Sekundos - Morphologies of Identities               2022               ETH Zurich               
with Aymane Filali, Carolina Contreras Alvarez, Hoi Ming Du, Mona Lecoultre, Stefano Martelli

SEKUNDOS is a student initiative that aims to recognize background identities in public spaces and to upkeep differences in the institution in the form of a musical podcast and live events.

We founded this initiative together as a group of 6 students with different upbringing backgrounds. Some of us are “Sekundos”, which means second generation of migrants, but we also use this term to refer to any “secondary” layer of one’s identities. The project started with several conversations among us on how our certain identities were hardly recognized in a public environment because of the barrier of language, religion, cultural background, and in general, normalization. We then discover the format of sounds as a perfect medium to “communicate” beyond language and to recognize differences through listening.

We had opportunities to organize workshops such as “Musical Picnic – Listening to Identity Morphologies” and “From Palestine to Switzerland: A Folk Dance Tale” in the Parity Talks 2022 and 2023 at ETH Zurich, and “Sonic Walk” in the Unmasking Space student-led elective course in FS23. Through collective listening and dancing, we explored music presenting different layers of one’s identities, and experimented on the moment of “place-making” through music and sounds.

Beside the events, we are mainly working on a podcast channel to discuss different topics on identity struggles with invited guests. In the episode “On Being Foreign: Position Oneself in Between”, I had a discussion with Bing about experiences, feelings, emotions, and reflections, on being foreign, with topics such as the power of language, how to deal with foreign gaze and stereotypes, Ideology differences, and how freedom is entitled to one’s identity. In the end, we reflect on how to position ourselves in-between different backgrounds and identities and how to find our own paths.

In the episode “On Decolonial Methodologies: A Journey Home”, we started with Tina’s upbringing experience as a pan-African diaspora on language, accent, visa, passport, education, belonging, colonial histories, and its aftermaths. Through this journey of identity struggles and reflections, she realized how certain narratives and histories were told based on an imperial and colonial background, and therefore we need to question the knowledge production system in Western academia. As “architects” and spatial practitioners working towards a decolonial future, we need to admit that we do not know enough and learn from the local context with humiliation. We need to “step down” and give space to other voices and dismantle the “Master’s house.” We also need to actively practice epistemic disobedience and challenge the current academic value. At the end of the episode, we also talked about how music and placemaking can be tools and methods for healing and journey home.

Enjoy listening! :)

Photo 4,5,6,7,8,9 credit Bundesamt für Kultur, Florian Spring & Nicolas Polli © 2022