Sangeeta Ray’s Statement in Support of a Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Sangeeta Ray is professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland. She umdpic_0teaches anglophone postcolonial and world literature, US minority literature and environmental literature. She has published two books, Engendering India: Woman and Nation in Colonial and Postcolonial Narratives (Duke UP 2000) and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: In other Words (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). She co-edited The Companion To Postcolonial Studies (Blackwell, 2000) and the 3 volume Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016). She was the President of the Cultural Studies Association (2006-08) and has served on the supervisory Board of the English Institute.

Sign the “Open Letter” calling on the MLA membership to endorse a resolution in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Only the signatures of (former or current) MLA members will be included.

I am really surprised that today, in 2016, the idea of BDS remains controversial. The facts are clear. Israel with its own militaristic power and with the backing of the world’s most powerful nation has resolutely and with impunity exercised imperialist policies on the land and people of Palestine. Violence and brutal occupation has been a key tactic of the Israeli state and the costs to the Palestinian people enormous. When those who are treated without dignity retaliate they are subject to greater humiliation and oppression in the name of saving a nation established in the first place through a series of political negotiations starting with the Balfour declaration in 1917.  As a scholar working in the field of postcolonial studies since the early 90’s, it is imperative that I call attention to the continuing violation of the basic civil rights of the Palestinian people. BDS was a successful movement in the past as in apartheid South Africa. Israeli apartheid is ripe for the same legal and non-violent tactic. The movement is directed at institutions and by withdrawing our formal cooperation from those that facilitate and aid in the denial of rights to Palestinians we are actually extending academic freedom for all.  I have spent my entire academic career teaching and writing about oppression and freedom. I am a literary scholar and teach literature from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia, continents and regions subject to slavery, indentured labor and imperialism. The literature I focus on speaks to the very core of what we value in the humanities and literary studies—freedom to move, to think, to write, to speak, to gather and to live without fear and with dignity. How can I not, in good faith, endorse the MLA boycott resolution? I must and do.