Complaint!

Complaint!

Sara Ahmed

 

In Complaint! Sara Ahmed examines what we can learn about power from those who complain about abuses of power. The idea for Ahmed’s book Complaint! came about when a group of students at the University Ahmed was working at filed a complaint against sexual harassment. Ahmed was asked by the students to attend a meeting as a feminist academic and to listen to the students and to aid them with their complaints to the administration. However, the lack of action taken from the Universities side, lead to Ahmed’s resignation in 2016. In the introduction to the book Ahmed explains the situations as follows:

“We worked together to confront the institution more directly about its role in enabling and reproducing a culture of harassment. The harder it is to get through, the more you have to do. The more we tried to confront the problem of sexual harassment as an institutional problem, the more we refused to accept weak statements about what the university was committed to doing, the more we questioned how they were changing policies without communicating with anyone why we needed to change policies (chapter  1), the more resistance we encountered.” (Ahmed 2021: 7)

 

Therefore, drawing on these oral and written testimonies from academics and students who have made complaints about harassment, bullying, and unequal working conditions at universities, Ahmed explores the gap between what is supposed to happen when complaints are made and what actually happens. To make complaints within institutions is to learn how they work and for whom they work. Complaint as feminist pedagogy or to have a feminist ear as Ahmed also refers to listening to those who are not being heard and dismantling institutional barriers that stop hearing these voices.

 

Ahmed explores how complaints are made behind closed doors and how doors are often closed on those who complain since complaints are usually seen as negative, not heard, tiresome and a distraction from what is “important”. To open these doors—to get complaints through, keep them going, or keep them alive—Ahmed emphasizes, requires forming new kinds of collectives. In other words, Ahmed sets out to give complaints a hearing, to give them room, to listen to them and to show their importance, power and life-changing ability through the extensive work of her book.

 

Sara Ahmed is a feminist and independent scholar, whose work include intersectional feminism, queer, and race studies. Her research additionally includes how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds as well as institutional cultures.

 

 

Happy Black History Month!

For the month of February, we are celebrating Black History Month! Many have certainly heard about Black History Month but what does it practically mean and how can each and everyone celebrate it?

Black History Month | School of Social Work

What is Black History Month and why do we celebrate it?

Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements of Black individuals and to remember Black history and its contributors to civilization. However, Black History Month was not always called that and neither did it start with an entire month of celebration. It started in 1926 as the Negro History Week when the American scholar and historian Carter Godwin Woodson wanted to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and focus on their central role in U.S. history. Woodson was the first to open the long-neglected field of Black studies to scholars and popularized the field in the schools and colleges of black people, making the field a “serious area of study”. Woodson decided upon celebrating Negro History Week the second week in February, due to both Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, who both played a huge role in the emancipation of enslaved Africans and the abolitionist movement, celebrating their birthday during that week. However, the idea grew in the 60s as a result of the social movements protesting racial injustice and inequality and eventually evolved into today’s well-known Black History Month. Later in 1976, US President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month and stated that it is time to acknowledge the too-often neglected accomplishment of African Americans.

 

90 years after Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to educate people on Black history and culture, the former US President Barack Obama stated in a speech on February 12th 2016 that:

“So we are so proud to honor this rich heritage.  But Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history — (applause) — or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes.   There are well-meaning attempts to do that all around us, from classrooms to corporate ad campaigns.  But we know that this should be more than just a commemoration of particular events.

It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America.  It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future.  It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go.”

 

Additionally, each year Black History Month has a theme. The theme for 2022 is Black Wellness and Health, in honour and support of physical and mental health of Black individuals, in addition, to recognising Black medical practicians and decolonizing racial medical practises.

Things to do during Black History Month!

Now that we know the history of Black History Month, we can discuss what everyone should think about and do to uplift, support, and celebrate Black individuals. A lot could be said here but let’s focus on five key aspects.

 

  1. To celebrate Black Joy as much as Black resistance! Meaning not to only focus on pain, suffering and trauma, but to instead give room for Black joy. Black joy means to claim ownership of the free self through joy, celebrating Blackness and having the right to love Blackness. Below are shared links to read and hear more about Black Joy.

 

The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the Plantation South, 1830-1861 by Stephanie M. H. Camp

What is ‘black joy’ and why do we need it in our lives?

Why we need to celebrate Black Joy | Valerie June | TEDxNashvilleSalon

 

  1. Center Black voices and Black stories! It can be a movie, book, series, or other forms of media by Black creators telling stories that centre Blackness. To hear stories told by Black individuals about Black individuals is to decolonize the narrative of Blackness that Whiteness has told. This blog’s monthly book suggestion gives some suggestions, in addition, the Instagram account @womensprize also occasionally lifts Black authors. Otherwise, a simple Google search will give a plethora of great media to consume that centre’s Black voices.
  2. Buy Black! This entails supporting Black-owned businesses, shops, and brands, both local and/or global ones. To economically support Black business, today and always, is part of being an ally to a community that is deeply affected by systemic racism.
  3. Continue supporting racial justice movements and organizations! Whether it is economical support, following and sharing information or educating oneself on the matter are all as valid and important.
  4. Finally, even if we only celebrate Black History Month for the entirety of February, Blackness should be celebrated all year round. Meaning that these are not things that one should consider only during the month of February but something to keep in mind all year round.

10 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month This February | Houstonia Magazine

#activism

What even is activism?

Merrian-Webster defines activism as “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue” and Cambridge Dictionary says that activism is “the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one”. Hearing that definition, the image of activism becomes this enormous protest with a head figure sharing some inspiring words. Nonetheless, activism is exactly this, however, activism can also be on a more grassroots level. To practice activism and to achieve a social or political change can start from a simple hashtag.

 

activism on social media

The two social media personas Katri Norrlin and Nelli Kenttä discuss in their 2021 book” Vitun ruma” (a direct translation” Fucking Ugly”) both the highs and lows of the impact social media has. They emphasize how social media can negatively affect people’s perception of reality leading to decreased self-esteem. However, they also highlight the positive aspects of social media platforms, one of them being social media activism. Social media can provide a platform for communities to come together and support each other in a shared struggle. On the other hand, social media activism can also be criticized as lazy, performative and only done to chase clout. But this is not always the case, as we have seen with both the #meetoo movement and the #BLM, which grew tremendously online, proves that powerful social movements and activism can be done on social media. Additionally, as Tinksu Wessman, who is an activist, photographer and a current board member of Trans ry, says activism is still activism, regardless of if it happens on social media or on the barricades (Norrlin & Kenttä 2021: 51).

 

Social media does offer a truly great and wide platform where different kinds of activism against oppression and injustice can flourish and from there become something much bigger. Social media also provides a wide network, where you can reach individuals from all corners of the world. Sharing or posting a hashtag, picture or article can always have an impact, is it then that your problematic aunt reads it and starts thinking or that it sparks a new social movement. Thereupon, below readers can find a compiled list of influential Instagram pages to follow, where equality, anti-racism, justice and other empowering posts are shared.

 

@ghdhelsinki Good Hair Day is an anti-racist collective and community celebrating  Afro-Finns and afro hair

@antiracistforum Anti-Racist Forum is a non-governmental anti-racist organization working to fight for social justice, for instance through various events and workshops.

@finnishafricansociety Finnish-African Society ry was established in 1964 and its purpose is to promote the knowledge of African countries to supply information and to encourage support development, assistance in research on Africa in Finland

@think.africa_finland Think Africa’s mission is to make a social and economic impact by engaging, promoting, and empowering the African diaspora living in Finland as well as building effective collaboration between Finland and African countries.

@ruskeattytotmedia Ruskeat tytöt media is an independent online publication committed to centring and normalizing the perspectives of Brown women and people with underrepresented genders in Finnish and Nordic media

@laakarit.hibo.ibrahim Doctors Hibo A. & Ibrahim A shares their experiences as doctors working in Finland and the discrimination they face almost on a daily.

@noniinmagazine NO NIIN is an independent online monthly magazine at the cups of art, criticality and love

@samha_ry Samha ry is an NGO working with Substance Abuse and Mental Health

@mixed_in_america Mixed in America strives to empower mixed communities and mixed identities

@feminist Feminist is a community rooted in intersectional feminism

@hijabiluscious the account is run by Neda who is a hijabi wearing pole dancer

@nowhitesaviors No White Saviors is a community organisation working with the principle “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not listening”

 

This list is however not complete, and accounts can always be added. If any reader has additional suggestions on Instagram accounts that mainly use English and does activism that supports Intersectionality, Feminism, Anti-Racism, BIPOCLGBTQI+ and Inclusivity to mention a few, feel free to dm us on IG for them to be featured on this blog post.

Upcoming guest lectures

In the course Geography of Social Exclusion 2022, there will be some fascinating and intriguing guest lectures coming up next month, which will probably interest many. Hence, the Social Exclusion program is inviting any interested individuals to join the upcoming guest lectures.  Please send an email to socialex@abo.fi , to receive a zoom link for the seminars.

 

Check below to see the dates for the different guest lectures and a brief description of the course.

 

Course description

The concept of social exclusion is very difficult to define. It is a relatively new concept and it is very strongly connected with the national and regional social reality wherein border and boundaries play a great role in determining people’s wellbeing, existence and access. In the course borders will be interrogated in a different way both as a physical space and an ideological one. In geopolitics, they are fought for, guarded and crossed. Borders are thus understood as social constructions and a site of exclusion that articulate dominant ideas about ―who and what belongs in particular places and the kinds of activities and practices that belong to the place. Borders are fundamentally boundaries and they do not only shape national sovereignty but separate the everyday experiences of locales.  Boundaries and borders as tools of social exclusion wherein individuals and groups struggle in the experience of reality. The boundary between the excluded and non-excluded may be seen as more or less permeable, depending on how easy it is to cross it. The degree of permeability of a boundary depends on the way it is constructed, namely on the markers employed to define it.

 

List of the guest lectures

February 1st Borders created by beauty standards

Guest Lecturer: Jasmin Slimani, project assistant at ÅAU

The guest lecture will cover issues of how the beauty standards in Finland create borders for Afro-Finnish women. This lecture will be centred around Jasmin’s Master’s thesis: Mirror, mirror on the wall, why am I not the fairest of them all? – an Afrocentric approach to the lack of representation of Afro-Finnish women within the Finnish beauty standard.

 

 

February 7th Anti-Blackness in Egypt: Between Stereotypes and Ridicule

Guest lecturer:  Islam Bara’ah Sabry, project assistant at ÅAU

This Lecture will be centred around Islam’s Master’s thesis: Anti-Blackness in Egypt: Between Stereotypes and Ridicule: An Examination on the History of Colorism and the development of Anti-Blackness in Egypt.

 

February 8th Levantinism and Belonging

Guest lecturer: Sagy Watemberg, Izraeli PhD Candidate, Law and Study of Religions

Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff was born in the cosmopolitan city of Cairo, Egypt, to an Iraqi Jewish father and Tunisian Jewish mother. As a child she attended the French Mission Laïque School alongside Muslim and Christian children, thus speaking mostly in French as well as in English with her British nanny rather than her native languages of Arabic or Hebrew. As an adult she lived in Paris, the United States, and eventually returned to the Middle East to Israel. Therefore, her own experiences of belonging and not belonging, the heart-aching search for a “home” among her mixed and often conflicting identities of “East” and “West”, of colonised and coloniser, of riffs between religious and national borders fracturing the Middle East, lead her to formulate the concept of “Levantinization”. We can uncover the concept of Levantinization as a strong and intricate tool for understanding complex societies and reconciling these “opposing” shards of ourselves and of society.

 

February 14th Settler colonial frontier-making between Silicon Valley and Palestine/Israel

Guest lecturer: Antti Tarvainen, Doctoral Student in Global Development Studies. Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria). Doctoral Program in Political, Soci­etal and Regional Change. Univeristy of Helsinki

This guest lecture will cover the concept of frontier (from settler colonial studies) and how it is useful in analyzing the racist and gendered state-making projects of innovation economy.

 

February 15th The exclusion and inclusion of Roma migrants in Helsinki from 2008-2016

Guest lecturer: Anca Enache, University of Helsinki.

 

February 21st Social exclusions in refugee contexts.

Guest lecturer: Eveliina Lyytinen, Migration Institute

This guest lecture will cover the following concepts: Welcomed to Finland as unaccompanied refugee minor / Unwelcomed by the state but welcomed by locals as an asylum-seeking man / Deported to Afghanistan and / Rewelcomed as an employer and a family member.

 

February 22nd Caste-anticaste and Social Exclusion of Muslims in India – by Dsilva Keshia

Guest Lecturer Dsilva Keshia, Doctoral student in the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences. University of Helsink

This lecture will cover the following topics: An introduction to the caste system. Visual representations of gender and gender-based violence in the campaigns of gender organizations in India from an intersectional anti-casteist lens. India’s newly proposed citizenship act that seeks to deny citizenship to Muslims from India’s neighboring countries and also targets Muslims in India

 

February 28th Bridging the “us” and “them” silent borders in Finland

Guest lecture by Theresia Bilola, City of Turku

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work”

 

“This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work”

Tiffany Jewell

 

A delightful book to start reading in 2022 is Tiffany Jewell’s book “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 lessons on how to wake up, take action and do the work”. This easily readable book contains practical and helpful tools to understand structural racism, it is impact and how to dismantle it. The book is constructed by 20 chapters or lessons of becoming more aware, understanding oneself and aid change to take place. Each chapter also ends with some practical exercises to do and to help utilize the knowledge processed in each chapter. These 20 lessons are additionally divided into four sections, from understanding and reflection on one’s own identity and history to act, build relations for the future and achieve, freedom, justice, and equity. All of which are part of removing oneself from being non-racist and becoming anti-racist. 

 

The author Tiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer and Antiracist Montessori educator and consultant. The illustrator for the book is the French illustrator Aurélia Durand who in her art celebrates diversity, and she dedicates her artistic voice to represent non-white individuals with bold, proud, and empowering colours.