Sovereignty, the hyperreal, and "taking back control"

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This article explores one of the most pressing and challenging issues of our time—the disjuncture between populist images of absolute sovereignty and its practical, functional, and material operation. It seeks to connect postmodern conceptualizations of sovereignty to the challenges shaping national and global politics. Drawing on the work of Jean Baudrillard, it highlights the ways in which the operation of sovereignty has become conflated and confused with imaginaries of sovereignty. Through Baudrillard’s lens of the hyperreal, sovereignty can be seen as increasingly functioning beyond a delusionary parody and instead as an unverifiable truth. The sovereignty of the hyperreal, which is explored in the first half of this article, foregrounds a theoretical disconnect between truth and falsehood; the latter half attempts to connect postmodern interpretations of sovereignty with Britain’s efforts to exit the European Union and the negotiation of waning U.S. hegemony. Using the two case studies of Brexit and the “America First” presidency of Donald Trump, the article analyzes political speeches and media accounts to explore how the hyperreal provides a logic for decoding populist sociospatial imaginaries of sovereignty, while also anticipating the fallout from an eventual and inevitable realization of loyalty and obedience to an illusion.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1999-2015
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2019


  • Baudrillard, Brexit, hyperreality, sovereignty, United States