Writing, Starving, and the Biopolitics of Isolation: Ulrike Meinhof’s Letter From Prison

17 Oct 2016
Ulrike Meinhof’s Letter From Prison

Monday 24 October 2016, 5pm, Mary Ryan Seminar Room, ORB G27, UCC


This workshop focuses on Ulrike Meinhof, the ideological leader of the German leftist militant Red Army Faction ("Baader-Meinhof-Group”) who wrote, during the first phase of her imprisonment, a widely circulated literary text on the physical and mental effects of sensory deprivation. By marking it as the site of contestation of medical, psychiatric, administrative, and political discourses, Meinhof turns the body into a political weapon. Read in light of Germany’s National Socialist past and in conjunction with the group’s collective hunger strikes, Meinhof’s text offers insights into the deployment of biopolitical strategies—both on the part of the state and the prisoners. The evocation of cultural memory and recoding of cultural imagery in her writings aimed to mobilize a critical counterpublic against the state’s exercise of biopower, while reaffirming the prisoner’s subjectivity and political agency.

Karin Bauer is professor of German Studies at McGill University and editor of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies. She served as chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures from 2000-14 and as president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers of German (2002-04). Publications include Adorno’s Nietzschean Narratives: Critiques of Ideology, Readings of Wagner (SUNY Press, 1999), Everybody Talks About the Weather: We don’t  (Seven Stories, 2008), special journal issues on Herta Müller, the Red Army Faction, and Berlin, and articles in the areas of critical theory and contemporary German literature and culture. An edited volume on Topographies of the New Berlin (Berghahn Publisher) and a special issue of Seminar on Surveillance are forthcoming. Currently, she works on actual and virtual literary publics and a manuscript on Ulrike Meinhof and cultural memory.

University College Cork, Monday 24/10/2016, 5pm, Mary Ryan Seminar Room, ORB G27

School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures

Teangacha, Litríochtaí agus Cultúir

College Road, Cork