Reclaiming Humanity: The formation of Revolutionary Subjectivity in the Experience of Palestinian Hunger strikers in Israeli Prisons

Lulu/Ajour, Ashan. 2019. Reclaiming Humanity: The formation of Revolutionary Subjectivity in the Experience of Palestinian Hunger strikers in Israeli Prisons. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores the subjectivity of Palestinian hunger strikers as shaped by anti-colonial resistance. Drawing on extensive in-depth interviews and ethnographically-informed methods, it explores the lived experience of former political prisoners who engaged in hunger strike, providing narrative and analytical insights into embodied resistance in the face of the colonial machine. The research explores the revolutionary transformations, practices, and discourses of Palestinian freedom fighters in their confrontation with the Israeli prison system. In the context of revolt against settler-colonial violence, the project traces out the formation of resistant subjectivity through a detailed investigation of the processes, techniques and transformations involved in the hunger strike, with particular attention to the way in which they challenge the Israeli Prison Authority’s (IPA)* technologies of power, and deals with how prisoners experience and respond to the processes of dispossession exercised on their bodies. The research situates the hunger strike experience in the historical frame of colonized Palestine and in relation to the larger context of the Palestinian struggle and the Palestinian political movement in the post-Oslo period after the decline of the national struggle and the fragmentation of the Palestinian movement.

In order to theorize the specific formation of subjectivity in the Palestinian hunger strike, the thesis draws on Foucault’s concept of the technologies of the self, and Fanon’s writings on decolonization, emancipatory violence and ‘humanity’, in conjunction with Badiou’s philosophical treatment of the notions of event, subject and fidelity. While critically combining these approaches, it also problematizes them from the vantage point of the Palestinian hunger strike. The methodology draws on qualitative phenomenological research methods as well as sociological approaches to ‘storytelling’ to do justice to the complexity of the hunger strikers’ lived experience.

In conceptualising the subjectivity of hunger striking, the thesis traces its emergence not only in relation to the violence of Israeli colonial practices but also with regard to the counter-violence manifested in the act of prolonged self-starvation. It illuminates the complexity of a form of subjectivation that operates through the instrumentalisation of the body, understood as a means of reclaiming dignity and humanity by risking death and experiencing corporeal pain. The thesis argues that the hunger strikers, in their interaction with the dispossession of the colonial power, invent ‘technologies of the self’ to transcend the colonial and carceral constraints on their freedom. This process of weaponisation of the body creates a capacity for transformation from a submissive ‘passive’ subject into a ‘resistant’ subject, in which the collapse of the body is experienced as generating a kind of spiritual strength. The thesis shows that the hunger strike as not only a political strategy for liberation but also entails a kind of limit experience. The thesis sheds light on the singularity of the participants’ view of the hunger strike as moving beyond the political into a realm of ‘spiritualisation’ of struggle which profoundly defines their politics of resistance.

Although theoretically-informed literature on hunger strikes in Northern Ireland and Turkey exists, there is an absence of such literature about hunger strikes in Palestine. The study provides a first step towards filling this gap in the literature on anti-colonial resistance in Palestine by developing an in-depth account of the meanings, dynamics and experience of the Palestinian hunger strikes, while embedding the field research in a theoretical investigation of lived experience and subjectivity. It is the first systematic study of key features of Palestinian hunger strikes and also offers a critical contribution to theories of subjectivity in terms of thinking through the instrumentalisation of the body as a means of reclaiming dignity and humanity.

*This is also referred to as the Israeli Prison Service (IPS).

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Hunger strike, Subjectivity, Revolution, Humanity, anti-colonial resistance, Dispossession, Weaponisation of the body, Subject Formation.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Sep 2019 13:53

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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