Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm All for Academic Freedom But...

At $160, this book, "Gender in Transnationalism: Home, Longing and Belonging Among Moroccan Migrant Women" by Ruba Salih, must be either heavy (but it weighs in at 208 pgs) or printed in some ornate publishing fashion.

The book, according to the blurb, "highlights women's construction of 'home' between Morocco and Italy as a significant site whereby broader feelings and narratives of displacement and belonging can be grasped. Salih investigates what Moroccan women's relations with their adopted country are and how their identities, conceptualisations of home and cultural practices are shaped by the transnational dimension of their lives. This interdisciplinary book provides a gendered account of transnational migration, in the context of changing configurations in both the social sciences and people's lives, of notions of locality, identity, difference and citizenship, and by focusing on the 'lived experience' of Moroccan migrant women's transnationalism between Morocco and Italy. It will interest students and researchers of transnationalism, migration and gender."

Back in May, Ruba gave a talk on how Muslim women in Europe challenge a nationally and culturally bounded conception of citizenship and of the public sphere. Amazingly, she asserts that "Gender lies at the heart of the frictions occurring as a result of contemporary transnational challenges. Muslim women’s bodies are becoming a sort of public space itself where different agendas and rhetoric of modernity, secularism and performances of loyalty are inscribed." Well, since women are women and that is gender, I don't see the shock value of that but, you know academia today.

Ruba Saliha holds a PhD from the University of Sussex and defines her private sphere as being a social anthropologist. She teaches at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the university of Exeter.

Here she is:

In reviewing Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh's "Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in Israel", she notes:

Kanaaneh shows the context in which reproductive practices and discourses have become significant markers of identity and otherness in the context of the Galilee and beyond. Like many other colonized people, Palestinians have internalized, almost in Fanon’s terms, the Israeli dominant representations that, through the modernization rhetoric and language, tends to depict them as pre-modern, or even anti-modern, irrational reproducers of large families. For many Palestinians, reproductive strategies and choices, thus, have come to be a major terrain against which to assess the modernity of people, or alternatively their authenticity and resistance to colonial, dominant discourse. These kinds of representations, however, are not simply imposed, but interact with deep-rooted Palestinian social constructions which, for example, tend to oppose the traditionalism of “Beduins” and villagers (fellahin) to the modernity of city dwellers (madaniin).

and she observes further:

the book could have reached an even greater value by discussing further how Palestinians in the Galilee are producing alternative conceptions of modernity that disrupt and contest the binary categorization of the Israeli state. Although Kanaaneh does underline that this dualistic attitude does not account for the whole picture, in that many people are indeed able to escape the dichotomous reductive framework imposed by the Israeli modernist dominant discourse, the reader would have liked to know more about these alternative ways of life and how they are conveyed in alternative narratives, for example, by highlighting how “modernity” comes to be indigenized by Palestinians living in the Galilee.

The key theme of Ruba is that:

Central in the Zionist project was indeed the de-arabisation and consequent Judaization of Palestine. Along with the entire eradication of Palestinian villages, the Israeli state has carried out this project throughout the years by means of a powerful immigration policy and other instruments, such as the political use of census, family planning and the development of a powerful and pervasive modernization narrative which constructed reproduction as a field whereby to assess the modern or rather backward character of a people.

And the reason I went into this detail is that Ruba was the main speaker at a conference at Ben-Gurion University this past week and spoke on "Diaspora, Transnational Migration and 'Returns': Rethinking Palestinian Refugeehood".

Now, don't get me wrong. I am all for academic discussions including all sorts of subjects and opinions. And I think it fit and proper that Israeli universities should be studying and researching similar topics as those at that conference.

However, three things:

a. why don't Arab institutions of higher learning do the same?

b. why do Israeli universities always invite the most anti academics possible?

c. why are the panels so unbalanced? One responder to Ruba was Oren Yiftahel, one of the most post-Zionist lecturers around and the other was Sapa Abu-Rabiya.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please, our universities have become an open sewer of looney-leftists, cranks, assorted anti-Semites, screwballs, & wackos.
And we pay for this out of our taxes. It's absolutely a scandal yet our good-for-nothing politicians turn a blind eye.