ABSTRACT

This article explores immigrant protest, citizenship and their relationship, through an account of a ‘naked protest’ by a group of mothers, refused asylum seekers and ‘illegal immigrants’ at Yarl’ s Wood immigration removal centre in England and ends with an account of the use of the ‘naked curse’ in a protest by an indigenous group of mothers against global oil corporations in the Niger Delta. Woven together from activist materials, news reports, interviews, documentaries and historical data, I recount and mobilise these protests to think about ‘the scaling of bodies’ (Marion-Young 1990) and citizenship under neoliberalism, and the routes through which motherhood is mobilised as a site of political agency and resistance to processes of disenfranchisement. I argue that these maternal protests challenge the ‘catastrophic functionalism’ of Agamben-inspired accounts of ‘bare life’, and offer an alternative lens through which to perceive the ethical and political claims made by abject populations (Papadopoulos et al. 2008, p. 198). In thinking through and with these naked protests, this article reframes the sexual politics of citizenship and brings questions of maternity and natality to bear on citizenship studies.