BANU BARGU /// Weaponization of Life: Human Shields and Hunger Strikers


This conversation with Banu Bargu is centered around the concept of “weaponization of life” that she coins in her book, Starve and Immolate. In it, she describes political self-destructive practices as political practice, in particular in the context of the leftist prisoners’ fast death struggle in the 2000s Turkey. We associate to these practices the concept of human shield to which she also dedicated a research. Through these various forms of voluntary incarnated precariousness, we discuss the spectacularization of the action, the economy of life implied by it, as well as the mode of biopolitical sovereignty against which it is deployed.

Banu Bargu is associate professor of politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought, with a thematic focus on theories of sovereignty, biopolitics, and resistance. Her research is situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, history, and political anthropology, with a regional emphasis on the Middle East, especially Turkish politics. Bargu’s work draws upon the traditions of continental and critical theory as well as the history of Western political thought, with a keen interest in interrogating these traditions from the perspective of salient political issues and current resistance practices around questions of violence, the body, sacrifice, martyrdom, and aesthetics. She is the author of the award-winning Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014). Her essays have appeared in such venues as diacritics, Contemporary Political Theory, Angelaki, theory & event, South Atlantic Quarterly, qui parle, and Constellations. Bargu is currently working on a book-length manuscript on aleatory materialism, which examines Louis Althusser’s political thought and his rethinking of the materialist tradition. See her Funambulist contributor page.

– “Hunger Strikes: When the Body Becomes a Battlefield,” in The Funambulist 7 (Sept-Oct 2016) Health Struggles.



– Banu Bargu, “Human Shields,” Contemporary Political Theory 12, no. 4 (November 2013): 277-95.
– Banu Bargu, “Odysseus Unbound: Sovereignty and Sacrifice in Hunger and the Dialectic of Enlightenment,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 19, no. 4 (2014): 7-22.
– Banu Bargu, “Spectacles of Death: Dignity, Dissent, and Sacrifice in Turkey’s Prisons,” in Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion, edited by Laleh Khalili and Jillian Schwedler (London: Hurst & Company; New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 241-261.
– Léopold Lambert, “Bodies on the Targeting Line: Making Sense of Human Shields,” on The Funambulist (April 14, 2015)


– Banu Bargu, Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons, Columbia University Press, 2014.
– Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977).
– Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998).
– Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” Public Culture 15, no. 1 (2003): 11-40.
– Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1991).


– Steve McQueen, Hunger: