Bodily Activism

Issue #10: The Many & The Few - Assembling the political

"Bodily activism works on two fronts: it puts the body at the service of the political but it also activates the body."

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Excerpt – Peter Lyssiotis, ‘The Products of Wealth,’ Text by Jas H Duke.

Bodily activism works on two fronts: it puts the body at the service of the political but it also activates the body. In so doing, the body becomes a political force. Activating the body is specific to each political context, which differentiates different kinds of body, the black body, the vulnerable body, the silenced body, the demonstrating body, the conspiratorial body. In each case, and in each activist situation, the body foregrounds itself, motioning towards social and political change. Such a body acts in concert with other bodies, with other like-bodies more often than not (but not always). Bodies form alliances: they take up their points of difference, often asserting that difference as a means to shift societal mores. The body is activated in virtue of what it does. Its actions take the ordinary (such as walking) into the extraordinary. So, a walk, for example, becomes a form of political and social critique. Or, the repetition of gestures of submission en masse becomes an act of defiance. Sometimes activism takes the body to its limits, working abjection or transgression to make a political point. Other times, activating the body brings to light its dynamic mutability, creating a mode of resistance in the face of normalisation.

The articles in this issue of the Dancehouse Diary come from many corners of political life, artistic creation and social resistance. What they share is an attempt to think through what bodily activism might mean in their neck of the woods. There is a sense of the local in these discussions insofar as they each address a particular problem, issue or field of action. However, there is also overlap, whether through shared/related problems, or a common field of operation. There are national contexts but also related oppressions that cross national boundaries. Similar but also different, each of these instances is framed from the perspective of their author/political actor. Bodily activism calls forth a corporeal imagination, to think otherwise, to open towards a different future. If activism is a form of political engagement, then bodily activism draws upon the force of the body – in singular and collective terms – to reconfigure reality.