Date: January 2021 – January 2022
Sponsored by: Chrest Foundation and Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Project advisors: Umut Azak, Zafer Çeler, Adnan Çelik, Esra Dabağcı, Özlem Şendeniz
Workshop moderators: Özgür Sevgi Göral, Barış Ünlü, Pınar Sayan, Göze Orhon, Hazal Özkalkan, Besna Tosun, Kayuş Çalıkman Gavrilof, Nesi Altaras, Norayr Olgar, Ayça Damgacı, Ayça Çiftçi
The aim of this project was to introduce young people from different cities across Turkey and from different social backgrounds to the fields of social memory and memory work, to increase their knowledge and interest about these topics, to create a dialogue between the young individuals, who each brought their own experiences, knowledge, and memories with them, and to discuss present struggles by tracing the past. We also supported the young participants in making original contributions to the field of memorialization by developing their own collective and/or individual projects.
This project was carried out in line with Memory Center’s long-term vision to discuss issues related to collective memory based on the interests of young people. If it is official apologies or petitions, post-colonial studies or Black Lives Matter movement, the construction of new memory spaces or the demolition of statues: Today, the legacy of the past is becoming more and more visible and a subject of controversial public discussion in Turkey and around the world. Meanwhile, the practices of Turkish civil society to commemorate, understand, and remember the past largely omit the interests of young people. Our project sought to find a way of developing an innovative, hope-based and future-oriented language to engage today’s young generation in a dialogue about the heavy traumas of the past. Some of the questions that prompted us to carry out this project were as follows. What kind of history is underlying the violence, hatred, and discrimination that we encounter every day? How do the social traumas experienced by older generations reflect on younger generations? How does what we remember and what we forget affect our efforts to make sense of the present? What happens when we encounter people who bring other experiences with them, and how do we communicate with people whose stories are far from ours? When does the burden of the past create a demand for change? How does who or what has been silenced and suppressed in the collective memory return? In what aspects and how do today’s memory struggles shed light on themes such as racism, pluralism, public space, the right to the city, gender-based inequalities and activism? Can we think of constructing a plural and critical social memory to counter a singular narrative?
In designing the project, we paid special attention to make sure that the participants would not be in the role of passive listeners but act as active contributors who shape the project. Accordingly, the main activities of the project consisted of workshops relying on the participants’ active participation and interviews and projects which they carried out with the support of their advisors. In addition to these workshops, we originally planned field trips to historical places, monuments, and archives. In developing the program, we adopted the principles of applied, experiential and collaborative learning. Our objective was to document the learning process and create a record of all resources to make for a sustainable and transferable experience.
Between March-July 2021, we organized 10 workshops focusing on different subjects and areas in the field of memory. Every workshop was attended by an expert of the respective field who assumed a facilitating role. In each of the half-day workshops, the facilitators first gave lectures about their areas of work, which then led into discussions among the participants based on the lectures and their own subjective experiences. During the project evaluation, the participants said that these discussions, where the public and the private collided and inspired each other, were very transformative for them.
1.1. Workshop program
Click here to download the program.
1.2. Workshop resources
We shared session readings and recommendations through Padlet, an online collaboration platform. The readings and recommendations included not just articles and books, but also songs, movies, videos and many other formats. As such, we were fortunate to have a vibrant bibliography in our hands at the end of the program.
2. Blog interviews
Parallel to the workshops, our young participants conducted interviews with the workshop facilitators about their respective field of work. These interviews were published on Memory Center’s Medium account and shared on its social media accounts. The participants took great care and were supported by the project advisors while preparing these interviews which drew great interest in the public.
At the end of the workshop program, the participants worked individually or in groups to develop a number of capstone projects. Resulting in different outputs like blogs, videos and e-books, these projects were important for the young participants to put the experiences gained through the workshops into practice and to position themselves as active subjects. The titles of the projects, which are still in development at the moment, are as follows:
- The Gender of Space (Blog): Participant Seval Siğinç’s blog aims to create a collective memory archive by collecting spatial experiences of women from different ages and social backgrounds.
- Göz Kararı (Blog): The title of the blog can roughly be translated as “Rule of thumb,” referring to a phrase commonly used in Turkey to indicate using approximate measurements while cooking. This blog is prepared by participants Akarsu Demirkol, Burçin Bahar Güler, Sidar Tekin and Zeynep Kılıç and aims to collect vegetarian and vegan recipes from all across Turkey. The blog also explores domestic labor, women’s experience in the household and internal migration while discussing the nuances between how a specific dish is prepared differently in various regions.
- Dance, space, memory: A performance that attempts to narrate Hasankeyf (Blog and video): Participant Nazlı Durak’s project entails a field trip where she interviewed Hasankeyf residents and a dance performance aiming to tell the story of Hasankeyf’s destruction.
- Had they not been killed, they would have been our friends (E-book): Participants Yasemin Soydan, Medzan Nakçi and Xemgîn Yusuf Görücü’s work is about children killed in Kurdistan since early 2000s. This e-book is the result of extensive data analysis and interviews with relatives of the slain children. The participants wanted their friends’ stories to be remembered via this work. The e-book is available both in Turkish and Kurdish.
- Queering Memory (Video): Participant Berfin Atlı’s oral history project looks at how LGBTI+ individuals relate objects with memories of their queerness and how everyday objects can become sites of queer memory. Video shows several individuals exposing objects valuable to them and explain how these objects are entangled with their personal history.
4. Field trips
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to hold all the workshops within the scope of this project online. Therefore, carrying out field trips as actual physical meetings offered an even more important opportunity for the participants to socialize. We had two meetings, one in Antakya on 19-21 August 2021 and one in Istanbul on 6-7 November 2021, where the participants could come together and visit memory sites.
4.1. Antakya field trip program
Click here to download the program.
4.2. Closing meeting program
Click here to download the program.