‘Starving for Dignity’ research project launches

Hello! Thanks for checking in. We’ll be using this blog to post updates about the ‘Starving for Dignity’ project, giving a taste of the research as it progresses and linking to relevant material. We’ll also be posting details about planned future events.

The hunger strike and other extreme methods of protest, such as self-immolation, are of course deeply shocking and counter-intuitive. It is the strange, paradoxical character of these protests that provides the impetus for this project.

In recent years, many people became acquainted with the grizzly reality of hunger strikes thanks to Steve McQueen’s brilliant 2008 film, ‘Hunger’. The film depicts perhaps the most famous hunger strike of all; by Bobby Sands and his fellow Irish republican prisoners in Maze prison, Belfast, in 1981. Ten prisoners eventually died through self-starvation, including Sands, who was elected MP for Sinn Fein while on hunger strike.

In one of the most gripping scenes of the film, a Catholic priest (played by Liam Cunningham) attempts to dissuade Sands (played by Michael Fassbender) from starting a hunger strike which will almost certainly lead to his death. The scene covers some of the most fascinating ethical questions raised by hunger strikes to do with martyrdom, self-killing, violence, and other important issues. It also contains some terrific acting.

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