Interface: a journal for and about social movements

Amanda Machin
2016 unpublished
An enduring form of protest, the hunger strike features in numerous historical and contemporary political and social movements. Yet its simple denial of food is belied by its numerous contradictions. Undertaken by those denied voice it nevertheless can be extremely powerful. It deftly interiorises the violence of the opponent within the body of the protester, affirming and undermining the protest simultaneously. It can be undertaken for highly strategic and rational reasons and yet it is often
more » ... ffective because of the emotional response it provokes. This paper attends to the hunger strike, focusing upon the three historical examples of political activism provided by the Suffragette, Irish republican and anti-apartheid movements. In particular, it highlights three political aspects of the hunger strike: 1) the facilitation of non-verbal communication 2) the embodiment of collective identifications 3) the disruption of the dominant order. The paper considers how the hunger strike challenges the omission of the body from political theory, displaying the body to be both political instrument and political actor. It also challenges the prioritisation of deliberative discussion over embodied protest.