Abstract / Excerpt
This essay examines the competing readings of food refusal that emerged from a student hunger strike held at Columbia University in fall 2007. The invisibility of the act of food refusal forces hunger strikers to adopt performance strategies that make their (non)action visible as protest. To make the politics of their food refusal legible, advocates for the hunger strike promoted their actions as part of a 40 year tradition of student protest. However, that same invisibility allowed the protest's detractors to deride the hunger strikers as anorexic. At the center of the protest and the commentary about it was a wasting female body that confused for spectators the line between the political and the pathological. Attention to this body raises questions of how community is created and disciplined through performative acts, how easily female protest is evacuated of political meaning and the uneasy role of whiteness in popular attention to anorexia.
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"Use words. Not your body": The hunger that has no name
Notes 1. These five were part of a larger committee of activists. Before the protest was over, six students and one Barnard College professor would hunger strike. 2. I cannot resist pointing out that this group, while protesting that a hunger strike "shelves debate," called campus security to remove a professor who told them they looked stupid.