Below is Fred Moten’s statement against MLA Resolution 2017-1. Fred Moten is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, where he teaches courses and conducts research in black studies, performance studies, poetics and literary theory. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2009); B. Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010); The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), which was a poetry finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the California Book Award for poetry; The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2015), which was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), A Poetics of the Undercommons (Sputnik and Fizzle, 2016) and a three volume collection of essays whose general title is consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press, 2017, 2018). Moten is also co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013) and, with Wu Tsang, of Who touched me? (If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to be Part of Your Revolution, 2016).
Voting on MLA Resolutions: April 19-June 1.
Click this link to sign the petition against MLA Resolution 2017-1.
Most folks who refuse to answer the call for solidarity that will, in the first instance take the form of boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions upon Israeli academic and cultural institutions, don’t dispute the facts. A few do, but one generally feels it necessary to respond to them in the same way that you would respond to anyone who denies conquest. When I say anyone I’m not thinking of any imperial nation or corporate entity; I’m thinking of any child who blatantly takes something from another child they think of as other, or as weaker or, simply, as someone who has something they want and think they should have. You may or may not listen to their arguments about how their conquest and theft wasn’t really that; you may or may not be disgusted when they don’t even feel the need to make an argument; either way, in the end, you just make them give it back.
The situation of Palestine, alas, isn’t so easy.
When things are more complicated, when the task of reversal and repair requires great intellectual and moral energy, rather than counter-coercion, you have to think a little bit. There is a general history of brutality and its various justifications to unravel and to begin that work requires the cessation of business as usual. BDS, and the call for it, in the refusal to allow things to go on like this, provides the conditions and atmosphere for such thinking.
The utter silence of MLA Delegate Assembly Resolution 2017-1 regarding the denial of Palestinian academic freedom is all but deafening. Moreover, the disingenuousness of its defense of debate with representatives of Israeli universities is manifest in the absence of any such defense of the right to debate the boycott within Israeli universities, which is now suppressed by the Israeli state. The promotion of teaching and research on language cannot be carried out by way of language’s repression. Resolution 2017-1 is as intellectually dishonest as it is morally obtuse. Vote No!