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Birzeit University: Judith Butler on Boycott Politics and Academic Freedom
Monday, 08 February 2010, 02:00pm - 04:00pm
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Judith Butler in Palestine

 

The Institute of Women’s Studies would like to invite you to Prof. Judith Butler lecture titled:

Boycott Politics and Academic Freedom, or Who Can Exercise a Right to Education?

Monday, February 8, 2010, 2:00-4:00 PM
Venue: Hall 101, Institute of Women Studies


(Simultaneous translation to the Arabic)
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Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984 and works in the areas of social and political philosophy, literary and cultural theory, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of several books including Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France (Columbia University Press, 1987), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, 1990), Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (Routledge, 1993), The Psychic Life of Power: Theories of Subjection (Stanford University Press, 1997), Excitable Speech (Routledge, 1997), Antigone's Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (Columbia University Press, 2000), Hegemony, Contingency, Universality, with Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, (Verso Press, 2000), and Giving an Account of Oneself (Fordham University Press, 2005) Most recently she has published two books on war's relation to language and media: Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (Verso Press, 2004) and Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (Verso, 2009). She is currently writing a book on the philosophical dimensions of bi-nationalism. She is on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, the executive committee of Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-USA, the board of The Freedom Theatre Foundation in Jenin, a founding member of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (Belgium), and a supporter of the BDS movement.

ABSTRACT
Boycott Politics and Academic Freedom, or Who Can Exercise a Right to Education?
Some have argued that boycott politics is in contradiction with academic freedom, but this presentation seeks to contest that view. Most versions of academic freedom presume that faculty have the right to speak openly various points of view, and many recent debates have focused on views that are critical of the state of Israel or its policies. Some defenders of academic freedom rightly claims that faculty and students should be free to articulate such criticism, whether they are in Palestine, in what is called Israel, the United States, or elsewhere without punishment. But surely, equally important to consider as a violation of academic freedom is the decimation of Palestinian universities, the infrastructure of education, without which there can be no exercise of academic freedom. We are used to identifying academic freedom issues in a certain way: in the name of academic freedom, we oppose the kinds of assaults on academic freedom that have been threatened against those who hold controversial political views, and we oppose the kinds of control over the curriculum exercised by funding sources (public or private). So the point here is not to adjudicate the question of whether academic freedom conflicts with boycott politics, but to ask whether the aims of the boycott draw attention to the unacceptable destruction of infrastructure in Palestinian universities, a destruction that destroys academic freedom as well. My question is whether our conception of academic freedom is broad enough to understand these two sorts of violations: the one happens when an already established institution sets limits on its curriculum or faculty speech for political reasons; the other happens when the infrastructural conditions are destroyed that make the exercise of the right of academic freedom (and other rights as well, including the right to assembly), impossible. Finally, are boycotts not, in part, ways of objecting to abridgements of academic freedom; boycotts signal an unwillingness to support those institutions that participate in the destruction of the livelihood of populations of fail actively to oppose that destruction.

 

 

Location : Hall 101, Institute of Women Studies, Birzeit, Palestine

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