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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Resistance as paradox : understanding militant activism in light of Rote Zora Melling, Rowan


This thesis takes up the question of resistance in light of the surge of social movements throughout the world in the past several years, including the Arab Spring, Occupy, Idle No More and Black Lives Matter. It seeks to advance a new conception of resistance related to paradox by critiquing activist and academic conceptions of resistance and by conducting close readings of the writings and actions of the West German feminist guerrilla cell Rote Zora. Its critiques highlight an inability of certain theories of resistance to deal with resistance transforming into a force of oppression, as well as these theories’ lack of connection to political practice. Out of these critiques emerge the ideas of biopolitical resistance, a diversity of tactics for intervening in oppressions integrated at the individual, social and political levels, and the idea of resistance as paradoxical, having the ability to resist itself. These concepts assist in a close reading of Rote Zora’s writings and actions, which I undertake also using the tools of literary theory and criticism. I argue that Rote Zora promotes a concept of resistance involving paradox, and integrates a form of biopolitical resistance into their political practice. I situate them in the context of the politically tumultuous West Germany of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, which saw an explosion of militant activism and left-wing terrorism, as well as the rise of an autonomous women’s movement. I argue that Rote Zora offers an alternative to the dogmatic militancy practiced by their better-known contemporaries the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF). My argument is both theoretical and historical: it draws on Rote Zora to inform a critical concept of resistance that relates to practice, and it promotes a different understanding of militancy in West Germany than the ones which dominate academic discourse by including Rote Zora’s alternative mode of resistance in this history.

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