Performances of Death: Hunger Strikes, Discipline, and Democracy
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionMachin, A. M. (2023). Performances of Death: Hunger Strikes, Discipline, and Democracy. Democratic Theory: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 10 (2), 31-43. https://doi.org/10.3167/dt.2023.100204
Hunger striking is a form of protest that escapes conventional forms of political participation. I argue that as a spectacular performance of death, the hunger strike not only draws attention to a particular cause or exert moral pressure on an opponent but can galvanize and strengthen a na- scent political identity. Drawing on the example of the hunger strike of suf- fragette Marion Wallace-Dunlop, which I argue performatively constructed the identity of the disciplined “true suffragette,” I explain the hunger strike as a political becoming. Undertaken behind bars, by those denied citizen- ship rights, this protest should be understood not necessarily as the free expression of an already existing member of the demos but instead as a way of becoming a political subject while contesting and reconfiguring political boundaries.