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Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth

217 Wilson Hall
6256 Hinman Box
Hanover, NH
03755-3529 USA
Phone: + (1) 603 646-8867
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Email: GRID@dartmouth.edu
 

GRID Director Response to Defamation Charges by The D

This essay was written by Professor Annabel Martín and the opinions expressed in it are her own and they do not reflect the view or position of Dartmouth College.

Yellow Journalism at its Best

May 9, 2016

On May 6, 2017, an article written by Parker Richards, entitled "Jasbir Puar Accused of Anti-Semitism at Panel Last Week," was published in The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College's student newspaper (http://thedartmouth.com/2016/05/06/jasbir-puar-accused-of-anti-semitism-at-panel/). This article has caused profound hurt and anger amongst members of our Jewish community. It has also put into question the very rigorous work that the Gender Research Institute puts into the annual planning of its seminar and lecture series. The disappointment and needless fury this article has caused amongst the entire community is derived from its being malicious, teeming with falsehoods, and defamatory. It is a stellar example of yellow journalism, i.e., of sensationalist and false affirmations and poorly researched writing.

It is astonishing that The D would not follow its own editorial policies regarding the writing and researching of articles. It assigns a student to report on an event that he did not attend; it accepts as valid sources of documentation only the voices of a particular subset of students, especially the voice of Matthew Goldstein (Dartmouth '18), the student who violated the rules of recording; it does not demand that the student juxtapose opinions; and most importantly, The D did not require Parker Richards to postpone publishing this article until he could contrast these opinions with the actual recording which was deposited at Jones Media Center Thursday evening, May 5, 2016. This was not an article meant to inform; this was clearly an opinion piece in disguise, a malicious one indeed, one that, I insist, did as much harm to our Jewish community members as to the Gender Research Institute, its guests, affiliates, and fellows.

A series of misrepresentations that directly target my intervention in the recording incident need clarification. At the beginning of our second panel, a student, Matthew Goldstein, set up a tripod and a camera to record Jasbir Puar's lecture. I approached him and asked him to stop filming, explaining that he did not have permission to do this, only Dartmouth Media Services. After several unsuccessful attempts of convincing Goldstein, I approached the podium and explained to audience members before Puar began her lecture that only Dartmouth College had authorization from our guests to record the event, that a copy of the recording would be available shortly afterwards, and that should anyone decide to continue, that they would, unfortunately, be asked to leave. Matthew Goldstein knew the rules of the game. Being advised of them does not constitute a threat. When a student is told four times to stop, refuses to listen to two Dartmouth security officers, and needs the presence of Hanover Police to desist, one needs to question his motivations. I repeatedly insisted that he turn off his camera and engage as a student. Unfortunately, he refused. I did so to abide by the wishes of our guests but also to prevent Goldstein from committing an illegal act. One also wonders why Parker Richards would quote Goldstein's summary of Puar's presentation when he spent most of the time out of the room arguing with police offers and then left prior to the end of her talk. Yellow journalism at its best.

Not content with falsehoods, The D also allowed an article to be published that questions academic freedom. This is the issue that goes to the core of the mission of Dartmouth College and the Gender Research Institute. Parker Richards writes as a newly minted expert in the field of Ecocriticism and wonders why a scholar of the Middle East would be invited to speak on matters of the environment. Had he researched the scholarly fields of inquiry of our guests or bothered to understand what the series "Gender Matters: Feminist Ecologies and Materialisms" was actually addressing (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~grid/events/gendermatters_2016.html), he would have learned that one important subfield of this area of study involves understanding how systems of life (ecology) fall under threat. That afternoon, the two panels connected theorizations of bodies, landscapes, and violence. It was a discussion on "place" and on our shared responsibility towards the precarity of the bodies in those spaces. The perspective was global as each panelist researches a different geographic region, Puar's being the Middle East. She was invited to shed light on this terribly complex political situation as a site of ecology and to offer insight into a dimension of the conflict that is not well understood in terms of its theorization as a process of dehumanization, one that might be helpful to scholars seeking to understand why the conflict has been so intractable. Conscientious academic work involves respectfully debating conflicting visions. It does not mean full agreement or even consensus. It should leave us scratching our heads. In this particular instance, it should be noted that not a single person present challenged Puar on any matter of fact or interpretation. The only challenge was brought about by Professor Sergei Kan, who in a regrettably aggressive and demeaning fashion, brought the nonacademic context into the room. Puar's response to this decontextualized questioning was polite, substantive, and unrefuted.

One final clarification. Panelist Professor Neel Ahuja was unabashedly misquoted as well. Ahuja acknowledged the taping disruption to point out how certain bodies become the targets of surveillance and even violence when they openly critique colonialism or racism. One must add that Puar's body is one of them. This was not an anti-Semitic statement nor did it have an anti-Semitic intent. It was portrayed as such in the article causing, again, needless heartache. It should be duly noted, that had a single anti-Semitic statement or accusation been made at our symposium, GRID and its director would be the first in line to condemn such language or hostility.

At the time of the posting of this statement, I am very pleased to learn that The D is diligently working on a follow-up article that will hopefully bring a wider perspective on the symposium and correct the defamatory allegations. I have been in contact with one of the senior editors who is very concerned with the situation and who is working hard to remedy this. We truly appreciate these efforts. In the meantime, I recommend readers to consult other Letters to the Editor sent to The D from faculty and students in attendance and from our guests to gain more perspective on the events. An audio recording of the talks is also available for public scrutiny at the library.

It is most unfortunate that The D would publish such a tendentious article and not demand higher standards from its journalists. The D should not take lightly the role it plays towards the intellectual and emotional well-being of our community. This misguided article is proof of the damage it can cause.

The mission of the Gender Research Institute is to support scholarly output that places gender at the crossroads of the many other axes that define the human condition. When we are at our best, it involves having to face uncomfortable truths. We would hope that all Dartmouth students and faculty would support and defend this mission.

Annabel Martín

Director, GRID

Last Updated: 5/17/16