Continuing the theme of our most recent post, here is a gallery of images of Hong Kong residents who have taken to the streets as part of the pro-democracy "Umbrella Protest" -- and chosen to sleep out on the streets, to "ensure the protests continue around the clock."
The Daily Telegraph reports the discovery, by scientists working at the Centre for Applied Genomics in Philadelphia, that people carrying the gene variant "p.Tyr362His" are able to function on fewer than five hours' sleep per night. This variant has already been christened the "Thatcher gene", in honour of the former British PM's reputed ability to get by on just four hours' sleep per night. The article also quotes Charles Moore, Thatcher's authorized biographer, on the mythology that has grown up around her sleeping habits: "she wanted to show she didn't need much sleep. In fact she needed more than she said. It was part of her desire...to beat the men."
Jonathan Crary's widely-reviewed polemic 24/7 has rapidly established itself as an essential work in the emerging field of sleep studies. In a fascinating new piece in the New Left Review, William Davies challenges Crary's assumption that sleep is "our last bastion of otherness and refusal." For Davies, the tendency to idealize sleep as a realm uncontaminated by market forces disregards the extent to which slumber has already been colonized by "a new consultancy circuit of 'sleep and wellness' expertise." In any case, the figure of the sleeper is an odd sort of mascot for a politics of resistance. "The argument that receptivity and passivity contain sources of hope is a pressing one in our interactive age," he writes, "but surely these have more lively and critical manifestations than mere surrender to nightly unconsciousness."
A new article by Siobhan Phillips on the Poetry Foundation website offers a brief, eloquent meditation on the "politics of sleep" in the poetry of Lyn Hejinian, Walt Whitman and Bernadette Mayer. "Our pursuit of sleep is languidly compulsive," she writes, "the desired phenomenon shimmering as it does between object and (inactive) activity."
"Seize the siesta!" is the rallying cry of a brief, inspiring book, The Art of the Siesta, in which Thierry Paquot champions the daytime nap as a practice in which we reclaim our own time from the clockwork routines of industrial capitalism. Along the way, Paquot castigates modern architecture for its "absurd and restrictive division of an apartment into day use and night use." By way of alternative, he wonders whether architects will ever "invent a new room, the 'siestoir', in the same way that Georges Perec in Species of Space imagines a Mondoir, Tuesdoir -- a room for each day of the week? Will they endow factories and office blocks with 'siesterias' right next to the cafeterias?". The "siestoir" and the "siesteria" are whimsical utopian fantasies in Paquot's anti-capitalist polemic, yet they bear a suspicious resemblance to the "sleep pods" that were installed on the 24th floor of the Empire State Building in 2004 -- hi tech beds in which New Yorkers could enjoy a 20-minute nap for $14. These eye-wateringly expensive sleep pods are now defunct, but it seems fair to assume that capitalism has lost none of its desire to "seize the siesta" for its own ends.
Attached is an interview with Ricky Lehner, one of the Occupy DC protesters who in January 2012 embarked on a 'sleep strike' as a protest against a DC Park Police ban on sleeping in McPherson Square. 57 hours into his ordeal of self-inflicted sleep deprivation, Lehner talks with remarkable lucidity about the rationale behind his protest. According to the "ODC Sleeps" twitter feed, he held out for over 100 hours.