BSP Podcast: Liesbeth Schoonheim – ‘Posters, protests, and reclaiming the streets’

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Liesbeth Schoonheim presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology II’.

Season 6 episode 140: 16 May 2024

Season 6 continues with another presentation from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Spatiality. This episode features a presentation from Liesbeth Schoonheim, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

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Liesbeth Schoonheim
‘Posters, protests, and reclaiming the streets’

Street protests create spaces of appearance (Arendt) that galvanize public support for hitherto hidden forms of precarity and oppression. Put in these terms, street protests raise questions about their duration, as they rely on the physical proximity of people; they also raise issues of who can and cannot participate in this space of appearance and in what way, as public space is subject to various forms of policing(Butler). In this paper, I investigate these  limits of embodied resistance by looking at a different form of street protest, namely the feminist collectives that put up posters in the streets of Brussels denouncing gender-and sex-based violence. Some of these target street harassment by imploring passers-by to “laisse[r] les filles tranquilles”, while others focus on feminicide, publishing the name of victims of domestic violence. In different ways, these interventions relate isolated and privatized experiences of violence to patriarchal structures. First, deploying Arendt’s political phenomenology, I argue that these artefacts are intended as a (semi-)permanent mark on the public space; and they invoke the victims of various forms of gender-and sex-based violence, reclaiming the streets as a site of commemoration and of free movement. Secondly, I show how they also presuppose passers-by that stop, read and respond to them. I suggest this interpellation should be understood as a moment of critique, in the sense in which critical phenomenologists (Guenther, Al-Saji, Salamon) have defined it as the suspension of everyday comportment and the exposure of historically contingent structures of oppression. Thirdly, I argue (contra Arendt) that protest does not always require the physical proximity of a group of people engaging in purposeful action-in-concert, but can also develop as a series (Sartre, Young), in this case, as the interpellation of passers-by as possible agents of social change, engaging in acts of indignant remembrance and of leaving women and other targeted groups alone.

Biography: Liesbeth Schoonheim is a postdoctoral researcher at Humboldt University, Berlin, working on the intersection of political theory, feminism, and social theory. Previously, she held a postdoctoral research fellowship at KU Leuven (Belgium) and an appointment as a lecturer at University of Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Further Information:

This recording is taken from our Annual UK Conference 2022: Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Sociality (Exeter, UK / Hybrid) with the University of Exeter. Sponsored by the Wellcome Centre, Egenis, and the Shame and Medicine project. For the conference our speakers either presented in person at Exeter or remotely to people online and in-room, and the podcast episodes are recorded from the live broadcast feeds.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?