By Malaka Shwaikh & Rebecca Ruth Gould
Publication Date: January 2023
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This publication is the first major transnational examination of prison hunger strikes. While focusing on Palestine, the research is enriched by extensive interviews and conversations with South African, Kurdish, Irish, and British ex-prisoners and hunger strikers. This study reveals in unprecedented detail how prison hunger strikes achieve monumental feats of resistance through the weaponization of lives.
How do prison hunger strikers achieve demands? How do they stay connected with the outside world in a space that is designed to cut them off from that world? And why would a prisoner put their lives at risk by refusing to eat or, at times, drink? This research shows that sometimes prisoners’ need for dignity (karamah) and freedom (hurriya) trump their hunger pangs and thirst.
Prison Hunger Strikes in Palestine evaluates the process of hunger striking, including the repressive actions prisoners encounter, and the negotiation process. It analyzes differences and similarities between individual and collective strikes, and evaluates the role and impact of solidarity actions from outside the prison walls.
The work’s critical and grassroots understanding of prison hunger strikes fully centers the voices of hunger strikers. The analysis results in actionable takeaways that will be as useful to prison activists as they will be to their allies around the world.
About the Authors:
Malaka Mohammed Shwaikh is a Palestinian academic from the Gaza Strip, based at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where she teaches and researches prisons as spaces of power, resistance, and peacebuilding. She is the author of several works at the intersection of prison resistance and power, including “Dynamics of Prison Resistance: Hunger Strikes by Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Prisons” (Jerusalem Quarterly, 2018), “Engendering Hunger Strikes: Palestinian Women in Israeli Prisons” (British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2020), and most recently, “Prison Periods: Bodily Resistance to Gendered Control” (Journal of Feminist Scholarship, 2022). She finds purpose and joy in giving back to the community and being involved in social justice work. Her most recent and ongoing project (since 2021) is Freelancers in Gaza, with Candace Amani, to connect freelancers in Gaza with clients around the world and provide them with tailored mentorship.
Rebecca Ruth Gould is the author of numerous works at the intersection of aesthetics and politics, including Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016), The Persian Prison Poem: Sovereignty and the Political Imagination (Edinburgh University Press, 2021), and, most recently, Erasing Palestine: Free Speech and Palestinian Freedom (Verso Books, 2023). Together with Malaka Shwaikh, she is the author of “The Palestine Exception to Academic Freedom: Intertwined Stories from the Frontlines of UK-Based Palestine Activism,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly (2020), which brought together their shared interests relating to Palestinian liberation. She is Professor, Islamic World & Comparative Literature, at the University of Birmingham, where she directs the GlobalLIT project.