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  • Writer's pictureEtsijä -lehti

Forms of Resistance and Practices of Hope – Perspectives on Activism from the World of Academia

Tilda Enne

At the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) of Tampere University, a group of nine researchers are studying how hope and resistance intertwine in the lives of individuals fighting for their human rights and equality. Researchers Meeri Tiensuu and Angel Iglesias Ortiz discuss the significance of their research.

The Forms of Resistance and Practices of Hope project originated from the desire of nine researchers to support each other in the academic world and to investigate something they all felt a passionate interest in. "The starting point was, how we could help each other in our research work. Especially regarding funding, since there is always fierce competition for it. I see the project's collectivity as a form of everyday resistance against the intense competition in academia," says doctoral researcher Meeri Tiensuu. The research project was funded by the Kone Foundation in December 2023.

In addition to Meeri Tiensuu and Angel Iglesias Ortiz, the research group includes Prince Agyei, Bayan Arouri, Zahra Edalati, Caecilie Svop Jensen, Ebru Sevik, Bram de Smet, and Ilaria Tucci. The diversity of the research group is evident, for instance, in the fact that all members speak different native languages.

"The project's collectivity as a form of everyday resistance against the intense competition in academia."

"The topic of the research arose from our shared interests and previous research experiences. Last year, I was in a project application in which the Palestinian resistance and the actions of the Zapatista movement in Mexico were considered", continues postdoctoral researcher Angel Iglesias Ortiz.

Since 1994, the Zapatista movement, organized mainly by local indigenous peoples in southern Mexico, has used means of civil resistance to defend their rights. Many Palestinians are fighting for their right to live and for their freedom in the Israeli-controlled Palestine in similar ways.

Civil resistance can be defined as political nonviolent action where marginalized members of society collectively challenge some power, force, policy, or administration that denies their human rights and drives them into a position of inequality or insecurity. Resistance operates by appealing to the opponent, pressuring, coercing, or exposing the systematic injustice or violence produced by their sources of power through protests, strikes, petitions, boycotts, and many other methods.

"In my previous research, resistance and hope seemed to continuously intertwine, which sparked the desire to study their interaction further. When we discussed with this research group what was common in our previous research experiences, these themes kept emerging from all of us," Iglesias Ortiz explains.

"Resistance is ethical action and active participation in society and communities,"

Therefore the research naturally led to the following guiding questions: How do different forms of resistance and hope intersect? How do spatial, temporal, and personal conditions affect the forms that resistance and hope take? What do resistance and hope mean in everyday life?

The research project examines the connections between resistance and hope through six case studies in four different countries: Finland, Mexico, Iran, and Palestine. The cases include, among others, university occupations, racialization and exclusion of immigrants in Finland, migrants living at the Mexico-United States border, and street art in Iran.

By combining different case studies, the aim is to reveal the various manifestations and forms of resistance and hope beyond national borders. The goal is to produce knowledge and increase understanding of resistance and hope in a way that simultaneously promotes peace and justice.

Migrants camping at the Mexico-US border.

"Resistance always arises from the material conditions of time and place. Therefore, there are as many different forms of resistance as there are survival strategies, of which hope is one of the most central. The maintenance and the emergence of hope are also dependent on time and place. In the research, we wish to discover what methods and practical means different conditions generate," Iglesias Ortiz describes.

The project focuses on everyday life and the position of the individual, with the analysis concentrating on personal experiences rather than an institutional perspective. Hope, after all, is a very personal experience. As an example, Iglesias Ortiz highlights the role of religious beliefs which become a cornerstone in some struggles, while their significance is less notorious in other contexts”

"Through education and awareness, power structures can be dismantled in our minds."

When asked about their hopes for the research, they first provide practical outcomes: the research will result in a book and an open-access website in all the researchers' native languages, where they aim to offer practical methods for organizing and continuing to build a theoretical framework to make the struggles for human rights more understandable to a broader audience. "Additionally, we will hold public presentations where we share the research findings, for instance, in libraries. The openness and accessibility of science outside academia are very important to us because knowledge should belong to everyone. We also want to contribute to the public discussion on human rights with this research," Tiensuu explains.

On a more personal level, both hope to learn and grow as individuals through the research. "As a Finn, I participate in this discussion and these struggles from a position of privilege. I feel that I have a lot to learn, and I hope to implement my philosophy of it being impossible to fight others' battles for them, but you can support and stand together on the same front. This research is one way to give a platform for those who are usually not heard," Tiensuu says.

"I hope to reveal something about how power structures work and to provoke others to think about them. Often, power structures are so normalised in society that they can be hard to see. In such cases, one might unintentionally participate in them or perpetuate unquestioned power structures in one's own life and even oppress others. Through education and awareness, such structures can be dismantled in our minds," Iglesias Ortiz reflects.

During the interview, we also talked a lot about what activism means to them, even though it is not directly the focus of the research. "The word activism easily conjures up the image that some people can take up the cause of human rights and promote them as if it were their job that non-activists would not then need to do. In reality however, effective resistance is often everyday actions, where individuals address the injustices, they encounter or see. Resistance is ethical action and active participation in society and communities," Iglesias Ortiz continues.

Talking about the significance of resistance left me feeling hopeful: There is power in building and acting together, whether through small or large acts.


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