Fallout From Salaita: Taner Akcam Cancels Visit

This comes from Days and Memories: A blog of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

Earlier this year, I invited Professor Taner Akçam to speak to students and faculty at the University of Illinois about the Armenian Genocide and the Turkish state’s denial of that genocide. Professor Akçam, the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Professor of Armenian Genocide Studies at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, is one of the world’s leading genocide scholars and one of the first Turkish intellectuals to acknowledge and openly discuss the Armenian Genocide.  Last week he informed me that he is cancelling his visit to Illinois to honor the boycott that has arisen in the wake of the university’s decision to revoke a job offer to Dr. Steven Salaita because of comments Dr. Salaita made on twitter about the recent bombing of Gaza.

As Professor Akçam makes clear in the statement below, his personal experience with censorship, imprisonment, harassment, and violence makes it impossible for him to visit our campus until a just resolution to the Salaita case is found. While I deeply regret that our students and faculty will not have the opportunity to meet and hear from Professor Akçam this fall, I understand and respect his decision. His own story demonstrates all too clearly what happens when those in power attempt to cut off debate about matters of public concern, including controversial political conflicts. The recent controversy on our own campus concerns the hot-button issue of Israel-Palestine, but Professor Akçam’s experience illustrates the all too real risks to academic freedom and freedom of speech that can emerge in any field of research once political expression is limited.

–Michael Rothberg, Director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Illinois
Read the statement!


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