Mourning the Other: bare life, sovereign power and the biopolitical nomos of the empire
Athena Athanasiou (Panteio University of Social and Political Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
Women in Black emerged after the beginning of the first intifada, when a group of Israeli Jewish women marched into the West Bank to protest against occupation. At the heart of their politics lies the performance of mourning for the unmournable: those reduced to what Agamben calls 'bare life'.
Paper long abstract:
The feminist anti-militarist organization Women in Black emerged in Jerusalem in 1988, after the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada, when a small group of Israeli Jewish women, actively supported by Palestinian women who are Israeli citizens, started marching into the West Bank to protest against Israeli aggression. The paper focuses on the Serbian Women in Black, who started in 1991 to stand silently in public places in Belgrade protesting against Serbian militarism. At the heart of the politics enacted by Women in Black lies the public performance of mourning for the unmournable: the less-than-human, those reduced to what Giorgio Agamben, following Walter Benjamin, has called "bare life" or life captured in a zone of indiscernibility between zoe and bios. Public grieving for loss unrecognized as such by sovereignty represents an aberration from the customary propriety of mourning. In mourning otherwise, Women in Black displace the normative identification of mourning with the social role of women; they enact a disruptive mourning that dissembles the social role of woman as mourner eternally silenced by the law of sovereignty, eternally relegated to the aphasic outskirts of discourse.
Anthropological perspectives on biopolitics and sovereignty in Europe and the world