10/7 | Banu Bargu

The Silent Exception: Hunger Striking and Lip-Sewing

This paper focuses on the recent wave of hunger striking and lip-sewing protests among undocumented migrants and refugees. In an effort to theorize their agency, my reading problematizes the instrumentalist conception of political action that remains of limited value in registering the significance of protest based on self-harm. Instead, through an alethurgic analysis developed on the basis of Foucault’s late lectures, I focus on the specifically composite form that these protests take and explore the ramifications of this form for the reconfiguration of subjectivity. Considering these acts as radical practices of the self whose silence can be interpreted in the problematic of parrhesia, I analyze the political and ethical challenge they entail for our present.

Banu Bargu is Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research, New York. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought, with a thematic focus on theories of sovereignty, resistance, and biopolitics. Her research interests are situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and anthropology, with a regional focus on the Middle East (especially Turkey). She is the author of Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014), which received APSA’s 2015 First Book Award given by the Foundations of Political Theory section and was named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2015 by CHOICE. In her research and teaching, she draws upon the traditions of continental and critical theory to address salient political issues and resistance practices. Her work engages with thinkers such as Machiavelli, Marx, Stirner, Schmitt, Foucault, and Althusser around questions related to the body, violence, sacrifice, martyrdom, ideology, and aesthetics. Her work brings together political theorization with empirical, ethnographic, and historical research, relying on methods that are transdisciplinary and hybrid. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript on Althusser’s political thought and his rethinking of the materialist tradition, especially in light of the posthumous publication of Althusser’s work on the aleatory.