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Naked protest: the maternal politics of citizenship and revolt

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Citizenship Studies
Issue number2
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)211-226
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/04/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Immigrant protests have the capacity to call regimes of citizenship into question in important ways. This paper explores immigrant protest, citizenship and their relationship, through an account of a ‘naked protest’ by a group of mothers, refused asylum seekers and ‘illegal immigrants’ at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in England and ends with an account of the use of the ‘naked curse’ in a protest by an indigenous group of mothers against global oil corporations in the Niger Delta. Woven together from activist materials, news reports, interviews, documentaries and historical data, I recount and mobilise these protests to think about `the scaling of bodies’ (Marion-Young 1990) through citizenship, and the routes through which motherhood is mobilised as a site of political agency and resistance to processes of disenfranchisement. I argue that the maternal protests of noncitizens and disenfranchised citizens challenges the ‘catastrophic functionalism’ of Agamben-inspired accounts of ‘bare life’, and offer an alternative lens through which to perceive the ethical and political claims made by abject populations (Papadopoulos et al. 2008, p.198). This paper draws on my earlier critical work on British citizenship as a postcolonial mode of governance (Tyler 2010) but extends this critique within the neo-colonial context of the present tense. Thinking through and with these naked protests, my intention is to trouble prevailing theoretical paradigms of citizenship. In particular, I develop the work of Hannah Arendt, and Ranjana Khanna, in order to impart the epistemic challenge to the sexual politics and Eurocentrism of ‘citizenship theory’ which is posed by these maternal revolts.