Redefining Intellectual Labor at a Neoliberal University: Knowledge Production for Militant Feminist and Queer Resistance

By Tomomi Kinukawa
Submitted to Session P6583 (Whose Narratives? Whose Classrooms? Teaching Palestine and Gender; Sexual Justice in the Age of (Corporatized) Pandemic, 2021 Annual Meeting
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LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Taking collaboration with an eminent Palestinian feminist scholar, that led to censorship of the webinar “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, and Resistance: Conversation with Leila Khaled,” on September 23, 2020, as a case study, this paper analyzes how militant feminists’ intellectual labor, that involves (both material and immaterial) personal sacrifices, get not only commodified but criminalized and stolen at a neoliberal university, or, in Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s words (2019), “a sector created by the capitalist division of labor called higher education.” This paper also explores how to intercept the structure of the colonial knowledge production system through grassroots radicalism and coalition building. The censored webinar was conceptualized based on that colleague’s scholarship that squarely challenges the colonial Islamophobic reduction of the feminist icon Leila Khaled’s life to the two “hijackings.” Rather, that scholarship demands that we redefine what constitutes feminism by illustrating how deeply Leila Khaled’s revolutionary work is rooted in Palestinian women’s daily resistance under the brutal colonial occupation.

Zionists, Zoom and SFSU, however, violently censored to silence the feminist narrative and to delegitimize the webinar as rigorous academic inquiry. The university not only allowed the racist, white supremacist, and Zionist organizations and private companies to challenge this pedagogical project, but also took an active role to promote Zionists’ academically questionable claims. Most troubling is how the university criminalized the intellectual labor aimed at teaching feminist decolonial resistance.
In the process, the intellectual labor by two prominent Palestinian feminists, Leila Khaled and Rabab Abdulhadi were erased even in publications that were critical of the censorship. Zionist/white supremacist epistemic violence operated, as it utilized the structure of the neoliberal university, that was reinforced through participation and complicity by institutional administrators through so-called “micro aggression”, making exceptions and excuses for excluding Palestinian scholarship from classrooms, and justifying those exceptions as their means of defending themselves against Zionist harassment. In no time, those exceptions become the racist norm.

The paper will conclude by arguing that it is critical for us to build networks of radical grassroots coalitions to disrupt the colonial, gendered, and racial capitalist knowledge production system at neoliberal universities.