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Philosophy - United States

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The Only Weapon Left: A Philosophical Theory of Self-Destructive Resistance

Incarcerated persons hacking through their own Achilles tendons with razor blades, refusing to wash, or starving themselves; refugees sewing their lips shut, digging their own grave and lying in it for days; activists spilling their own blood or immolating themselves. Acts like these, deliberately undertaken to protest injustice,fall under the umbrella of self-destructive resistance: they involve the self-infliction of physical harm to oppose a dominant system of norms, rules, laws,or practices. Despite these tactics’ ubiquity, especially in carceral sites, self-destructive resistance has not caught philosophers’ attention.The Only Weapon Lef tproposes to remedy this neglect. It articulates a philosophical account of self-destructive resistance that attends to its self-violent nature in contexts of marginalization and powerlessness where one’s body is, as the poet and dissident Abdellati fLaâbi wrote, “the only weapon we’ve left.”

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Candice Delmas is a philosopher and political theorist at Northeastern University. Her book, A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil (OUP 2018), appears in France in 2022.