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Resistance, recovery, and refusal: Dr. Tamar Shirinian.

Feminism on the Margins: Social Movements and the ‘Woman Question’ in Postsocialist Armenia

Although the postsocialist Republic of Armenia has seen many mass social movements and struggles over the last few decades, gender as a question – an issue, a critical unit of political analysis, or a site of major social and ideological change – has remained largely marginalized politically. This project aims to understand the paradox in which women have often taken up and continue to take up leadership and/or central positions within major social movements, but feminism continues to be marginalized: from the anti-chemical industry initiatives at Nairit facility in 1988 prompted by glasnost, the Independence and Karabagh movements of 1989-1991, the 2008 post-Presidential election movement, the various protests that have taken place in the spring/summers of 2013-2016, the Occupy Mashtots initiative, the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that eventually ousted the Prime Minister Serj Sargsyan from power, as well as the contemporary ongoing anti-mining movement in Amulsar. Rather than critique, Feminism on the Margins poses this paradox as a question to leave open the possibility that there are particularities of a Second World feminism that might emerge if we do not assume that feminism in this region will and should look like feminisms that have emerged in other parts of the world. Through ongoing ethnographic, oral history, and archival research, this project returns to the old classical questions in feminist anthropology – what is feminism and who is a feminist? – placing these questions in relation to larger social movements, revolutions, social and environmental justice, and the building of a post-revolutionary state.

Struggling with Recovery: Psychic and Emotional Lives and Social Justice in Post-Harvey Houston

In April 2018, through joint efforts of the Houston Health Department, Rice University, and the Environmental Defense Fund, the city of Houston launched the Hurricane Harvey registry, a survey that has, since, been collecting surveys from residents of the city on the effects of the August 2017 hurricane on their lives. Harvey, a tropical cyclone, was on par with costs in damages with Hurricane Katrina that hit the coast of Louisiana in 2005, at an estimated $125 billion. The hurricane flooded 300,000 structures, 500,000 cars, and caused power outages for 336,000 clients. The disaster displaced 30,000 people, prompted 17,000 rescues, and caused at least 106 deaths in the U.S. While the 9798 registrants – as of January 2019 – of the Harvey registry have reported a number of effects of the hurricane on their lives – displacement, loss of property, and ongoing physical health complications and chronic illnesses – two thirds of the respondents to the registry reported unintended and intrusive thoughts. “[M]ental health was Hurricane Harvey’s greatest toll,” reported the Houston Chronicle. However, those surveyed do not necessarily represent the diverse demographic totality of Houston nor does the survey account for pre-impact vulnerabilities stemming from racialized and classed disenfranchisements that may have been exacerbated by the disaster, compounding illness, stress, and anxiety. Now more than two years after the disaster, many of Houston’s poorest residents are still living in homes that were flooded during the hurricane – sometimes with major mold infestation. Many others are living with relatives, trailers on front lawns, and ad hoc housing structures like shipping containers. Many claims by Houston’s poorest households to FEMA were rejected. Those accepted were only given, on average, $7000 – not enough to cover the costs of rebuilding homes.

Voices Out Loud

Donna Braquet & Tamar Shirinian

The Voices Out Loud Project, directed by Donna Braquet, seeks to preserve East Tennessee’s LGBTQ+ history by collecting oral histories and artifacts, documenting the present (the history of tomorrow), as well as sharing and making this history publicly available. While scholars are uncovering and querying queer experiences, histories, subjectivities, desires, practices, and identities in the U.S. and around the world, these histories remain focused on particular well-known regions – the ‘gayborhoods’ of major cities like New York and San Francisco in the U.S., and other largely metropolitan centers throughout the globe. Voices Out Loud is interested in less-often told stories – those of rural queer lives and worlds that reveal intimate links with other experiences of life such as labor, race, class, and religion; small town not-so-visible and yet hypervisible queer politics; and the ways in which sexuality and non-normative desires complicate the histories of Civil Rights in the South. How does the inclusion of Knoxville’s, Tennessee’s, or the South’s queer stories problematize our understandings of queerness? What are the politics of voicing forgotten and silenced histories in this region? How might we understand the refusal to forget, to persistently remember and document, as an act of resistance, as a force of resilience, and as the making of new queer futures? These are some of the questions that are at the heart of what Voices Out Loud aims to contribute to the communities of East Tennessee and beyond.

Located in University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Hodges Library, soon to become a special collection, the Voices Out Loud archive is an ongoing project. Students and faculty are involved in digitizing materials for a wide online public, creating timelines and maps that parse out particular historical narratives, spaces, places, and events, as well as analyzing existing materials for a scholarly audience.

Shirinian joined the project in August 2016 and is currently supervising students who are archiving, transcribing, researching and collecting materials, or analyzing the materials of Voices Out Loud. Contact us to get involved!