University Of Tasmania
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Prayer or protest?: The radical promise of voluntary poverty in the anti-nuclear fast for life, 1983

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 19:51 authored by Kyle HarveyKyle Harvey
A hallmark of twentieth-century religious pacifism in the United States was the experiment with the idea and practice of nonviolence as a means of social and political change. This article argues that as activists pursued change through nonviolent protest, they attempted to embody a spiritual challenge to political policies, using the body itself as a dramatic and often extreme tool of protest. The more dramatic the use of the body, the more complicated the interpretation of nonviolence became. Where fasting was concerned, traditional nonviolence was layered with additional issues of voluntary poverty, biblical self-sacrifice, and the uncertain question of violence. Blurring the boundaries between the private, ascetic ritual of fasting and the public act of a political protest, certain fasting campaigns challenged accepted notions of nonviolent protest with the confrontational challenge of an open-ended fast. The prospect of the suicide of those involved in open-ended fasting appeared contrary to the steady, reformist practice of traditional nonviolence and further complicated the role of religious ritual in political protest as practiced by American pacifists in the 1970s and 1980s.


Publication title

Journal for the Study of Radicalism








College Office - College of Arts, Law and Education


Michigan State University Press

Place of publication

United States

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© 2015 Michigan State University. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Religion and society; Understanding the past of the Americas

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