‘You understand?’  Visual Images of Craftwork from East Jerusalem and Palestine – An Exercise for Geo-ethnographers

You understand?’ is a visual exercise that aims to provoke the ethnographer’s thinking and practice that combines digital and visual data.

I shot the images with my smartphone to capture the ‘moment’ on the move during a visit in the Old City of Jerusalem, in late May 2023. Looking back to this research experience from a time-space distance, I see it as a synthesis of encounters and discussions that constitute a ‘moment’. I choose ‘moment’ rather than ‘trajectory’ even though my ‘moment’ embraces the elements of a trajectory, the movement, the visual and sensorial aspects, and the different emplacements of the researcher on the move (Gomez-Cruz, 2016). This is, however, an exercise for training the geo-ethnographic gaze and creating a basis for geo-ethnographic imagination and thinking. Geo-ethnographic methods allow positioning encounters in time and place on demand and, thus, offer one way to deal with possible memory gaps and other sources of bias.

Geo-ethnography is nothing but new. Surprisingly, it has been a tool for historical research since the Classical times when Herodotus applied geo-ethnographic methods to get to know the ‘facts on the ground’ and separate myths from reality (Masalha, 2021). The smartphone has in-built technology that makes possible the convergence of image creation and locative metadata and, thus, becomes geo-ethnography’s good friend (Vivitsou & Janhonen-Abruquah, 2024).

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Activism for human rights and women’s rights in Palestine – the case of the Palestinian Youth Union

Cold floors, Artistic installation of stone and tile fragments, Amir Zuabi, Palestinian Museum

“There are more than 100K families in Palestine where the head is a matriarch, most often a widowed woman. Half are poor families that the Union tries to support. Forced by poverty, some of these women work in the settlements or live in camps. Union support means providing the families with both money and material means to make a livelihood, machines, and equipment, but also livestock. […] For example, there are poor families with members with disabilities asking for sheep or machines to make a living and educate their children”.

These are the words of Muharram Barghouthi, General Director of the Palestinian Youth Union (PYU) during an interview discussion we had at the premises of PYU in Ramallah in mid-May 2023. During the discussion, different topics came up, including Muharram’s own childhood and youth years, with memories of his mother’s daily life that are characteristic of other Palestinian women’s lived experiences. These memories are tightly linked with lifetime choices and his current role and work with PYU.

PYU’s mission includes empowering the Palestinians to resist the Israeli violent acts and be able to stay in their land despite the settler colonialism regime. The Union encourages community involvement and supports social cohesion and solidarity in Palestine and internationally through a marked media presence and advocacy for youth interests, human rights, political and public participation of youth and women, and other issues concerning youth and women inclusiveness.

Toward this direction, Barghouthi and his team work on building an international profile for the Union, by seeking cooperation, for instance, with EU member states. Barghouthi started as an activist journalist writing and thus spreading the news about youth volunteer work to rebuild communities in rural and urban areas all over Palestine. In this way, he shaped his leadership with equality and equal opportunities for youth and women as landmark and mission. On the way, Barghouthi’s and other activists’ work was met with reactions from different directions. The Islamic movement was one such source with their claims that women’s position is only in the home with the family.

Despite odds, constructive activist work has earned the trust of Palestinian families and gradually it becomes possible for young women to take action, move to the city, get educated, claim a livelihood and build a future beyond confines for themselves and their families.

Born in a poor family, Barghouthi attended the local school before he transferred to a government school. There, for the first time, he met with people from other villages. Soon he became the leader of the school students’ council that was coordinated with students from Birzeit University. Barghouthi’s activism against the colonialist regime covered areas such as economic measurements (e.g., the price of olive oil), land deprivation and the settlements. His work as journalist for a popular Palestinian newspaper gave the opportunity to address wider audiences and share the vision for equality, human rights and women’s rights.

In our discussion, Barghouthi did not seem to think twice about why he chose to take distances from those traditions that limit the freedoms of women. Throughout his life, he has been inspired by the story of his mother and all those Palestinian women who, day after day, throughout the years, from generation to generation, carried the water from the spring, to plant the home garden, bring in the wood to cook on the fire, pick up in the olive season, nurse the sick and seek income for the family.

These same women were kept hostages and saw their sons arrested when their own homes were invaded by Israeli soldiers. A story with constant repetitions in the ‘70s, the ‘80s and today.

At the same time, women’s position, especially in rural areas in Palestine was oppressed. Not only did the colonial regime harden the lives of mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. It was unfathomable for local societies to recognize young women’s education as a right. And that was a narrative that had to change.

Nowadays, the landscape is different. More and more women are recognized professionals, university teachers, researchers, medical doctors, practicing lawyers, musicians, working and studying home and abroad. But it took some years and some activism and hard work to turn parochial beliefs and allow a dynamic perspective for the future of Palestine to emerge.

The struggle toward this direction is ongoing.

Teaching together in action: the case of creative situated writing

Collaborative teaching for relational rigor

Co-teaching or collaborative teaching or teaching with colleagues is a common practice in Finnish teacher education (e.g., Kokko et al, 2021; Kähkönen & Airo, 2019; Pesonen et al., 2020). The practice can take different forms (e.g., teaching and observing, teaching and assisting, parallel teaching, alternative teaching etc.). In all cases, co-teaching involves the combination of teachers’ abilities and skills in course planning, implementation and evaluation and learning together. There are different benefits listed in the relevant literature, including work in heterogeneous classes and setting up reciprocal environments (e.g., Kokko et al., 2021). Importantly, as Kähkönen & Airo (2019) argue, co-teaching contributes to the transformation of university teaching with the possibility for experimentation and community building that it offers.

In our article, where we discussed metaphors of mentoring for education without walls, we argued for the need to decolonize engagement with learning (Stein et al., 2022) through narratives of relational rigor. Relational rigor requires seeing education otherwise and this means opening up spaces of hope. We see spaces of hope as being tied with the process of collaboration and the need for a critical understanding of reality, given that we aim for sustainable systems and sustainable futures. In their study of collaborative teaching in school environments, Pesonen et al. (2020) found that the practice is linked with the sense of belonging of those involved in the co-teaching situation. The sense of belonging, therefore, depends on with the ways relations are built with colleagues, the leadership and the wider school and societal context.

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Women in STEM in Palestine and Finland– current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future 

A Checkpoint on Southern Haifa Beach, artwork by Abed Abdi, 2016

OLIVE project and the pedagogical cafe organized a panel discussion on the topical issue : Women in STEM – current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future. The discussion took place online on Tuesday 31 January 2023.

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Panel discussion: Women in STEM

OLIVE project and the pedagogical cafe organizes a panel discussion on the topical issue : Women in STEM – current situation, challenges and opportunities for more equality in the future 

The panel aims to present/discuss the current situation as a global phenomenon with a focus on Finland and Palestine as two cases. Another aim is to point out the need to take action for more equality in the future; to possibly identify necessary structural changes; to map out an action plan; to offer policy recommendations; and, to offer the basis for future events and frameworks for further collaboration.  

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Cultural heritage with digital technologies: new imaginaries through time  

*For details about the artwork and artists, check the links in the embedded Sway below. The photos are from works exhibited at the Palestinian Museum at Birzeit in the West Bank.

Cultural heritage is not a direct aim of OLIVE project, in the sense that the activities do not focus on cultural heritage issues per se. Cultural heritage is, however, about the symbols and aesthetic developments that are associated with the growth of our communities and wider societies. Cultural heritage, therefore, is sine qua non in and for education and educational research.  

According to the definition provided by UNESCO

Cultural heritage includes artefacts, monuments, groups of buildings and sites, and museums that have a diversity of values including symbolic, historic, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological, scientific and social significance. It includes tangible heritage (movable, immobile and underwater), intangible cultural heritage (ICH) embedded into cultural, and natural heritage artefacts, sites or monuments.  

It would be, therefore, no exaggeration to say that it is not possible to implement an international (or any) project, such as OLIVE is, in the absence of cultural heritage. Some manifestation or element of cultural heritage is present in some form, be it in an explicit or implicit way. Especially nowadays, when sustainability is prioritized in the wider educational discourse, cultural heritage is becoming more and more a vital part in higher education curricula, particularly in connection with the use and applications of digital technology.  

Within the framework of OLIVE project, visits to places such as HEUREKA as part of the exchange program of staff from Birzeit University and Al-Azhar University Gaza in Spring 2022 is a manifestation of cultural heritage elements. Heureka is a science centre in Helsinki that combines technology and art-inspired installations to signify the state-of-the-art in socio-economic and technological development and innovation.   

In fact, the impact of digital technology has generated a variety of discussions and even introducing the notion of digital heritage as ‘new Renaissance’.  

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