The History and Power of Self-Immolation

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Self-immolation is the act of committing suicide by setting oneself on fire, and there has been a flurry of this suicidal act happening in the Arab world in the past couple of weeks. Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest in Tunisia last month, which led to a revolt in the country. And yesterday, an Egyptian protestor set himself on fire, according to Egyptian officials. This recent event follows a slew of other self-immolations in Egypt, Algeria, and Mauritania.

The practice got world-wide attention in the 1960's when Buddhist monks set themselves on fire in protest of how the South Vietnamese government was treating them. The most famous image of this act was taken by Malcolm Browne, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and photographer, who took the prize-winning picture of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức setting himself on fire on the streets of Saigon in 1963.

To help us understand more about self-immolation and those who commit it, we are joined by Michael Biggs, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, at the University of Oxford, who has been studying this form of protest.

Guests:

Michael Briggs and Malcolm Browne

Produced by:

David J Fazekas

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