Engendering hunger strikes: Palestinian women in Israeli prisons

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Using feminist anthropology and interview data, this article investigates the gendered dimension of hunger striking in Israeli prisons. It draws on other cases from Ireland to the United States to explore the gendered nature of resistance to political imprisonment. I argue that women hunger strikers are active participants who weaponize their lives to resist the Israeli matrix of power and patriarchal societal norms. There have been less women in number when compared to male prisoners, but women have been more effective in collectively coordinating their pioneering action. Through necroresistance (transforming their body to a site of resistance) and the strategy of sumud (Arabic for ‘steadfastness’), women prisoners practice a dual resistance of the colonial authorities and the patriarchal society — simultaneously reclaiming ownership of their bodies and lives from both systems. This does not entail constituting their bodies as masculine (or de-feminizing themselves) so they are protected from sexual abuse. Rather, they insist on feminizing their experience and challenging gendered stereotypes of women as ‘victims’ with ‘fragile bodies’. For them, gender is not a barrier but a motivational factor in which self-sacrifice to protest injustice is far superior to enduring the wrongs of political imprisonment.




Shwaikh, M. (2022). Engendering hunger strikes: Palestinian women in Israeli prisons. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 49(4), 507–525. https://doi.org/10.1080/13530194.2020.1815518

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