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Palestine & Academia: protecting academic freedom & exploring the power dynamics, logistics and obstacles faced by Palestinian scholars at risk

May 20 @ 14:30 17:30 CEST


Arees Bishara (Tel Aviv University), Maria Chiara Rioli (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Federica Stagni (Scuola Normale Superiore & SESAMO), Jairo Flores-Funez (Texas Tech University), Anna Younes (Graduate Institute), Malaka Shaikh (University of St Andrews)


The EUI Working Group on Palestine and the Legal and Political Theory WG present a joint two-part event, which will focus on the obstacles and repression faced by both Palestinian refugees and scholars working on Palestine. In the first part, we will explore and discuss diverse obstacles faced by Palestinian refugees locally in Florence, and comparatively in other contexts more broadly. Our speakers will share their perspectives and experience on approaching logistical issues such as visas, health insurance, discrimination – as well as navigating claims of antisemitism in doing work on Palestine. We will have a participatory open discussion, in which the aim will be to collectively discuss how to aggregate and account for these issues, so that we might produce action points to more proactively support Palestinian refugees to our local community in Florence, and to join our European University Institute. After a short break we will then focus on the more academic dimension and explore the difficulties and outright repression scholars working on Palestine face. Western universities often embrace anti- “cancel culture” narratives to justify their failure to combat racist, sexist, colonial, or homophobic speech on campus. Their response is however diametrically opposite when it comes to anti-racist researchers and professors, who find their voices suppressed by censorship and layoff threats. In Europe, just like racism itself, the problem continues to be ignored and hidden from the (white) public eye. Yet, that is the modus operandi of its academic institutions, especially regarding anti-Zionism. The recent developments in Israel’s genocidal colonial project have intensified that institutional persecution and shed light on how academic freedom is often limited to those who speak within the current hegemonic frame, while others must fear consequences to their career and lives. In the second part of our joint event, we invite all to break the myth of the “leftist university”. We welcome persons who have experienced said persecution to discuss academic repression and the fallacy of cancel culture in a world where most universities (and especially those in the Global North) are willingly furthering the status quo and actively impeding radical emancipatory critique. We will conclude, with recommendations on how to ensure academic freedom and how to protect scholars working counter-hegemonic projects such as the important work being done on Palestine.

About the speakers

  • Arees Bishara is a Palestinian Activist and doctoral student in political and economic sociology at Tel Aviv University, studying the Palestinian ICT sector, the Israeli high-tech industry – as well as indigenous encounters with neoliberalism, the knowledge economy, technology, and entrepreneurship in settler-colonial and patriarchal contexts.


  • Maria Chiara Rioli is Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in Contemporary History at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. She has hands-on experience with assisting Palestinian refugees, and chairs the Committee for Academic Freedom of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies (SeSaMO).


  • Federica Stagni holds a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Political Sciences and Sociology of the Scuola Normale Superiore under the supervision of Donatella della Porta and Lorenzo Bosi. Her research focuses on anti-demolition and anti-eviction movements in Israel and Palestine, where she has spent periods of field research. Federica obtained a degree in International and Diplomatic Sciences from the University of Bologna and a Master’s in European and International Studies from the School of International Studies of Trento. She worked as a researcher for ACLED in the Middle East working group. She has published in several scientific journals, such as Critical Sociology, PACO, the International Journal of Qualitative Methods, and Theoria.


  • Jairo Flores-Funez (Texas Tech University)


  • Anna Younes (Graduate Institute)


  • Malaka Shaikh (University of St Andrews)


May 20
14:30 – 17:30 CEST
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AltSOU Team
EUI Working Group on Palestine
Legal and Political Theory WG


Sala Triaria (Villa Schifanoia) + on zoom

Florence, Italy