What are the Responsibilities of Academics as Public Intellectuals ?

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PACBI | 16 December 2010 |

A panel organised at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES) 19th - 24th July 2010, Barcelona – Spain

Academics have been involved in two major contemporary struggles for liberation in the past century, those of South Africa and Palestine. During the Apartheid regime in South Africa, a fundamental and stable element of the civil society response to oppression was to construct and support a boycott campaign. More recently, Palestinian civil society activists have been urging the adoption of a broad campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, including an artistic and academic boycott of Israeli institutions. This panel explores the idea and practice of an academic and cultural boycott as a response by civil society to oppression. It also reflects on theoretical issues related to boycotts, including the issue of intellectual and artistic freedom.

In that sense, the panel’s papers attempt to challenge conventional thinking about the role of the academy in our contemporary colonial and post-colonial environment. Part of this discussion challenges the constructs of “colonial” and “post-colonial ;” the role of the academy in political struggles and the politics of academic activism is explored.

This panel brought together academics from a number of universities. The papers and presenters were :

- The U.S. and the BDS Movement

Sondra Hale – University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)

- Reading Edward Said in South Africa : The Slippery Side of the Academy : From Ivory Tower to Market Mill

Salim Vally – University of Johannesburg

- Academic Boycott and the Question of Academic Freedom

Sue Blackwell—the University of Birmingham

- The Arab Boycott of Israel : Official and Popular

Sharif S. Elmusa – The American University in Cairo (AUC)

- In the Service of Oppression and Militarism : the Complicity of Israeli Universities in the Structures of Domination and State Violence

Lisa Taraki – Birzeit University

- The Academic and Cultural Boycott : The Internal Palestinian Story and the Role of the Academy

Samia al-Botmeh – Birzeit University