[P5991] The Activist-Academic Hyphen
Created by Hebatallah Ghannam
Monday, 10/05/20 11:00 am
SUMMARY:The Activist-Academic Hyphen
Eurocentric epistemologies, heavily based on binaries, cast theory and practice as two separate realms of human activity. This dichotomy assigns the academic, particularly in area and regional studies, as a producer of rigorous and distanced knowledge “about” the region while the activist is responsible for political and subjective knowledge “for” the region that informs and incites political action.
As a group of activist-academics, we wish to explore what we posit to be a dialectical relationship between activism and academia by questioning the hyphen, what it embodies and what it obscures. In this panel, we pose the following questions: What are the forces that shape the production of this activist-academic dichotomy? How does this separateness shape the political economy of academia and the knowledge production in and on the region and their impact on people’s lives? Is the hyphen a real space in between, or is it artificial?
Deeply rooted in the experience of doing research in post-2011 Egypt, Syria and in exile, we raise questions about the theoretical tension between, on one hand Eurocentric theoretical frameworks and cultural particularity, and on the other objectivity and subjectivity, and the personal and the political. By centering the activist researcher, we problematize Eurocentric scholarship about the Middle East that disregards the micro-politics of daily life in the region.
In light of the recent crackdown on activists and scholars in the Middle East, the rise of academic activism in the U.S. under the Trump administration and the global rise of neo-fascism, these questions are crucial to academic freedoms and knowledge production. The precarity of the current state of research in the MENA region signals the potential slip into a knowledge production blackhole that perpetuates oppression and hampers inquiry.