The Global Terrain of Free Speech Conflicts

05/04/2017 - 8:30am
iHotel - Alma Mater Room


Thursday, May 4 - Friday May 5
9:00am - 5:00pm, Alma Mater Room, iHotel

A year after the un-hiring of Palestinian American scholar, Steven Salaita, turned our campus into a flashpoint of struggles over free speech and academic freedom in the United States, this conference reflects more expansively on these struggles in a global context. In the two years since the silencing of Steven Salaita, we have witnessed authoritarian administrations and governments censor speech on university campuses in India and Turkey in addition to on-going efforts in western academia to silence pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS views. Across the world, authoritarian states have intensified their surveillance and censorship of the press, the blogosphere, and social media. Governments frequently appear more intent on censorship than on protecting the free speech of their citizens: the Bangladeshi government, for instance, has been unwilling to condemn the assassination of bloggers, editors, publishers, and academics for their secular views. Too often, however, discussions of conflicts over free speech, whether in the United States, Bangladesh, Russia, India, or China remain bound to local contexts. Consequently, the regional and international determinants and implications of struggles over free speech are underexplored. But the recurrence and growing salience of such conflicts worldwide point to conditions of our present that deserve sustained attention and comparative analysis. The upsurge of conflicts between free speech and censorship, authoritarianism and dissent, secularism and right-wing religious nationalism, across a range of national contexts offer fertile grounds for exploration, dialogue, and intervention. The international coalitions formed in response to these crises; the use of political instruments of redress such as boycotts, sanctions, and petitions; the centrality of new media in shaping the stakes and constituencies involved; the crucial role of artists, scholars, philosophers, activists, lawyers, journalists, and scientists; and the central role of the university in these battles invites fuller reflection and analysis. This conference draws on the vital resources of critical and creative thinking that are part of the tradition of the public university to build on the lessons of our immediate past by furthering engagement with of one of the pressing issues of our time.

See schedule here.