Below is the statement that Jasbir Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers, wrote protesting the MLA Delegate Assembly vote against academic boycott. Puar donated her MLA Crompton-Noll award money to the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in light of the despicable outcomes of the Delegate Assembly meeting on January 7, 2017. Karen Jaime read the statement at the MLA award gathering for the GL/Q Caucus.
Puar is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke University Press 2007), which won the 2007 Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. Puar’s edited volumes include “Queer Tourism: Geographies of Globalization” (GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies); and coedited volumes “Sexuality and Space” (Society and Space), “Interspecies” (Social Text), and “Viral” (Women’s Studies Quarterly).
Thank you very much to the GL/Q Caucus of the MLA for this award. As a former recipient of the Michael Lynch Service Award from the Caucus, specifically given to recognize my activist and organizing work on Palestine, I feel it is imperative for me to comment on today’s outcome on the Boycott Resolution. It is infuriating but not entirely surprising that the Delegate Assembly voted against the Boycott Resolution. The MLA is, after all, a fairly conservative academic association closely aligned with and reflective of the institutional structures of power that form the U.S. academy (unlike, for example, the American Studies Association and the National Women’s Studies Association). The defeat of the proposal is not by any means a major setback, a tragic loss, or the end of the story. More disconcerting however are the two additional resolutions debated: one condemning the boycott, and the other condemning Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for violating academic freedom–in other words, supporting the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars only when curtailed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
The first of these [Resolution 2017-1] was passed and will now be voted upon by the General membership. It sends a punitive message to BDS supporters and stifles dissent, effectively supporting Israel and implicitly sanctioning the Zionist bullying tactics used to curtail political discussion of BDS. This proposed resolution is akin to many legislative efforts to shut down BDS organizing. The second resolution [2017-3], which was indefinitely tabled, is a deeply racist, Islamophobic, ignorant, and unacceptable statement which relies on equating Palestinians with terrorism and in one fell swoop, excuses Israel’s role in denying academic freedom to Palestinians while nonsensically blaming Palestinians themselves for the conditions of Israeli occupation. A final resolution was passed condemning the chilling of academic freedom imminent under the Trump administration. Behold the irony, and the oblivion.
Under other circumstances I would decline this award in protest of today’s events and of the MLA’s organizational ethics. Out of respect for the GL/Q Caucus, many of whose members are good friends, trusted colleagues, and long-time allies, I will instead donate the award money to PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, one of the founding members of the Palestinian BDS National Committee. I urge us, the GLQ Caucus, to think critically about its role in challenging the uneven application of academic freedom, the policing of political viewpoints, and the unabashed alignment with U.S. settler colonial interests that the MLA is now asking its general membership to ratify. For ultimately, the impact of these resolutions, whether passed or not, radiate far beyond Palestine, creating further precaritization amongst the academy’s already vulnerable laborers, those who cannot afford to fall in line with the current status quo of either the US academy or American politics. With thanks, and in solidarity,