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This panel analyses disruptive responses to injustice from a range of subjects: activists, artists and ordinary citizens. These public actions, staging self-inflicted harm or risky exposure demonstrate the metaphoric reach of the body which enacts and interrogates injustice, making it visible.
In recent years instances of dissent and resistance have been increasingly permeated by performative gestures which stage self-inflicted harm or risky exposure for political purposes. For instance in 2019, a Syrian Kurdish refugee set himself ablaze in front of the UNHCR in Geneva in protest against the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria. Several months later, a French student self-immolated in front of Lyon University in protest of the neoliberal policies, associated with Macron's presidency. There is an obvious continuum that connects these actions with carceral hunger strikes, collective self-mutilation, public suicides of unpaid employees or self-immolations by Tibetan monks. These actions of ordinary subjects demonstrate the extraordinary metaphoric and affective reach of the suffering or 'misbehaving' human body which simultaneously enacts and interrogates injustice, making it public.
This panel brings together reflections about performative responses to social suffering from a wide range of subjects: activists, artists and vulnerable populations. What do these seemingly irrational gestures of denunciation and despair mean in the contemporary culture? What are they symptoms or metaphors of, not only individually, but also socially? What are their direct and tangible legal and social consequences?
As legal anthropologists, we argue that these performances belong to the universal grammar of justice-making. We suggest that they should be seen as socially meaningful avenues of making injustice visible. These are actions that break the rules of political enunciation within the liberal public sphere which normally only attributes political voice to citizens acting as 'rational' subjects.