SIEF 2020 (Cfp) Disruptive bodies: transgressive encounters in law, art and performance


SIEF Congress: Breaking the rules? Power, participation, transgression

2021, 21-24 June 2021 in Helsinki, online


Dear colleagues,


Please consider submitting a paper to our panel "Disruptive bodies: transgressive encounters in law, art and performance",


We are very much looking forward to learning more about your work!

Nataliya Tchermalykh (University of Geneva) &

Maya Avis (The Graduate Institute of Geneva)


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 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.