Bully Bloggers Letter to the Editors of The Dartmouth


Dear Editors, The truth may not matter very much to Donald Trump, but everyone else should care very much when speakers are dogged by baseless accusations and manufactured displays of offense, such as those your reporter Parker Richards has twice repeated (on Apr 29th, May 6th) regarding Prof. Jasbir Puar's visit to the Dartmouth campus. Politically motivated disinformation corrodes both journalistic and academic standards, and regardless of one's position on the Israel/Palestine question, it cannot stand unrebutted.

As visiting scholars who actually attended the "Archipelagic Entanglements" panel (unlike your reporter, who was not present) we find Richards' reporting to be the journalistic equivalent of trolling. No one who values the free exchange of ideas and reasoned debate on campus can pardon the distortions in these articles. In particular, accusations of student intimidation and anti-semitic speech against the organizers of the event are baseless, and easily refuted by publically available recordings and transcripts, which were announced at the beginning of the session itself.

Professor Annabel Martín, Director of the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth (GRID) announced at the start of the event that only the official recording would be permitted. She asked the student recording anyway to stop, repeatedly, and he refused. She never intimidated him. He was eventually led out of the room by security personnel and police. Prof. Puar's solidly researched paper, based on fieldwork as well as scholarship too often dismissed for featuring Palestinian sources and perspectives, included nothing even remotely anti-semitic. Her critique of the actions of the state of Israel, indeed even her mere description of those actions, have been wrongly smeared as anti-semitic by supporters of Israel motivated to suppress such critical free speech. Prof. Neel Ahuja was also egregiously misquoted in your article. He actually prefaced his paper with this comment (quotation taken from the officially recorded transcript of the event):

Before I begin I want to thank Jasbir, whose work has been an inspiration to me and to many of us in this room. I also want to note the fact that our space has been disrupted and that Jasbir's space has been disrupted, throughout that last talk. I want to note the irony that controversy about filming or recording Jasbir's talk fulfills a certain algorithmic militarism that is evident from the comments she gave and capitalizes on the fact that black and brown bodies are on display opening critiquing forms of colonialism and racial power.

The efforts by some members of the Dartmouth community to smear scholars with false allegations, to misrepresent the work and comments of scholars speaking on your campus, and to try via these efforts to suppress all criticism of the policies and actions of the state of Israel, and all reporting on the experience and human rights of Palestinians, constitutes an attack on the principle of academic freedom. All members of the Dartmouth community should be concerned, and act to stop such violations of our shared academic values.

Since a record of this event is available, The Dartmouth should issue a correction of Richards' false and damaging misquotations of statements by Professors Puar and Ahuja. Indeed, your willingness to repeat false accusations with apparent impunity underscores the point Prof. Ahuja made: that queer and feminist scholars, and specifically women of color, face disproportionate intimidation when taking public positions on political matters that we all have a right to freely address. Trolling an academic might sound fun, but it has an immediate chilling effect on scholarship and activism, and in this case also perpetuates racism.

We stand together with our colleagues who organized and spoke at the Archipelagic Entanglements panel, and encourage your readers to educate themselves on the important work being done in critical feminist studies of ecology. We call upon fair-minded individuals to speak out against intimidation, censorship, and smear tactics.

(Note: A complete account of the harassment of Prof. Puar may be found at http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/24085/speaking-of-palestine_solidarity-and-its-censors)


Lisa Duggan

Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Jack Halberstam

Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Tavia Nyong'o

Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University

Sandra Soto

Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts, Visiting Professor, American Studies, University of Minnesota, and Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Arizona