Wednesday, April 17th is Take Back the Night on the University of Connecticut campus. An event recognized across North America in response to violence against wimmin. Since its inception Take Back the Night has been about reclaiming space beyond the physically passive act of recognition and observation. Wimmin, the disproportionate victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and harassment, have found solidarity through the action of speaking out and mobilization en masse against this violence. It’s sister mobilization, Slutwalk, has also achieved support across the broad spectrum of wimmin who experience patriarchy in the streets, an intended social space for interaction in work, transit and play.
The Alternative Press Collection (APC) in the Archives contains numerous publications on wimmin-positive theory and praxis in response to gender violence since the 1960s. Of note is the feminist publication Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women published in 1978 by the Feminist Alliance Against Rape. Defined by the magazine’s statement of purpose, the movement to build solidarity through information was seminal in establishing wimmin’s resources in regions where silence was (is) the normative response to gender violence:
The purpose of Aegis is to aid the efforts of feminists working to end violence against women. To this end, Aegis provides practical information and resources for grassroots organizers, along with promoting a continuing discussion among feminists of the root causes of rape, battering, sexual harrassment and other forms of violence against women.
Depicted in the image below is the cover of the September/October 1979 issue, portraying the advocacy debate around wimmin’s rights to self defense.
In addition to our extensive APC collection of periodicals is a recently acquired special collection art installation about building solidarity and non-violence amongst wimmin through art therapy. In this case, pulping panties into paper! From the Peace Paper Project comes another alliterative piece, Panty Pulping! The installment consists of loose pieces of paper made from mulched wimmin’s underwear that has been forged anew through storytelling and constructing the foundations of a new page for which a narrative can be written about wimmins voices together.
To view these pieces or any materials about wimmin’s rights and radical feminism, please contact the curator.
A recent acquisition to the Archives’ Alternative Press Collection is Slingshot, a radical journal published by the Slingshot Collective out of Berkeley, CA. We have early back issues from 1988 up to the current issue. In addition, we also carry samplings of the popular Slingshot Organizers which are artistically, historically and resourcefully compiled booklets that function as the primary fund raiser for the collective.
In addition, the collective published a book edited by Terri Compost in 2009 about the People’s Park in Berkeley which was a site of contention beginning in the late 1960s between the University of California and the community invested in making the space public. It currently exists as a semi-free space for gardening, theater, play and all things other than volleyball.
These materials and other collective publishing ventures can be accessed in the Alternative Press Collection at the Archives & Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.
The inherently decentralized and accessible nature of the internet has provided activists and underground press the ability to make their voices heard, requiring nothing more than a computer and a connection. Admittedly a little over naive, the potential for the Internet as an organizational structure has new channels for empowerment. As an academic research institution such as ours at UConn, we face challenges in attempting to document the digital documentarians. While we have one of the largest Alternative Press Collections in the country, our ability to capture tweets, status updates and blog rolls is limited. One important distinction to make regarding digital representation versus physical is the utter impermanence of these sources, particularly in an un(der)funded enterprise as many activist groups and presses are. Arguably, the physical print is also impermanent but the comparative longevity of print to a blogger site is quite drastic. The philosophical archival dimensions of thinking about these kinds of challenges remains rooted in the theory foundations which have transcended evolutions in media. A temporary remedy to this current problem in documenting underground press is to provide links to the digital representations of prominent sources and accessible organizations with a broad base.
I have updated the Library Guide on Introducing the Alternative Press Collection, by including a tab of Radical Internet Sources. This list is as imperfect as any sampling of the internet can be, however it will be continually updated and perpetually becoming. For an insightful view of the web’s virtual empowerment, see Lewis Call’s Postmodern Anarchism (Boston; Lexington Books, 2002).