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Bad Memories: Haneke with Locke on Personal Identity and Post-Colonial Guilt

Publication Date
  • Haneke
  • Hidden
  • Locke
  • Personal Identity
  • Memory
  • Responsibility
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy


Michael Haneke's film Hidden ( Caché, 2005) raises questions about responsibility and guilt in the context of post-colonial inequities that are profoundly discomfiting for the viewer, framing a meditation on identity, consciousness and responsibility that is at once visceral and intellectual. On the reading presented here, this film makes visible and palpable some of the effects of the 'strange suppositions' about personal responsibility and memory that were first articulated by a philosopher who also felt called upon to justify colonialism: John Locke. The perspective provided by the film casts light both on the unpleasant emotional resonances of Locke's theory of personal identity and points to the likely source of its structure in his celebrated theory of private property.

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