Summer University Reboot

Bojana Cvejic

"If you don’t see me, I will burn myself": On the Transindividual Act of Self-Annihilation

18 August

Recognized in the 20th- and 21st-century history of political suicides as a radical act of protest and a spectacular expression of an intense experience of suffering, self-burning has returned since 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi’s act sparked protests in Tunisia. Its last wave in Europe includes those cases of self-incinerations in which the conditions for their political performativity are only partly fulfilled: the acts are public and communicate with the antagonist in the symbolic places of power, but their motivations aren’t explicitly formulated as political. When self-annihilation is triggered by the basic needs and rights to maintain life, – such as unemployment, housing crisis, conflicts at work, and other forms of precarity, – means and ends with respect to life become indistinguishable. How can life be weaponized as a transindividual form of dissent if self-destruction also brings an end to desperation and suffering of the person? How are we to attend to irreparable acts of self-annihilation, which stand in dire contrast to contemporary practices of self-care, vitalist intensity and self-enhancement? 

In this session, I would like to apply a collective mode of questioning and extempore lecture, which I learnt from a seminar some years ago. I ask people to read my text prior to the session. When we convene, we go into one or several rounds in which everyone gets to pose one or several questions, in no particular order, one question ‘fired’ after another in the train of silent thought. I carefully write the questions down and then take a minute to think and begin to talk. In my talk I try to answer all questions, directly or by synthesizing them in problems and themes. After a while, a new round of questions can be run, and so on.