On May 25, 2018, Irish citizens voted in a referendum to repeal a constitutional amendment to allow for reform of Ireland’s prohibitive law on abortion. In this article, I examine parts of the Irish repeal campaign, focusing particularly on the interplay between “public” and “private” in the context of a public, feminist campaign that sought changes to public policy on matters that have traditionally been conceived of as private. I also explore some affective elements of the campaign, including its rejection of shame through visibility and exposure, and the emotive testimony it relied on. The article thus highlights the centrality of feeling to this particular feminist campaign, pointing to emotion as shared political phenomenon that cuts across public and private spheres to motivate political change. In so doing, it develops a largely undertheorized aspect of Judith Butler’s work, establishing the affective dimension of vulnerability in the context of feminist campaigning. My analysis thus delineates the role of public and private in the exposure entailed by affective vulnerability as a means of nonviolent, feminist resistance and points to women’s testimony and the affective revealing of trauma as a means of making the ideas of public and private tangible and translatable into grassroots feminist activism.
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- School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics - Vice-Chancellor Illuminate Fellow