Starve and Immolate

Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons

Banu Bargu
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    Starve and Immolate
    Book Description:

    Starve and Immolatetells the story of leftist political prisoners in Turkey who waged a deadly struggle against the introduction of high security prisons by forging their lives into weapons. Weaving together contemporary and critical political theory with political ethnography, Banu Bargu analyzes the death fast struggle as an exemplary though not exceptional instance of self-destructive practices that are a consequence of, retort to, and refusal of the increasingly biopolitical forms of sovereign power deployed around the globe.

    Bargu chronicles the experiences, rituals, values, beliefs, ideological self-representations, and contentions of the protestors who fought cellular confinement against the background of the history of Turkish democracy and the treatment of dissent in a country where prisons have become sites of political confrontation. A critical response to Michel Foucault'sDiscipline and Punish,Starve and Immolatecenters on new forms of struggle that arise from the asymmetric antagonism between the state and its contestants in the contemporary prison. Bargu ultimately positions the weaponization of life as a bleak, violent, and ambivalent form of insurgent politics that seeks to wrench the power of life and death away from the modern state on corporeal grounds and in increasingly theologized forms. Drawing attention to the existential commitment, sacrificial morality, and militant martyrdom that transforms these struggles into a complex amalgam of resistance, Bargu explores the global ramifications of human weapons' practices of resistance, their possibilities and limitations.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53811-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  5. Introduction The Death Fast Struggle and the Weaponization of Life
    (pp. 1-36)

    In October 2000, hundreds of political prisoners in Turkey went on hunger strike. They announced that their main goal was to halt the introduction of high security prisons and to prevent cellular imprisonment. A month later, and in the absence of any response from the government, they declared the transformation of their hunger strike into a fast unto death and began to launch teams of death fasters, selected from those already on hunger strike, and concatenated according to expected dates of death, on the path to self-destruction. Individual death fasters, donned with a red headband to mark their advancement toward...

  6. Chapter 1 Biosovereignty and Necroresistance
    (pp. 37-86)

    The room where Mehmet stayed was barely furnished—one bed, one nightstand, one chair—and full of the acrid, acetonic smell of death.¹ His hiccups and occasional moans, uneasily blending with the singing of the birds in front of the window of the shanty house in Küçükarmutlu, Istanbul, interrupted the heavy silence. Mehmet’s body was small, shrunken and emaciated from months of deliberate, disciplined, and meticulously managed self-starvation. From under the many layers of sheets and blankets that covered him, despite the blazing heat of the Istanbul summer, his bones protruded like sharp knives pointing to the walls around him....

  7. Chapter 2 Crisis of Sovereignty
    (pp. 87-124)

    Prisons may be the emblematic structures of disciplinary power, as Foucault has taught us, but they are also spaces that belong to the state. As part of the penal apparatus of the state, they reveal how the state performs and reproduces itself through the exercise of the sovereign right to punish. The notoriety of Turkish prisons is therefore a transparent reflection of the authoritarian and repressive nature of Turkey’s state tradition. Kemalism, named after the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as the official republican ideology of the regime, plays an indispensable role in determining the contours of the...

  8. Chapter 3 The Biosovereign Assemblage and Its Tactics
    (pp. 125-162)

    Once the “prisons problem” was formulated as a crisis of state sovereignty, the solution dictated itself. The crisis could only be resolved if the visibly tarnished sovereignty of the state could be reestablished. However, it was also clear that the reconstitution of the state’s supreme power over prisons could not simply reinstate traditional methods and practices, since they were what precipitated the current crisis in the first place. The state should gain back its control over the prisons, but, meanwhile, the prisons should be reconfigured to enable the reconfiguration of sovereignty itself. As prisons became a synecdoche for the state,...

  9. Chapter 4 Prisoners in Revolt
    (pp. 163-222)

    While the Turkish state was debating, diagnosing, and devising solutions for the “prisons problem,” political prisoners argued that the real problem was the state itself. As if it were not enough that they were subject to repression on the streets, curtailed in their political activities, classified and treated as “terrorists,” subjected to torture and manifold forms of inhumane treatment, and tucked away behind bars for years at a time, the Turkish state now wanted to annihilate them completely, not by killing them but by rendering them politically dead.¹ In their opinion, solitary confinement was the desire of the state to...

  10. Chapter 5 Marxism, Martyrdom, Memory
    (pp. 223-270)

    For the extraparliamentary, illegal leftist opposition in Turkey, the adoption of the weaponization of life as the predominant tactic of struggle entailed an existential and passionate commitment to Marxism. The radical organizations that participated in the death fast struggle subscribed to different currents of Marxism, which provided diverse readings of world politics and Turkey’s role within it, the history of the country, the level of its socioeconomic development and nature of its production relations, and the character of the state, prescribing in turn the different revolutionary strategies to be followed and the forms of organization best suited for their favored...

  11. Chapter 6 Contentions Within Necroresistance
    (pp. 271-326)

    From the uneasy coexistence, mutual penetration, and eventual merger of sovereignty and biopolitics, there emerges a new configuration of power—the biosovereign assemblage, in which the traditional poweroflife and death is imbricated by new forms of poweroverlife and death. This incipient configuration is generative of novel forms of resistance. Self-destructive practices, enveloped by martyrdom and sacrifice, respond to the dominant characteristics of this power regime, which elevateslifeto sacrosanct status (by killing, when necessary) through a fundamental reversal, thepoliticization of death. Necroresistance, then, is the most immediate product of the biosovereign assemblage that functions...

  12. Conclusion From Chains to Bodies
    (pp. 327-350)

    In the juxtaposition of the two death-events, of Mehmet the hunger striker and Damiens the regicide, that opened chapter 1, we have seen the vivid contrast between two kinds of violence inflicted upon the insurgent’s body. The bloody and dismembering violence performed upon Damiens’s body by Samson, the king’s executioner, marks a poignant and telling distance from the silent and decomposing violence performed upon Mehmet’s body by no one other than himself. One was directed against the insurgent by the state, the other by the insurgent against the state. One was alone on the scaffold, the other, though alone in...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 351-410)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 411-458)
  15. Index
    (pp. 459-482)