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“SILENCE OF ACADEMY”: EXPRESSING HARASSMENT THROUGH COLLECTIVE DESIGN PROCESS

2016
CANLI, Ece
KAYA, Çiğdem
The aim of this research is to investigate how design can be practised to facilitate self-expression of women, suffering from sexual harassment in universities. The underlying statement, of using design to counteract harassment, is to indicate that design activity can be utilised not only for industrial interests, but also in the realm of socio-political issues such as gender activism and women's struggles. With this aim, in a two-year practice-based design research entitled Silence of Academy, a series of workshops was initiated and facilitated by the design researcher-as the first author of this article-in collaboration with an undergraduate women's association. During the workshops, the undergraduate woman participants, who were directly or indirectly exposed to sexual harassment in universities, sought for an alternative medium to tackle, divulge and speak out the silenced experiences of sexual harassment. By doing so, participants explored the possible ways to create space for their self-representations, not as subordinated or surrendered subjects, but as active agents. They created collective narratives based on their own shared experiences, later captured and amplified by the researcher's design interventions for further actions. At the end of the process, the articulation of harassment was presented as a physical artefact, in the form of a dictionary, also used as a public intervention to encounter the academic milieu beyond the women's circle. In this article, after the issue of sexual harassment and the engagement of women's voices in design is contextualised, the process of design research will be explained through the methodology which is based on participation, storytelling and self-documentation. Moreover, the analysis will focus on how socially-politically engaged design activity can be used to enhance the medium for women's dialogues, and to empower women in resistance by facilitating their self-representations.