CFP: von Trier's Manderlay and Modern Society (Netherlands) (2/20/07; 10/10/07-10/11/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Dominiek Hoens
contact email:

Manderlying: Lie and/of Liberty in Modern Society as argued in Lars von
Trier's Manderlay
Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands)
10-11 October 2007

Manderlay (2005) is the second film of Lars von Trier's 'America Trilogy',
offering a picture of American society during the Depression of the
thirties. More generally, it offers a reflection on the modern and free
society. Dogville, the trilogy's first film (2004), focussed on the violence
of the 'gift' as haunting a community based on the modern idea of freedom.
Manderlay stages a similar violence, but focuses on the problem of truth and
lie in modern society. It is the story of a community of black people in the
South who, 70 years after the abolition of slavery, are still the slaves of
a white family. At the end, however, it is revealed that 70 years ago, they
have freely chosen to remain slaves and that the freedom eventually regained
brings the disaster they had always feared.

The movie brings back one of the darkest sides of western history: whilst
creating a free society, a large part of the 'New World'' declared slavery
to be one of its constitutive elements. Manderlay is von Trier's way to deal
with that traumatic side of modern freedom's legacy. The conference intends
to explore two basic questions raised by this movie:

  1.. Not unlike socio-political catastrophes as the 'Gulag' and 'Auschwitz',
this trauma raises the question how to incorporate and 'accept the
unacceptable' into our memory, into the making of modernity's tradition.
  2.. And what to think if freedom as such is based on a lie urging us to
act as if we are slaves. What if this very lie is the basic condition of the
way we, moderns, deal with freedom's truth?

The conference intends to approach these questions - as well as this film -
from many different theoretical schemes. The intention is not only to use
the film as an illustration of these theories, but to allow the movie to
affect the theory concerned.

The conference will take place at the Radboud University Nijmegen (The
Netherlands) on 10 and 11 October 2007. It is is an initiative of the
Heyendaal Institute of the Radboud University in collaboration with the Jan
van Eyck Circle for Lacanian Ideology Critique, Maastricht (The

If interested in presenting a paper, please send an abstract, before 20
February 2007, to both Marc De Kesel ( and Dominiek
Hoens (

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Received on Tue Dec 19 2006 - 17:25:19 EST

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