ՀՈԳ ՏԱՆԻԼ AS BRINGING SPIRIT

Legacies of relational ontologies and ethics of care by diasporic women & queer folks from the SWANA region

Looking for women and/or queer identified artists and writers from the SWANA diaspora for a collaborative dissertation research project. Specifically inviting folks who align themselves, through practice, with the imperative that caring for an-other includes but is not limited to human, other than human (animals, plants, land), and more-than-human world (spirits, ancestors) worlds.

This research illuminates legacies of relational ontologies and ethics of care from the experiences of women and queer artists and writers from the South West Asian, North African (SWANA) diaspora and living in settler environments. Through performative ethnography, arts-based, and indigenous methodologies, the study will center their lived experiences and ancestral memory as expressed through ritual, relationality, performance, and aesthetics. As primary researcher and project facilitator, my approach is grounded in an experimental praxis that blends autohistoria-teoría (Anzaldúa, 1987) and biomythography (Lorde, 1982). As such, this inquiry explores the extent to which participants desire to maintain pieces of indigenous and emergent SWANA traditions, ancestral reclamation and memory; in how they are understood as crucial parts of the resistance and transformation of imposing hegemonic colonial western paradigms. The ontological locus of this study is explored through the primary researcher’s lens of an indigenous Armenian concept called հոգ տանիլ (hok danil), defined as bringing care or bringing spirit. Hok danil is central to this research in how it orients relations of care as kinship, the act of caring for an-other – which includes, but is not limited to children, elders, communities, spirits, land, ancestral memory, and one’s interrelated self. In contrast to mainstream settler notions of care that are rooted in independent selfways (Adams, et. al., 2017), hok danil relies on interdependence, which may offer the potential to disrupt the co-optation, exploitation, and institutionalization by systemic patriarchy, capitalism, and coloniality within relational formations. Although Hok danil emerges from the primary researcher’s indigenous Armenian framework and guides their contributions to this project, a significant part of this research will invoke concepts and practices of relations of care as brought forth by the participants and their varying cultural epistemologies. Hok danil Moreover, this study seeks to better understand and contextualize the strategies of women and queers from the SWANA region as we re-create and re-claim ancestral practices from the axis of our particular decolonial positionality. In alignment with SWANA epistemology, a set of methodological strategies that blend soliloquy and dialogue, performance, art-making, and divination are explored. This research acknowledges that relational ontologies are central and culturally embedded in SWANA practices and traditions. For this reason, its reclamation within settler environments is one of the many ways that decoloniality takes shape.

Process & Commitment:

We will gather data together through performative ethnography, arts-based, and indigenous methods, including performance texts, visual artwork, poetry, prose, rants, essays, chat histories, letters, and other creative exchanges. The intention here is to engage with a process that evokes a creative rhizovocality, one that is ultimately understood by/through what emerges from the co-researchers’ experiences, as well as a culturally-informed, (re)claimed, and queered process of relational exchanges. Participants will be invited, through guided prompts, to make art, perform, tell stories, write/reflect and engage in dialogue with each other. Tasseomancy (SWANA divination practice using coffee grounds) will be practiced throughout the process by co-participants on their own, and will be reported on through group dialogue, relational interviewing and storytelling. Other culturally-informed divination or ritual practices will be welcomed, through which hoki (spirit) and ancestral memory are invoked. The guided prompts will be framed in such a way to allow for spontaneous new ideas to emerge, thus allowing co-participants to cycle through and pendulum back-forth/in-out of ritual, artmaking, storytelling, and reflection.

This study will pilot WhatsApp™ as a data collection modality. All the exchanges will take place through WhatsApp™ over the course of a ten-week period of time. Time frames for engagement are at the co-participant’s discretion, meaning they decide when and how to participate within the designated time frames.  This is intentional, in how it takes a care-centered and accessible approach to collaborative research. The flexibility will allow co-participants, many of whom are tending to care-work and relations, to engage based on their capacity and schedule. In these ways, these methods are centering the very ethics of care that this research is drawing from.

There will be three stages of online engagement with co-participants, the first and second stages lasting two weeks each, and the third stage lasting four weeks. There will be a two week break between the second and third stages, thus totaling out to a ten week process.

The first stage is asynchronous and will invite participants to ‘set the stage’ in a sense, into a brief written reflection on their culture, the historical context of their lineage and displacement, and how it has/continues to impact their experience in the world. They are welcome to integrate artwork or images as part of their reflection and writing. The second stage consists of one-on-one relational interviews and exchanges with each co-participant, conducted by the researcher. This process will be initiated in part by prompts, which the co-participants will reflect by way of text and dialogue. They will take a two week break to distill what emerged through artwork, ritual images, performance pieces, and ongoing divination. Together we will decide which pieces are most evocative and generative in regards to our research, then carry it forward to the third stage. The third stage will bring the whole group together (through a group chat), where we will take turns bringing forth the artwork, stories, questions, and reflections from the first and second stages for collective discussions and further exchanges. Co-participants will be encouraged to share and cite sources as well, including scholarly and popular literature, and, or a saying they heard from their aunty (extended family member through a bloodline, or not). The original prompts (and any others that emerge) will be revisited throughout if necessary, and as a guiding framework for our research.

Please email Kamee at lorikamee (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in participating.