#FEAS Performing Project P: The official unboxing of political, personal, and practical zines

Mindy Blaise, Emily Gray and Jo Pollitt

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WHO ARE #FEAS?

#FEAS -Feminist Educators Against Sexism are an international feminist collective that was founded in 2016 and is committed to developing arts-based interventions into sexisms in the academy and other educational spaces. We use a mix of humour, irreverence, guerrilla methodology and collective action to interrupt and disarm both everyday and institutional sexisms within Higher Education and other spaces. 

#FEAS is co-led by Mindy Blaise, Emily Gray and Jo Pollitt. #FEAS now has many members located in Australia and all over the world including UK, Aotearoa New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, the USA, Canada and Saudi Arabia and has grown to an international collective that includes a Facebook page with over 950 members, a monthly Cite Club with over 150 members as well as research and creative partnerships. 

WHAT IS PROJECT P:?

Project P: is one of our recent feminist-arts based activist research projects that was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The impact of COVID-19 on university workers was enormous and those who were not stood down or furloughed were forced to make their home their workplace, meaning that women university worker’s domestic labour increased in quantity yet remained devalued and unrecognised (McLaren et al., 2020; Swan, 2020). Research conducted by Ruomeng Cui, Hao Ding, and Feng Zhu (2020) shows the disproportionate impact that lockdowns have had on research productivity for women in the social sciences. During the 10 weeks after the lockdown in the United States, Cui and colleagues found that although total research productivity increased by 35%, women academics saw their research productivity drop by 13.9%. These combined effects were compounded by many universities adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach to quantifying research outputs and assessing teaching quality. At the same time, university workers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. 

WHAT WAS THE INTENTION OF PROJECT P:?

Project P: set out to put apause on the panic that many #FEAS members were feeling by developing three online Zoom zine-making workshops that took place during April-July 2020 and brought together 40 feminist academics to co-create and make micro-zines over Zoom. The workshops used zine-making, which involved participating in scores of embodied responsive tasks together with cutting, pasting, constructing, and sharing to find out the different ways participants were responding to these new work-home arrangements. By focusing on the political, the personal, and the practical we addressed and generated the necessity of working collectively and taking part in something that the academy would consider as ‘useless’; talking and making connections through Zoom, rather than taking part in an institutional Zoom meeting, and producing zines, rather than submitting a manuscript to an international peer reviewed journal. We think with Sara Ahmed (2019) to consider how Project P:  activated a ‘queer use’ of time and became a deliberate act of refusal and necessary for our survival in the academy during the pandemic.  This was our method for working together, while being apart, and, with a nod to the notion of slow scholarship (Mountz et al., 2015) and the salient effect of analogue zines (Watson & Bennett, 2020), we invited participants to post their zines to Perth, Australia. 

PERFORMING PROJECT P: THE OFFICIAL UNBOXING

Performing Project P: is the official ‘unboxing’ video of the 20 zines posted to us following three Project P: Zoom zine-making workshops.  Performing Project P: is a short closed captioned 4.45-minute video that is an archive of the workshops, a play on academic productivity, and a contemporary arts-based research method. Instead of producing a peer-reviewed journal article, we were productive in a different way. Taking the form of a subversive TV infomercial, the video brings the tactility of unboxing into your personal screen and proceeds with care and closed captions. 

Sara Ahmed speaks of the need for those outside of the mainstream to create their own support systems and that “the stories of the weary and the worn, the teary and the torn are the same stories of inventiveness, of creating something, of making something” (2019, p.219).  Performing Project P: is the creating and making of something and illustrates how a creative and arts-based embodied methodology is necessary for survival in the academy. It contributes to challenging everyday academic sexisms by creating space and time within which to reflect upon, and respond to, the changing landscape of work during the pandemic.

Jo Pollitt, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Mindy Blaise, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Emily Gray, RMIT University, Victoria, Australia 

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