About Project

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عن المشروع

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Accessibility Toolbar
This is to help make websites more accessible and usable for a wider range of people with different conditions and abilities (e.g., visual, auditory, physical). For this website you can change the font size and colour contrast settings, and Alt Text can be read (a written description that appears in place of an image online). When referring to mental and physical health conditions I use the Social Model of disability; this means that rather than the individual medical condition that is disabling, it is social structures that are disabling through not providing Access adjustments (e.g. wheelchair ramp or understanding neurological differences), discrimination, prejudice and exclusion1.

Psychic Refuge is a project led by artist Sophie Hoyle to explore mental health, trauma and its treatment in Palestine, to produce a collaborative online resource and series of discussions. Overall, the project aims to generate dialogue between different perspectives on mental health and trauma, drawing from academic research, activism and art. An initial research trip to the West Bank, Palestine took place in December 2019, and the main research trip and trauma-based workshops with Palestinians NGOs planned for 2020 wasn’t possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project had to adapt and shift, with more emphasis on the collaborative website, and its accessibility and sustainability as a platform for future developments.

The project has had to adapt into a mainly online form— despite an awareness that not everyone has online access2. While unable to include thorough discussion of all the complexities of mental health in Palestine in a readable website format, further research is included in reading lists in the Resources page3; the list also relates to the specific context of 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic4and with global Black Lives Matter protests to explore international Black-Palestinian solidarities5.
Psychic Refuge aims to be interdisciplinary, combining accounts of academic research, activism and art, however, I acknowledge it has many limitations; it’s been developed from very specific circuits of knowledge with a large emphasis on English-language research, and it may have a specific tone that is academic or theoretical. As someone living with disability and chronic illness, it’s important to me increase the Accessibility6to information on this site in its design and writing; however, there are individual limitations on time and energy and project budget. This is isn’t an excuse for any shortcomings, but reflects a personal admission that I wasn’t able to read and research more than what’s currently available7. As well as language and disability access, there are many other layers of translation involved in the project in terms of the mediation of information about Palestine; e.g., reading texts translated from Arabic or Hebrew into English by translators and formatted by editors, to being read by me, rephrased in English, and re-interpreted back into Arabic. So, despite wanting to include translation to expand understanding, I’m aware it may have potential problems in the loss of specific meanings8, as well as other barriers to access in terms of formal education, literacy or cultural access.

Institutional publications are referenced (e.g., NGOs), but the use of these sources is with and through a critical lens of questioning who is able to speak about Palestine and why, or more importantly who is believed when they speak9. Western news media represents Palestine as a ‘contentious’ or ‘divisive’ ‘topic’ (as opposed to a daily, lived reality), where certain sources of information are assumed to be more ‘neutral’ than others (e.g., United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), UNWRA). These are not politically neutral organisations10, but they have specific benefits e.g. the funding and infrastructure to undertake research and to provide specific services; so despite acknowledging their lack of neutrality they are still used here to limit potential claims of ‘misinformation’ or ‘bias’.

I’ve tried to include Palestinians talking about their experiences in Palestine and the diaspora. This is not an intention to speak on behalf of, or instead of, Palestinian people—the website is more of a way to structure and signpost towards pre-existing texts and interviews, where Palestinians are able to and have every right to speak from their own experiences, and to organise, protest and resist occupation. A lot of information already exists about Palestine, so the lack of information is not necessarily the problem, but more how it’s distributed, how visible it is, how selective it is, or how it is (mis)used to support pre-existing world-views11. As well as information and knowledge, it’s been shown historically that a large part of political change involves action: to support Palestinian organisations, Palestinian economy, Palestinian culture. Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) has historically proven to be effective12. and is an organised movement to participate in, so please continue to educate, demonstrate, boycott and protest. As a springboard for action, a list of local and global Palestinian activist groups are included in the reading list13.

Whilst care has been taken to read through and select texts, articles and websites that reflect the aim and values of the project—anti-occupation in Palestine, but also wider global anti-racism, the violence of settler-colonialism, against all forms of anti-semitism, Islamophobia and prejudice— I can’t necessarily endorse all of the other texts by the writers included in the reading list, or writers that they reference; however, if you feel something urgently needs attention (e.g. racist or prejudiced remarks or language on these sites) please feel free to contact me. The project has reached the end of its budget for significant changes, but I hope it will have an afterlife and continuity, and I’ll try to update information in as much as can be possible for one person to do.

Psychic Refuge was made possible through a Research & Development grant from
Forma, Unlimited, Shape Arts and Arts Council England.

Translated from English into Arabic by Alaa Abu Asad

  1. The Social Model of Disability was a term developed by Vic Finkelstein, a disability rights activist. For more information about Web Accessibility please see here (ENG).
  2. Short Reading List on Technology and Biopolitics in Palestine.
  3. Resources page
  4. Short Reading List on Palestine and Covid-19
  5. Reading List on Black-Palestinian Transnational Solidarities
  6. What is Accessibility? A Definition
  7. Contact: semhoyle@gmail.com
  8. Arabic has many different dialects varying by country (e.g., Palestinian, Egyptian, Emirati et al.), with differences between Modern Standard written text (e.g., newspapers, academia) and spoken dialects.
  9. Al Qaws(2020) in Right to Narrate: Policy Roundtable on Centering Palestinian Voices (19th August 2020) with
    Sahar Francis (Addameer), Yara Hawari (Al-Shabaka), Amira Mattar (Palestine Legal), Nas Abd Elal (AlQaws), Tala al-Foqaha (University of Minnesota), Omar Zahzah (Eyewitness Palestine, Palestinian Youth Movement).
  10. There has been much post-colonial critique on why this is the case.
  11. Short Reading List on Post-Colonial Theory
  12. bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds



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