Embodied Protest in Occupy London: Between Homo Sacer and the Biopolitical Body

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Jana COSTAS , Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagem, Denmark
Juliane REINECKE , Warwick University, United Kingdom
In this paper we discuss the relation of embodied protest and public space in Occupy London. We draw on Agamben’s notion of the homo sacer – the excluded included life embodied by the figure of the homeless, refugee and so forth – to analyze how in protest camps embodied protest relates to resistance against sovereign power . Drawing on primary data gathered through participation observation of and interviews with participants in Occupy London, we investigate the extent to which the camp constituted a subversive space of excluded inclusion as protesters sought to position themselves as homines sacri – “bare life” challenging sovereign power. Yet, we also show how protesters struggled to navigate tensions between representing such “bare life” of the homo sacer and the biopolitical body. This lead not only to various difficulties in building protest community but also in the interactions with the general public and media. Particularly, tensions became manifest as the homines sacri of the homeless people joined the camp. We discuss the implications of Agamben’s biopolitical insights for the relation of resistance, public space and community building in protest movements.