Presentation Title
The Silent Exception: Hunger Striking and Lip-Sewing
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Gibson Hall S296

Professor of Politics
The New School

Discussant: Colin Kielty, PhD candidate in Politics at UVA

Border zones and detention centers are often characterized as spaces that concretize a permanent “state of exception” where resistance is deemed unlikely. This paper explores hunger striking and lip-sewing practices of migrants and refugees as a largely neglected form of protest that takes a silent exception from the exception. Focusing on their gesture of a double withdrawal – from food and from speech –, I make the case for an expanded conception of agency that is non-instrumental and expressive. Pursuing an alethurgic analysis, I situate the embodied and violent silence of these protests in Foucault’s problematic of parrhesiastic practice. I examine these practices as processes of subjectivation that unmake and remake the self, call into being parrhesiastic counterpublics, and courageously critique the present.

Banu Bargu is Associate Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought. Her work draws upon continental and critical theory as well as the history of Western political thought to address contemporary politics, especially resistance practices. Her thematic interests include the body, subjectivity, sovereignty, sacrifice, violence, materialism, and aesthetics. In her research and teaching, Banu Bargu is interested in bringing together political theorization with empirical, ethnographic, and historical research. Her work is situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, history, and political anthropology, with a regional interest in the Middle East. She is the author of Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014), which received APSA’s First Book Prize given by the Foundations of Political Theory section and was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice.