Bedbugs Intimacy

DSC_4051Bedbugs Intimacy is a series of events that put forth itself as a mode of singularity. It revolves around bed bugs- the enigmatic, blood sucking and unwanted parasite acting as a catalyst for metaphorical questions or otherwise and examines socio-political resubjectivation through the shifting conditioning of sleep and wakefulness.

From Kafkaesque metamorphosis to questions of dehumanisation and the ends of sleep in Jawaharlal Nehru University through bedbugs bites as a common symbol of malaise, ‘Bedbugs Intimacy’ proposes temporal or real and fleeting moments of intimacy with bedbugs-to sleep, think and act with and call for other modes of creative outputs.
Contrary to the general notion of bedbugs as unwanted interruption and irritation that invades privacy and intimacy. Bedbugs feed on human blood, but it is our sleep they disturb the most. Although they are being associated with feeling of horror and disgust, they cause no serious physical harm or diseases.

The events proposed would like to put forth itself as a mode of singularity (after Lepecki) “to generate charged and vital problematic fields on which pressing and urgent political, corporeal, affective, and social problems are made visible and gather-not to find a solution, but to further the movement of problematisation.”1

This is a call for reenactments and creative outputs (in any form, be it poetry, posters, lecture, performance, dance etc). Below are exordia for bedbugs discourse which is yet to develop. Follow this link  Bedbug Intimacy and facebook page Bedbug Intimacy Fb for more materials and prompts. Send your responses to


The Other-bug:
Often associated with stigmas related to socio-economic backwardness, bedbugs provides ways in which ‘othering’ and ‘alienating’ certain groups of people can help generate awareness to the growing tension of polarisation and intolerance. As Reinhardt aptly puts it, “While disturbing our comfort, bedbugs also comfort our discomfort: they come from outside our world. Always.”2 According to Reinhardt, this ‘othering’ of the bedbugs, as a metaphorical comparison ‘provides gruesome examples of the alienation of groups of people’3. He said that “the angst of ‘the other’ may be particularly effectively stoked by creating a common enemy.”4 The political construction of Hindutva through a ‘common blood’ also entails the construction of a ‘common enemy’.
This dehumanization, reducing a person to mere ‘parasites or pests’ and the politics of ‘othering’ is “an important and controversial issue in the debate about the psychological prerequisites of mass violence.”5 According to Johannes Steizinger, the “image of the ‘Jewish parasite’ is the ultimate expression of this dehumanizing naturalization of the Jews.”6 In a similar strain, we see that the act of referring ‘illegal immigrant Muslims’ from Bangladesh as ‘termites’ on several occasions by The BJP chief, Amit Shah strikes a similar chord.

On Resilience/Persistence and performing Nuisance or Resistance:
A recent study published in the journal ‘Current Biology’ suggests that bedbugs evolved long before their assumed ancestral bat-hosts and date back as far as at least 115 million years ago.7 The new family tree of bedbugs and its evolution produced by this study also suggested that every half a million years, new species of bedbugs would conquer humans. Their resilience and adaptability to situations and extreme conditions make them notoriously difficult to eradicate.
As a mode of resistance and political act of nuisance, the resilience and persistence of bedbugs provides ways in which new modes of activism can be put forth in the political landscape of India where dissents and voices are paralysed and easily targeted and silenced. We have already seen the emergence of micropolitical practices8 from places like Jawaharlal Nehru University that instigate and open new relational mode of political subjectivity that perform dissensual politics and other acts though improbable propositions. By disidentifying individual identities and operating as bedbug (or otherwise anonymously), the question of Kafaesqued metamorphosis is now a conscious act of becoming.

1. Lepecki, André. Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance, (London, Routledge, 2016).
2. Reinhardt, Klaus. Bedbug, (London, Reaktion Books Ltd, 2018), 129.
3. Ibid, 131.
4. Ibid. 131.
5. Steizinger, Johannes. “The Significance of Dehumanization: Nazi Ideology and Its Psychological Consequences, Politics, Religion & Ideology”, 2018, 19:2, 139-157, DOI: 10.1080/21567689.2018.1425144
6. Ibid. 7. Roth, Steffen. et al. “Bedbugs Evolved before Their Bat Hosts and Did Not Co-speciate with Ancient Humans,” Current Biology, Vol. 29, Issue 11, June 3, 2019, Pages 1847-1853.e4.
8. ‘JNU Bed Bugs’, a Facebook page and other art interventions.

Bedbugs Intimacy is a project within the framework of Five Million Incidents 2019-2020, realized by Goethe-Insitut / Max Mueller Bhavan in collaboration with Raqs Media Collective.




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