Kohl Journal: From Positionality to Messiness, Archiving Feminist Struggles Online



Not all publications are printed and the online format has its own politics. Ghiwa Sayegh talks to us about Kohl, the journal she co-founded, which features feminist texts and artworks from “the margins,” but also continuously questions the place we occupy, as well as the necessary imperfection of such positionings.

Article published in The Funambulist 22 (March-April 2019) Publishing The Struggle. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Kohl: a Journal for Body and Gender Research is a queer, feminist, open access journal produced in Beirut, Lebanon, since 2014. It is the main publication of Intersectional Knowledge Publishers. All of its content is available in both English and Arabic, and it is published exclusively online. In June 2015, I was readying myself to transpose the content of the very first issue to its medium of publication. I had never worked with blank website templates, but I managed to upload the whole issue manually, including every single article and its translation, giving it shape with whatever scarce resources were available to me back then. Little did I know that we would continue to do so for the following six issues. This was but a minor stumble that preceded colossal hurdles we would encounter in our digital fight throughout the years. Despite the many ethical and political considerations the medium itself brought about, it took us years to clearly position ourselves as linking arms in the struggle for digital access and justice. But there was something about raw, manual uploading that echoed the labor of publishing feminist content that is neither readily available nor evident.

That first issue, in its content, did not necessarily reflect the political project we would eventually come to envision. It was more concerned with acts of reclaiming, with “margins” responding back to “empire,” from its reactionary politics to the injustices of access and resources we face vis-à-vis a “western” counterpart. But the onset of such a publication was disruptive precisely because of its locality, and it is this alternative mapping to the sites of knowledge that we have since retained. From reclaiming, we shifted to a documentation mindset. Although these are not mutually exclusive, the slow, less visible labor of building a feminist archive (as employed by Sara Ahmed in her 2017 book Living a Feminist Life) is not as sparkly as direct acts of reclaiming can be. It will neither make headlines in mainstream media nor be the subject of exoticizing pieces of sensationalist journalism because it proposes a consciously political alternative to them.