History of Consciousness Associate Professor Banu Bargu will use two fellowships to complete her book on human bodies, violence and political expression
Banu Bargu, Associate Professor of History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, is the Principal Investigator of the current THI research cluster Neo-authoritarianism, and the 2018-2019 THI research cluster After Neoliberalism.
History of Consciousness Associate Professor Banu Bargu has been named a fellow of both the American Council of Learned Societies and the Institute for Advanced Study School of Social Sciences for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The fellowships will enable Bargu to focus on completing her book, Corporeal Politics: Violent Uses of the Body in the Present. The book culminates several years of research on ways the human body has been employed to spark political change or as a medium for expression.
“I’m really excited to be able to devote the next year to his project,” Bargu said. “I feel it’s really time to bring this to fruition.”
The Institute for Advanced Study, based in Princeton, brings together scientists and scholars to extend human knowledge. The American Council of Learned Societies awards fellowships recognizing excellence in research in the humanities and social sciences that employ humanities-related methods.
Bargu’s project draws on the approaches of disciplines including anthropology, political science, and cultural studies.
“It’s a book about people using their bodies in struggles against oppression,” Bargu said.
Among the forms of expression she examines are hunger strikes, die-in protests, and voluntary human shielding. One chapter focuses on Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who lit himself on fire outside Tunisian government offices in 2010 after complaining about police harassment and corruption. The act is considered a spark for the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests that swept Arab nations the following year.
Corporeal Politics delves into how people use their bodies in protest and how some expressions of self-directed violence come to catalyze wider actions. It’s an argument against previous studies of the body in politics that have tended to focus on how bodies are victimized as targets of violence.
“Even in the most difficult of circumstances, people have used their bodies in sometimes heartbreaking ways to make a point,” she said.
While the fellowship will enable Bargu to pursue research with no teaching duties for the year, she emphasized the value of teaching in the development of her ideas.
“Teaching and research are always mutually reinforcing,” Bargu said. “A lot of ideas have gestated in moments of preparation, in reading for courses. Thinking happens through dialogue. Being in conversation with students has also made space to hear other perspectives and avoid making mistakes. Grad students are excellent correctors of half-baked ideas.”
Bargu is originally from Istanbul. Before joining UC Santa Cruz’s faculty, she taught at the New School for Social Research in New York. She has a year-old son with her partner, Professor Massimiliano Tomba, who himself has won a fellowship at the Davis Center at Princeton University for the coming year.
This article originally appeared in UCSC News.
Read more about Bargu’s 2020 ACLS project then see our THI profile, “After Neoliberalism: an interview with Banu Bargu and Massimiliano Tomba” for insight into Bargu’s work in the Humanities here at UC Santa Cruz and her 2018-2019 THI-supported research cluster, After Neoliberalism.