In this essay, Conor McCarthy reviews four recent books discussing the pros and cons of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. As he concludes, “these four books contain a wealth of ideas and information and a range of opinion that will enlighten anyone with even a passing interest in the matters of academic freedom and the politics of education relating to Israel and Palestine. Equally it must also be said that the sheer bulk of such material must not be allowed to obscure some facts so basic as to be too often overlooked: boycott is a tactic not a principle; it is non-violent; it has the potential to frustrate academic researchers, their careers and projects, and their institutions, but it can in no way be said to do serious practical damage to them. … In the context of the failure and discrediting of the Middle East “peace process” and the political elites (Palestinian, Israeli, American) involved in it, and of the unrelenting Israeli assault on Palestinian rights, land, economy, and life, boycott and BDS offer a firm but civilized form of pressure on Israel and of support for the Palestinians.” McCarthy’s essay was first published in College Literature 43.1 Winter 2016, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the editor.
Click this link to download a pdf of Conor McCarthy’s review essay: McCarthy AcademicBoycott CLT43.1
Books discussed in the review essay:
Dawson, Ashley, and Bill V. Mullen, eds. Against Apartheid: The Case for Boycotting Israeli Universities. Chicago: Haymarket, 2015.
Nelson, Cary, and Gabriel Noah Brahm, eds. The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel. Chicago: MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, 2015.
Lim, Audrea, ed. The Case for Sanctions Against Israel. London: Verso, 2012.
Bilgrami, Akeel, and Jonathan Cole, eds. Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom? New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
In this paper presented at the 2016 MLA Convention in Austin, Cindy Franklin reflects on how narratives about life in Palestine exist in a complementary relationship to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She discusses her experience co-editing and launching the special issue of Biography, “Life in Occupied Palestine.” Her central point is that opening institutional spaces for narratives of Palestinians’ lives and supporting academic boycott are crucial ways for humanities scholars to understand and contribute to interconnected anti-racist struggles at home and abroad. Both Palestinian life narratives and BDS support rather than curtail academic freedom—and the right to education.
Click this link to open a pdf Franklin’s paper. Franklin MLA 2016 Comparative State Racisms
Cynthia G. Franklin is professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i and coedits Biography. She is the author of Academic Lives: Memoir, Cultural Theory, and the University Today (2009) and Writing Women’s Communities: The Politics and Poetics of Contemporary Multi-Genre Anthologies (1997), and is also co-edited several special issues of Biography, including “Life in Occupied Palestine” with Ibrahim Aoude and Morgan Cooper, and “Personal Effects: The Testimonial Uses of Life Writing” with Laura E. Lyons. Other publications have appeared in Acoma, American Quarterly, The Contemporary Pacific, Cultural Critique, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, and Life Writing. She is part of the Organizing Collective for the US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
This past December, a con-ference was held in Ramallah, entitled: “Walter Benjamin in Palestine: On the Place and Non-Place of Radical Thought”. David Lloyd reports here on that conference, which was organized to honor the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions and as an alternative to a Benjamin conference being held in the same month, in flagrant violation of that call, at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But the conference far exceeded that initial rationale: “As the BDS movement continues to advance, perhaps workshops like these, which step beyond mere ‘severance of relations’ (as Benjamin described the act of striking) to shape conditions for new modes of relation, may offer a way to think the future of our resistance to Israeli apartheid. Perhaps too it offers a model also for an alternative to the insidious corporatization of our intellectual and creative lives under the neoliberal dispensation we all confront, wherever we reside, and not only in occupied Palestine.”
Click here to read LLoyd’s article. The Benjamin in Palestine Conference program is available at this link: http://benjamininpalestine.org