Human Shielding as Embodied Critique
My presentation will revisit voluntary human shielding as an embodied form of resistance, drawing on examples from the Middle East and North America. I will discuss how shielding as the public performance of self-endangerment for the protection of others can be considered a subset of the political technique of disembodiment. Considering human shielding alongside other forms of self-harm and self-destruction, which I also gather under the umbrella of political disembodiment, I will centre my reflections on the role of the body as the vehicle of critique.
Disposable Bodies and Performative Strategies of Protection: On the Controversial Status
of the Body in Shielding
Holding your breath while walking down the street, evaluating the risk posed by a passing body; performing subtle gestures of touch on your own body while experiencing discrimination or neglect; rehearsing how to appear at a border, where the individual body is always already part of real or imagined collectives. The talk takes, as its starting point, different experiences of shielding ranging from the small-scale to the everyday and the structural. It raises the question: how can body-based aesthetic and performative strategies and practises, on a micro-political level, produce knowledge about the unequal recognition of bodies and their respective protective needs? In the context of the HZT research week, I will focus on the ambivalences that emerge when a body becomes a shield: when protecting and valuing some bodies exposes others in political, legal or ethical states of vulnerability. The presentation provides insight into an ongoing research project on the idea of bodily integrity which I am developing in dialogue with artists, activists and theorists from different fields.