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Title: Starving for a cause : hunger strikes by Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails (1968-2018)
Author: Shwaikh, M. M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7969 5588
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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Are prison hunger strikes a means of liberation or harbingers of death? Are they passive or active means of resistance? This thesis offers the first systematic examination of Palestinian prisoners' hunger strikes, from their inception in 1968 to 2018. Adopting a historical and an ethnographical approach, I trace the demands of hunger strikers, the outcomes of their action, and the impact of the political reality on their struggle. Taking a mainly bottom-up, qualitative approach to resistance and deriving data largely from in-depth interviews, participants' observations, and textual analysis, the examination of existing scholarship, which assimilates hunger strikes into a narrative of passive non-violent resistance, reveals its mismatch with the Palestinian reality of prolonged anti-colonial prison hunger strikes. I argue that the equating of hunger strikes with passivity on the part of the oppressed implicitly dehumanises them. Hunger strikers are, rather, active participants and, like all other organised, active political protesters, they have political objectives that they want to achieve, power structures that they want to challenge, and alternative ones that they want to create. Indeed, this research counters such a passive narrative by starting from the local setting (the Israeli prison cell) and then proposes a contextualised approach to the politics of prison resistance. I develop a scholarly approach to pragmatic, active nonviolent prison-based resistance which demonstrates that prisoners weaponise their lives through hunger striking, faced with only one of two choices: freedom or death. This research contributes to and makes a critical intervention within prison hunger strikes. I show how prisons are spaces of resistance: they function as educational, political, and anti-colonial sites where the power of the Israeli prison authorities can be challenged. Palestinian hunger strikers have succeeded in achieving a range of demands from improvement of imprisonment conditions to obtaining freedom for themselves and others. Success or failure, however, is not easily defined in the Israeli prison context since the outcomes of Palestinian hunger strikes are hard to measure. The factors which can determine this success are not absolute because external influences, especially resulting from the peace-process and the internal division, might come into play. As a Palestinian woman, I have been granted access to a range of prison scenarios that have been obscured in prior scholarship as well as in media headlines. These scenarios helped me in making a case for hunger strikers' agency that is conducive to social and political change in Israeli prisons, and affirming that an important element of the hunger strikers' struggle is the exercise of their human rights, including the right to represent themselves with their own voices.
Supervisor: Ilan, P. ; Nadia, N. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: hunger strikes ; Palestinian prisoners ; necropolitics ; necroresistance