Short Course: Politics at APSA

Politics at APSA: New Political Science, Anti-Apartheid Movements, and Israel/Palestine
Wednesday, September 2, 1:30-5:30 p.m.
Hilton Union Square 24

Where is the line between the study of politics and an engagement with politics?  What relationship should Political Scientists have with difficult political issues?  Is a professional organization—such as the American Political Science Association—a viable space for politics-at-APSApolitical organizing, or should its social function remain limited to professional development?   These questions are particularly pressing given the current debate about the conflict in Israel/Palestine and the growing number of academic associations taking explicitly political positions on the matter. In response to the 2004 call from Palestinian civil society for academic boycott of Israel, a number of academic associations across the U.S. have engaged in prominent discussion of the issue, with some organizations—most prominently, the American Studies Association—voting to uphold the boycott.  Meanwhile, the US Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has called for the formation of campus chapters of FJP – Faculty for Justice in Palestine – who support and work toward their universities’ implementation of academic boycott of Israel. Political Scientists, however, find themselves in a curious situation. On the one hand, APSA is prohibited from taking positions on political matters.  On the other hand, in the past, the Caucus for a New Political Science (NPS) has taken explicitly political stances, most notably its high profile condemnation of apartheid in South Africa.

This workshop is designed to discuss and debate these political and professional questions concerning position-taking at APSA. The workshop will have two foci:  first, we will explore the relationship between APSA and NPS to develop a shared understanding of what kinds of spaces exist within APSA for taking political positions. This will include presentations from scholars active within APSA and NPS who can speak to the discussions within NPS concerning South African disinvestment campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s.  Second, we will engage the broader question of whether academic boycotts are viable political strategies and if APSA/NPS are suitable venues for such interventions.  It should be noted that this is not a workshop on the Israel/Palestine conflict, but rather a reflection on our roles and obligations as academics in relationship to this and other political conflicts.

Our short course will consist of three panels:  (1) a historical overview of the formation of New Political Science (NPS) within APSA as both a response to APSA’s refusal of political position-taking and a commitment to forwarding progressive work in Political Science, including a discussion of the relationship of NPS to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and other global solidarity movements (John Ehrenberg and Victor Wallis, invited);  (2) a comparative study of scholarly responses to the situations of South Africa and Israel/Palestine, including a discussion of the global movements for boycott and sanctions against South Africa and Israel (Leila Farsakh, accepted);  (3) an open discussion about solidarity organizing within universities and professional associations, specifically with regard to Israel/Palestine and academic boycott (Sunaina Maira, accepted).


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