplanRobert. 2001. The, Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. New York: Vintage.
KlienStephen A. 2005. “Public Character and Simulacrum: The Construction of the Soldier Patriot and Citizen Agency in Black Hawk Down .” Critical Studies in Media Communication 22. 5 (December): 427–49.
LiottaP. H., and MerkelJ. F.. 2004. “Redrawing the Map of the Future.” World Policy Journal (March), www.worldpolicy.org.
LuttwakEdward. 2007. “Dead End: Counterinsurgency Warfare as Military Malpractice.” Harper's Magazine (February), 3342.
MedovoiLeerom. 2007. “Global Society Must Be Defended: Biopolitics Without Boundaries.” Social Text 91: 5379.
Midnight Notes Collective. 1993. Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War (1973–1990). New York: Autonomedia.
MillerChristopher. 1986. Blank Darkness: Africanist Discourse in French. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
MonbiotGeorge. 2002. “Both Saviour and Victim: Black Hawk Down Creates a New and Dangerous Myth of American Nationhood.” The Guardian, January 29. www.guardian.co.uk.
SimoneAbdulMaliq. 2004. For the City Yet to Come: Changing African Life in Four Cities. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
SlotkinRichard. 1973. Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
WaltonJohn, and SeddonDavid. 1994. Free Markets and Food Riots: The Politics of Global Adjustment. Oxford: Blackwell.
WarrenRobert. 2004. “City Streets: The War Zones of Globalization.” In Cities, Wars, and Terrorism: Toward an Urban Geopolitics, edited by GrahamStephen, 214–30. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
WinantHoward. 2001. The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II. New York: Basic Books.
YoungMarilyn B. 2003. “In the Combat Zone.” Radical History Review 85: 253–64.
ZartmanI. William. 1995. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Reinner.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 114 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 249 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.