[These materials on the case of Lt. Kennedy have been adapted, with the permission of the author, from his course website. The author may be contacted at Rob.VanCraenenburg@rug.ac.be. GPL]

decorative initial L ieutenant Kennedy is no picaro in the regular sense of the term. Though his story is narrated in the proper form; first person singular, through his letters, his is no tale of spectacular suffering and cunning which wins him victory at last. Yet in a specific sense he possesses all the characteristics that make a popular hero.

Any popular hero is a mixture of obedience and subversion (See John Fiske COLOR="#000000">). A totally subversive character cannot become popular since critique at the level of the system demands a level of abstraction that denies the axiom that every product of popular culture should be relevant to the reader. By relevant I mean that portion of the text to which the reader by belonging to a specific socially constructed group relates to. Relevancy is a key element in understanding why a specific cultural product becomes at a moment in time "popular." Critique at the level of the system for example would be the total aversion to capitalism by the detective, the total rejection of democracy by the spy and the utter disregard of the cowboy for man-made law. Yet any cowboy, detective or spy who totally rejects the basic elements that are responsible for the anomalies he confronts, is destined not to become popular.

Lieutenant Kennedy does not reject the military nor the system that he serves. In his letter to the editor of the Daily Mail he tries very hard not to alienate the English readers whose "honest English hearts must have burned with indignation in perusing these grave charges against a military officer bearing Her Majesty's Commission". His conduct is precisely that mixture of obedience (convention) and subversion that Michel De Certeau calls "poaching." He is a one-man micro-politic guerilla. His obedience we can detect from his ongoing belief in the system of military justice, since he expressly asks for a military tribunal to look into his case and perceives his name being removed from the roll of the Bombay Army as "an anomaly" as this is been done on the orders of the Secretary of State, a civilian.

Moreover, he cannot see anything wrong with his (alleged) behaviour as "an Officer and a Gentleman". A man not thoroughly convinced of the correctness of his behaviour and the truth regarding his alleged criticism of the British rule in India would not so wholeheartedly ask to be judged under the severe scrutiny of his military peers. Also, would his letter to the editor of the Daily Mail have been so harsh and self defending had he known that the allegations might be backed up with other reports than those just based on hearsay? Is this the letter of a man who has actually slandered Her Majesty's Government and knows it?


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Last modified 1998