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Lecture | LUCIS Keynotes

What Do We Mean When We Say “Academic Freedom”?

Wednesday 28 September 2022
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden
Telders Auditorium

“Praesidium Libertatis” is widely understood to mean the freedom of scholars from censorship on research, teaching, and free speech.  But what if our conceptual vocabulary, questions, and methodologies are themselves products of a history of settler colonialism and imperial domination? Would “Praesidium Libertatis” then also mean freedom from colonial epistemologies and a serious engagement with indigenous ways of knowing? Does it demand a special responsibility to those we study, such as the Palestinians, who are still living under the brutal conditions of settler colonialism? If so, what are the politics and ethics of knowledge production as a subversive practice in institutions of higher education, especially when it comes to fields such as Middle East and Islamic Studies? 

About Beshara Doumani

Beshara Doumani is professor of history and the inaugural holder of the Mahmoud Darwish Professorship of Palestinian Studies at Brown University. His research focuses on peoples, places, and time periods marginalized by mainstream scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He also writes on academic freedom and the Palestinian condition. His books include Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900, and Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History. He is currently working on a history of the Palestinians through the social life of stone.
Doumani was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He is the founding director of the Palestinian Museum, of the New Directions in Palestinian Studies network, and of the Center for Middle East Studies at Brown University. He is currently serving as President of Birzeit University in Palestine. 

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