I am in the midst of reading Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, which is a great book on the theory and praxis of the performative in the political actions of peoples who are dispossessed. Throughout the book, Butler and Athanasiou ask questions concerning the resistance against precarity through the performative.
The texts reminded me of this photograph of the Üsküdar subway station in Istanbul, where a body is subject to death and non-existence, contingent on which side of the yellow line the body posits itself - the brighter platform side of safety, or the darker train tracks of precarity. Even if a body is positioned on the tracks - lit by the the incoming train’s spotlight - that body is subject to non-existence in split seconds when the photography moves ahead through time and space, and when subjects in the photograph become mobile.
I read the current humanitarian crises in the world comparatively. Although popular media - which is so attracted to violence and the perils of dying - puts a spotlight on the bodies of the suffering subjects, it is itself not able to stop violence or death. So, even with brightly aimed spotlights, the bodies of Syrians, Kurds, Afghans, and Tibetans, and many others (who are dispossessed through the “situated practices of raciality, gender, sexuality, intimacy, able-bodiedness, economy, and citizenship”) remain in the tracks of precarity - dispossessed, dehumanized, exploited, uncounted, unaccounted for, and subject to violence and death.
Precarity “describes that process of acclimatizing a population to insecurity” and hence evoking lived feelings of precariousness and the “damaged sense of future”. The normative laws and conditions determine who counts as a human and who can be recognized, and with this, the unrecognized are continually “subject to precarity’’. The “damaged sense of future” has led to political action by the dispossessed in forms of self-engaging violence of suicide bombing, self-immolation, and hunger strikes. Within, and extending, these narratives, I begin exploring the symbolic refusal of dispossessed Tibetans to live in spaces of political restriction and “pervasive forms of socially (and politically) assigned disposability” through the performative acts of self-immolation.