The art of hunger: Self-Starvation in the red army faction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The founding generation of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a West German terrorist group, spent two frenzied years in the underground followed by five years in prison, culminating with the suicides of the group's leadersin 1976 and 1977. This paper examines the prison hunger strikes of the RAF as structured acts of communication that together with accompanying texts were central to a sustained media campaign run fromwithin prison. It examines the internal and external prison communication networks established to enable the coordination of the strikes as well as the discursive functions of the self-starvation of the RAF members. Within the prison system hunger was constructed as ' holy ' and ascribed a pseudo-religious function used tosupport a group identity and maintain an internal group discipline. In the texts produced for publication beyondthe prison walls, however, hunger became a central element in the RAF strategy to counter what it sawas a mainstream medicalization of terrorism. This, in turn, was the tool employed to repackage the group'sestablished rhetoric, as self-starvation allowed RAF prisoners to literally embody their long-standing ' antifascism' and ' anti-imperialism '.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-59
Number of pages28
JournalGerman History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Baader
  • Hunger strike
  • Meinhof
  • Performativity
  • Prison communication
  • Prison protest
  • Red Army Faction
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


Dive into the research topics of 'The art of hunger: Self-Starvation in the red army faction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this