silence of academy

First part of the MFA thesis work,
(in relation to Academy of Silence)
In collaboration with Dikkat! Taciz Var! (feminist activist group against sexual harassment) and MSGSU Woman Studies Association (feminist activist student collective in Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts)
2010-2011

Silence of Academy is both the process and the outcome of a practice-based design research carried out in Turkey with feminist activist women studying in universities. Having engaged with the broader research on the current policies and regulations against sexual harassment in institutions of higher education, the project started focusing on searching more ‘unofficial’ and impactful forms of counteracting the issue of harassment. Along with various activities (i.e. workshops, panels, discussion forums, demonstrations, video interviews and web-based mobilisations), the research resulted in the process of making a book in the form of dictionary as a collective documentation that would not only bring individual narratives, testimonies and experiences of harassment together, but also serve as a medium for re-definitions of sexist words and biased language. The dictionary—which, as a concept, is a symbolic and metaphoric instrument of academia that imposes predefinitions of things and concepts in a normative way—was created by women (participants of the workshop) through their realtime associations and experience-based re-definitions. It also consisted of images that had been captured during the mobilisation process, narratives, slogans, poems and gendered discourses that had been appearing in mainstream media by public figures. Although the main concern of the dictionary was deployed around particularly sexual harassment in academies, the content was expanded to power relations, gender issues, body politics, state of oppression and sexual emancipation. The copies of dictionary, the aim of which was to deconstruct and reconstruct the commonplace androcentric ideas about harassment, sexuality and gender, as well as breaking the silence and unspoken yet violent experiences of women (or gendered bodies in a wider sense), were placed in the university libraries and canteens as an abrupt material and discursive intervention into the normative and normalised zones of such institutions.

Apart from the practice aspect, one of the important drive of Silence of Academy was to develop a methodology emerging from the design discipline and practice, yet being situated in a non-practitioner feminist activist context. It, therefore, aimed to put forward a form of collaborative and participatory methods that would not depend on any pre-constructed methodology, but adopt new ones that would be situated according to different contexts, different bodies and different physical, political and social circumstances. This approach included techniques of bringing forward the concepts of designer-and-activist-self (situating the self as a researcher), self-representation and self-documentation (rejecting to document and speak on behalf of ‘participants’) and the importance of collectivity and anonymity (in activism in contrary to design practices). Moreover, approaching to design as a medium, a language, a tool and a catalyser in activist practices, the project investigated possible kind of media through which design could be practiced and communicated politically.

Some photos and translations from the dictionary:

 

For the .pdf version of the dictionary (Turkish): Here