code of contact
What is a ‘code of contact’?
We use the phrase ‘code of contact’ rather than ‘code of conduct’ (the more common term, indicating a set of norms, rules, and responsibilities or ‘proper’ practices and behaviours of individuals within an organisation), because what we wish to emphasise is the collective responsibility for generating the productive, anti-oppressive, empowering conditions for contact rather than the individual responsibility for following particular rules or norms that have been decided from ‘above’). We desire contact.
Why do we need it?
Because, as people living under racial capitalism and heteropatriarchy, we have internalised relations of power and habits of hostility, and need each other’s help to become reflexive, self-critical and accountable to ourselves and others. Because we want FAC research to be a space that is welcoming to everyone, particularly to people who have been made to feel unwelcome elsewhere because of endemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ableism… Because we believe in learning by doing with others, but no one’s learning process should take place on another person’s back. We can do better than to take out unresolved internalised oppression on each other.
How did we construct it?
We (the co-directors of FAC research) researched and read various codes of conduct that have been constructed by feminist groups. Drawing on our individual and common experiences in social movements, academia, and the arts (both positive and negative), we reflected on four categories around which we discussed and collectively composed this code of contact:
- the common places that unites us as a group: answering the question, “why the fac?”
- the values and principles that are at the heart of our existence and motivate action
- the things we want to avoid (unpleasant and/or unproductive behaviors that do not reflect our values but are not red lines)
- red lines (behaviours we do not tolerate)
We started by individually reflecting on these four categories; we each wrote words or phrases on post-it notes (pictured above). Then we discussed and came to consensus on the following code of contact.
CODE OF CONTACT
COMMON PLACES (WHY?)
- Because we/I need space to breathe
- To create and find myself within a safe(r) space
- To enact a vision to co-create a safe(r) space for speaking loud and not alone
- Mobilising/organising: coming together as a community
- Because it is my life’s dream to unlearn pedagogies and ideologies and collectively create an “elsewhere” and an “otherwise”
- Because our “work” and our bodies should not service a neoliberal logic.
- Because systems of education and institutions of knowledge production are epistemically oppressive
- Freedom of expression
- Do It With Others (DIWO) and Think with Others (TWO)
- Understanding, solidarity, softness = politics of care
- Anti-authoritarian group process
- Speaking with intention
- Able to ask for and receive help
- Respect for other views/for others
- Learning from mistakes
- Allow difference to flourish
- Humour as a revolutionary weapon
- Embracing failure
- Respecting the circle
- Deep listening
- Respect the neighbourhood
- Ask for consent, respect the answer
THINGS TO AVOID
- Not being willing to listen to well-intended, respectfully addressed criticism
- Silencing and remaining silent about violations/violence (both within and outside the space of FAC research)
- Reproducing norms and stereotypes about people (concerning appearance, ability, authority, etc.)
- Not respecting mental illness and distress
- Unspoken or implicit hierarchies
- Objectifying people in the space
- Language/expressions that naturalise/reproduce oppression
- Passive aggression/microaggression
- Reproducing unconscious dynamics of power/privilege
- Unintentionally misgendering people (doing it intentionally is a crossing a red line)
- Theory-phobia and anti-intellectualism
- The next person who tells us how crappy Agios Panteleimonas (our neighbourhood) is…!
- Racism (of all kinds), homophobia, sexism, ableism, transphobia…
- Insulting others
- Aggressive language
- Identity policing, including but not limited to intentional misgendering
- Violence in all its forms, including but not limited to sexual harassment/sexual assault
All persons collaborating within, and using the space of FAC research commit to abiding by this code of contact, holding themselves and being held accountable, as well as holding others accountable. The code of contact is shared with groups and individuals working at FAC research; it can be read on the website and is posted in a visible location in the centre.
We can refer to this code of contact to problematise and “call in” people/groups enacting behaviours that constitute “things to avoid” or crossing “red lines.” Individuals are asked to bring to the attention of co-directors behaviours (particularly those that cross “red lines”). We commit to addressing incidents and patterns of such behaviour by:
- discussing the problem with the individual(s)/group(s) concerned;
- proposing and undertaking a process of accountability regarding the behaviour in question, the focus of which is understanding the harm the behaviour has caused, and restoring/transforming the relations that have been damaged through the behaviour;
- if a process of accountability is refused by the individual(s)/group(s) whose behaviour has been challenged, we will ask them to withdraw from the space and/or terminate collaboration.
The code of contact also serves to remind us of the values, needs, and desires that bring us together in collective action. It is a working document, embodying our learning process and cumulative experience, and may be revised/amended in due course.