Naked Protest, Vulnerability and Power: Gendered Scenarios of Visibility and Protest

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Tanja THOMAS , ZeMKI, Centre of Media, Communication and Information research, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
‘Allah made me visible’. This is what some young German women shouted while they were protesting IKEA’s decision to remove all the women from the furniture catalogue for the Saudi-Arabian market. Protesting topless was meant to raise media attention and to get publicity; additionally it was unequivocally inspired by the Ukrainian feminist group ‘Femen’, which some have called one of the most successful campaigns of feminism in recent times.

In this paper I’d like to invite the participants to consider diverse examples of naked protests – e.g. fighting for peace and human rights in Liberia and Nigeria – from a transcultural perspective. In enacting nakedness as a performance of vulnerability and precariousness these examples draw our attention to particular corporeal actions, activities, practices, and events and they also clearly illustrate that ‘the body’’ signifies more than a site of cultural inscription. At the same time one can realize that such protest performances and their depictions in the media in particular have been criticized as self-commodification, as pornography reinforcing power structures of heteronormativity, and as the idea of the (post)colonial West and the Rest. I would hereby like to argue, that these examples make us well aware of the ambiguities and dilemmas of visibilities and that they point to the challenges that those in the public sphere are confronted with by transcultural media.