Interview with Muna Guvenc Ospina Leon

Descriptive Transcript

The video opens with text on screen that reads: 2020 2021 MCH Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for the Humanities. The screen fades to black.

Text reads: Mandel Humanities Center Spotlight Series, Muna Guvenc Ospina Leon, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Brandeis University

The screen fades and showsProfessor Muna Guvenc Ospina Leon speaking in an office.

[Professor Muna Guvenc Ospina Leon] My research is about the impacts of architecture and urban planning on human lives, and more particularly how minorities use architectures and sometimes urbanism to manifest their identity or to empower themselves.

An image appears of a large brown building with a Kurdish flag attached to it. There are several fountains in front of the building.

I worked on Kurdish minority in Turkey and I looked at how they actually use architecture, housing, public space, monuments, memorials to manifest an identity, also to mobilize, to create a mobilization, Kurdish mobilization and Kurdish nationhood.

An image appears of Kurds holding a banner with a Kurdish phrase, which in English translates to,"Do Not Forget Halabja: Bring Peace!" The photo was taken at a commemoration of the Halabja attack in front of the Democratic Solution Tent in Kosuyolu Park in Diyarbakir, Turkey, in March 2011. (Photo credit: Muna Guvenc, March 2011)

That interdisciplinary research stemmed from the impacts of architecture and urbanism on human life, so when we think about that we cannot think just about architecture, about the building.

When the human impact comes to the picture, you have to think about different research methods to assess this.

An image appears of a large brown building with a Kurdish flag attached to it. There are several fountains in front of the building.

My research question was okay, there is the minority and there is the public space and once the moment they have the municipal power, they use this architecture, they use this urban planning into their advantage, so my question was, okay, Kurds doesn't have a nation state, but they still can conduct mobilization.

An image appears of Kosuloyu Park in Diyarbakir, Turkey with street vendors in the foreground and the Democratic Solution Tent in the background. (Photo credit: Muna Guvenc, April 2011)

To answer these questions I had to conduct an architectural spatial analysis, but at the same time I had to engage with urban sociology, and at the same time I had to conduct urban ethnography, which involved participant observation snowball-like interviews.

And so I had to bring all these research methods together to answer the questions I have been asking about my research. 

So the questions you ask, or the puzzle that you want to explore, I think that matters the most.

It has been very interesting to observe in the United States context, how a Confederate monument or memorial, which has been there for several years and ignored, why society became more conscious.

An image appears of a statue of man on a horse.

In the Kurdish case, they use monuments and memorials to explicitly represent the trauma and the violence that they received from state and from others.

Here, there is a growing conscious and tension about those Confederate memorials, which is something very important for the United States, but again I think for us to better analyze the human and interaction of those monuments, memorials, we should think about at what point really triggers these consciousness in the society.

Who are the users of the space, who installed, and why now it has been removed. I think these are very important questions for us to understand the history of memorials and the history of the society in their interaction with the memorials.

An image appears of a large brown, stone building on a street corner with the name, "Islamic Da'wah Center." This building is located in Houston, Texas. 

These days, I am very excited to explore the minority spaces, the minority sacred spaces in the U.S. and how minorities, particularly the religious minority, the Muslims, are transforming their sacred spaces into community centers.

An image appears of a mosque that is painted white with two red domes and six brown-framed windows.

I am more interested in these not-visible sacred spaces, like the basement of a cathedral, the corner of a library, and how they repurpose secular spaces into religious spaces in the United States.

So once again here I am looking at the power of architecture and how they use that architecture for community engagement and cultural representation.

Screen fades to black. Text reads: Filmed by Tamar Aizenberg, Communications Specialist, Mandel Center for the Humanities.