Force-feeding and Mapuche autonomy: Performing collective rights in individual prison cells in Chile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In August 2010, the decision was taken to feed thirty-two Mapuche prisoners spread throughout prisons in Chile's southern regions intravenously and against their will. Imprisoned Mapuche activists had in the years previous turned to the hunger strike to protest their conviction under anti-terror legislation and the conditions of their incarceration, and the Chilean government eventually responded by force-feeding or threatening to force-feed starving inmates. This paper examines the performativity of the confrontation between prisoners refusing food and the authorities seeking to feed them against their expressed wishes. It analyzes how the strategy of self-starvation and the debate about the hunger strikers' right to make choices about their own bodies enabled starving prisoners to embody the broader struggle for Mapuche autonomy. The distinction between the individual and the collective eroded as the debate moved between, and overlapped, international conventions on the ethical treatment of prisoners and the rights of indigenous peoples. As a result, the collective struggle of the Mapuche people was performed in individual prisons cells, as the Chilean penal system emerged as an important new front line in a centuries-old conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

Cite this