Academic Freedom, or Academic Responsibility? Agency within the Brain of the Monster

Prof. Nada Elia, Antioch University

As political events evolve around the world, area scholars are called upon to provide expert analysis about various developments.  This expertise is understood as the capacity to better understand the socio-political context, grasp its complexities, explain them, and even make highly educated guesses about possible outcomes. The assumption is that scholars have no agency in actually making and shaping the events, they merely observe and interpret them.  Elia argues that academics do shape the events they observe, analyze, and comment on. That is, scholars are truly knowledge producers, not merely interpreters.  And while some scholarship, under certain circumstances, can theoretically be “neutral,” the political reality is such that, the more militarized a society, the less likely it is that its academy functions in a bubble, an Ivory Tower.  Indeed, the more militarized a society, the more complicit its academy.  Academic freedom, then, means freedom to resist complicity with the oppressive state.  In Palestine, this translates into the boycott of institutions that research and develop the tools of occupation and apartheid.