A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations investigates contemporary protest self-burnings and their echoes across culture.

The book provides a conceptual frame for the phenomenon and an annotated, comprehensive timeline of suicide protests by fire, supplemented with notes on artworks inspired by or devoted to individual cases. The core of the publication consists of six case studies of these ultimate acts, augmented with analyses and interpretations hailing from the visual arts, film, theatre, architecture, and literature. By examining responses to these events within an interdisciplinary frame, Ziółkowski highlights the phenomenon’s global reach and creates a broad, yet in-depth, exploration of the problems that most often prompt these self-burnings, such as religious discrimination and harassment, war and its horrors, the brutality and indoctrination of authoritarian regimes and the apathy they produce, as well as the exploitation of the so-called "subalterns" and their exclusion from mainstream economic systems.

Of interest to scholars from an array of fields, from theatre and performance, to visual art, to religion and politics, A Cruel Theatre of Self-Immolations offers a unique look at voluntary, demonstrative, and radical performances of shock and subversion.

chapter |18 pages


part I|20 pages

Mapping suicide protests by fire

part II|62 pages


part III|174 pages

Selected contemporary ultimate protests by fire and their echoes across culture

chapter Chapter 1|64 pages

A lotus in a sea of fire

On two self-immolations performed during the war in Vietnam

chapter Chapter 2|60 pages

Confronting defeat

On two protest self-incinerations performed after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

chapter Chapter 3|48 pages


On two self-burnings protesting the exploitation of subalterns