Academic boycott of the US

More than 6000 academics all over the world have signed an international petition calling for a boycott of academic conferences held in the US. This is their way of protesting against the travel ban imposed by the Trump administration.

More than 200 Swedish researchers have signed the petition, including several from LiU.

“For me, it’s a way of showing solidarity. Trump’s limitations on immigration are just terrible. Preventing researchers from participating in meetings and conferences not only affects the individuals concerned but also harms research in general. The research community is built on open dialogue, and it’s important that all voices are heard,” says Anna Kaijser, postdoc at the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change.

“There’s so little you can do, but I do believe that researchers have a certain international status. I’ll be satisfied if I can exert some pressure in my professional role.”

You’re working in a field of research that the US president is openly skeptical of.

“Yes, I’m deeply concerned about what’s happening in the US. It’s only recently that we’ve started to see progress and it’s been possible for politicians to reach a consensus around international climate agreements. There’s now a risk that these agreements will lose status. The US has played a major role in the work with climate change, but the attitude of the Trump administration may influence both general awareness of climate change and the political will to take action.

Climate skepticism seems to coincide generally with extreme right-wing and fascist ideas. I find this a worrying pattern,” says Anna Kaijser.

Bengt-Göran Martinsson, professor in literature science at the Department of Culture and Communication, seldom signs petitions of any type – but this time he was convinced of the necessity.

“The general travel ban into the US prevents academic exchange in an unacceptable manner. The negative consequences are unreasonable, both for research in general and for the knowledge industry. It prevents participation in conferences and it affects guest scientists and particular research projects.”

Won’t a boycott have a negative effect also on researchers in the US? Is there a risk that they become isolated?
“I can point out that it’s President Trump’s actions that are having a negative effect on his own researchers. The travel ban primarily affects American researcher groups whose members are suddenly prevented from working in the US.”

Tara Mehrabi, PhD student in gender studies at LiU, can see many reasons to sign the international petitions for a boycott.

“For me, as a Muslim Iranian woman who is carrying out research into feminism, it is just as much a personal issue as a political one. As an academic, I see the value of international conferences, collaboration and programmes. Boycotting such events means that I have to overcome resistance inside myself. What I’m hoping for are, for example, redistribution of international funds and the relocation of conferences to countries that do not have such inhuman regulations,” she says.

“International conferences should be open and tolerant spaces for intellectual exchange where everyone can take part. They should be places where people with different backgrounds and nationalities can meet and collaborate in a way that transcends boundaries. The ban on Muslims not only excludes epistemological points of view that arise in the Muslim world and perspectives based on it, it also prevents Muslim researchers from participating in scientific exchange, international collaboration and joint publications, and it harms their opportunities for future employment.

For me the boycott is a way of showing solidarity and resistance. It shows that the travel ban for Muslims entering the US – indeed, any form of discrimination against a group based on religion, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, etc. – is simply not acceptable. That such actions have consequences.”

Footnote: A protest march in support of science and research is planned in Stockholm on 22 April: Science March Sthlm

Call for an Academic Boycott of International Conferences held in the US

Photos: Wikipedia Commons and Linköping University

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