29 April 2014


'‘Prince Harry’: performing princeliness' by Oliver Watts in Peer Reviewed Proceedings of the 4th Annual Conference, Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ), Brisbane, Australia, 24-26 June, 2013 249-258 is characterised as combining
visual studies and jurisprudence in a reading of popular images of a princely body. Last year Prince Harry threatened to bring the Royal Family into disrepute after a certain night in Las Vegas. Grainy phone images, and the accounts of Olympic swimmers and party girls all drew a picture of debauchery and orgiastic display. On the other hand Prince Henry (Harry), like certain Shakespearean Henrys, is the perfect warring prince, leading his men in Iraq in an outpouring of princely virtue and Renaissance civic humanism. The mass media have publicised shots of Harry in his white steed, an Apache helicopter. The sovereign body has recently been revisited in jurisprudential scholarship from Agamben to Pierre Legendre. The sovereign body is a site of refusal or failure of symbolic interpellation, like the grand criminal or terrorist. The sovereign body marks the mythical site of law’s authority. One small group of performance artists, the English royal family, live the fantastical structures of the law as their quotidian reality. In a democracy such an icon of transcendental founding of the law in sovereignty is suggested but often repressed by the ‘post-ideological’ trappings of the administered or disciplinary society. What Harry does, like Agamben and Legendre, is to uncover this Renaissance (Romano-Christian) image magic in modernism.
Watts comments that what Harry
highlights perhaps most clearly of any member of the Royal family, is how desire is part of our subjection to and belief in the law. Law and sovereignty are not only constitutions and speeches but, parties and beautiful Royal bodies. So when I recently saw an E Entertainment special: The two faces of Prince Harry, I thought that is exactly right. The law has two faces, its public face, and a private more transgressive and desirous face. The subtitle was: A look at the two sides of Prince Harry examines his most controversial moments, along with his charity work and his life in the military. What they failed to describe was how these two sides are actually quite natural to the sovereign body. The sovereign body as Giorgio Agamben has suggested is an exception to the law; it is paradoxically the place marker of (public) law and always somehow outside of the law. As the public law the English Royal Family is all charity and army. Prince Henry (Harry), like certain Shakespearean Henrys, wanted to lead his men in Iraq in an outpouring of princely virtue and Renaissance civic humanism. On the other side like the great criminal they are the subject of Hollywood fascination. As someone that we imagine is not obligated to the law in the way we are as citizens we want to see the royal family act out again like a Renaissance King. So for example when Harry was found in naked pictures in Las Vegas last year, this is part of what we expect and want to see of someone not beholden to the law as a citizen but outside the law as sovereign. Even his tricks with an apache helicopter this month at an air show showed an incredibly free and excitingly transgressive life. Like a Renaissance king riding a white steed at a joust, our Prince Henry throws a multimillion dollar Apache around, again here not in combat but in showy play. Don’t forget either my favourite story of how Prince William picked up Catherine for a date in military helicopter as he ‘got in flying hours’. Although in all these cases the media brought down harsh criticism and called for sanctions my argument is that in all these cases the performance of the sovereign is enacted. The sovereign is connected to desire and transgression. 
Following Lacan I treat the sovereign body as an icon of law. A sublime object of ideology, and that this functions in the same way whether you are in a democracy a communist state or a constitutional monarchy. Whether the sovereign as denoted by the monarch or as the sovereignty of the people, the authority of the state is still a sacred, unrepresentable object. Importantly, the process of ‘personifying’ the void still occur through ‘bodies’ and images, which can be explained empirically or through Lacan. Michael Walzer concisely writes, ‘[Because] the state is invisible...it must be personified before it can be seen, symbolised before it can be loved, imagined before it can be conceived’ (Walzer 1967: 194). In the work Now by Maurizio Cattelan in 2004 he presents an effigy for democracy; John F. Kennedy (JFK) lies barefoot like a prophet, perfectly recomposed from his trauma, a sublime object of ideology for democracy. This analysis helps to explain why the symbolic body has survived in contemporary politics as a fantasy structure connected to what Lacan sees as a ‘master signifier’, the cipher. In this case Harry is one of these bodies that covers over the gap, an effigy. …
This Lacanian reading is also explained by Žižek who suggests that there is an obscene hidden supplement to the law, where we enjoy the law, and relate to it through jouissance. Is not love, looking from the other side, always about power and sovereignty? (Kristeva 1987: 125). 
So on one level this obscene hidden supplement to the law, can express itself as profane love as it does here or as transgressive, deviant almost criminality. This gap in the power structures interrupts the big Other itself and opens up this space of jouissance. There is something always outside the Law, the element of the ‘real’ exterior to it, or to reiterate Žižek's term following Lacan, this is the ‘master signifier’ here the point of concept of sovereignty. In reality this real exterior to the political may be the founding violence of colonial power, the founding violence of revolution, repression, or capitalist power. The big Other is split at the point of the subject but also within itself. 
Žižek argues that, ‘every power structure is necessarily split, inconsistent, there is a crack in the very foundation of its edifice– and this crack can be used as a lever for the effective subversion of the power structure…’ (1996: 3). The split in the law’s edifice – this lack – creates an interesting connection to the law. The outcome is that we are not merely ruled by the law but we also desire it. For Lacan, as we are castrated, or submit to interpellation, we must give up our desires, the object petit a. There is a fantasy that the big Other has held this lost object of desire almost on trust and will at some point give it back. Our relationship to the big Other or the Real Thing is then mediated by desire. 
Žižek's contribution is once again helpful. He shows a supplement to the public law that is a hidden secret law whose overarching power is one of jouissance and superego injunctions. So that, for example, our truest relationship with the ‘nation’ may be at a sporting event, the Olympics or even a music festival. In Tarrying With The Negative Žižek suggests as a master signifier, the subject may not ‘know’ the nation (as an object of empirical knowledge) but they ‘enjoy (jouis) their nation as themselves’ (1993: 200-238). The Lacanian term Jouissance is usually translated from French as ‘enjoyment’ – as opposed to the English idea of ‘pleasure’ – implying jouissance as a sexualised, transgressive enjoyment at the limit of what subjects can experience or talk about in public. Here I suggest the body of Harry is one of these sites of desire (of nation and of law).