Note see petition referenced in letter here
Statement by the International Society for Iranian Studies President Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi on “Scholarly Autonomy and Academic Civility”
The International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS) has received a petition distributed by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Academics leading this campaign are protesting against the inclusion of a scholar from Ariel University Center, a recently upgraded college located in the occupied Palestinian territories in the heart of the West Bank. ISIS has been urged to reconsider the decision to include in its conference program “a representative” of a “”university” built illegally on confiscated Palestinian land [that] is not recognized under international laws.”
ISIS is a highly diverse international scholarly society and includes members from all over the world with differing perspectives and ideological proclivities. Despite this diversity, the society”s current Council and many of its members are deeply troubled by the continued plight of the Palestinian people and find objectionable the illegal confiscation and intensified militarization of Palestinian territories. Many ISIS members also condemn the systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people and support their justified endeavor for national and cultural self-determination.
While respecting the ethical position of colleagues who have called for the exclusion from our conference of a scholar teaching at an institution illegally established on confiscated Palestinian land, as an academic society ISIS does not regulate the institutional affiliations of its members. Similar to the rigorous peer review process of the society”s journal, Iranian Studies, the Program Committee in charge of selecting the panel papers for the Iranian Studies Biennial Conference (Santa Monica, 27-30 May 2010) was firmly committed to the “blind” screening process and impartial review of all submitted abstracts. Papers accepted for inclusion in the program were subject to a stringent peer review process and were selected on the basis of their scholarly merit alone. Our peer-reviewed selection of a paper by a faculty member of Ariel University Center does not imply that we recognize an institution whose legitimacy is questioned in the academic world.
ISIS does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, religious belief, gender, sexual preference, political persuasion, or institutional affiliation. This principle of nondiscrimination, along with our firm commitment to excellence in scholarship and to academic civility, has been fundamental to our associational comity and to the longevity of our society, which was first established in 1967. In the past 44 years Iranian Studies scholars have been witness to academic purges, political harassment, ideological disciplining, compulsory early retirements, and sham self-incriminating public “confessions.” Our colleagues have been discriminated against on account of their gender, ethnic identities, national origins, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, and theoretical orientations. Other colleagues have been barred from attending international conferences or denied visas, based on national and religious profiling, and have been subjected to humiliating interrogations at international border crossings. In the past few years a number of our colleagues have been interrogated and imprisoned because of their institutional affiliations alone.
Having experienced the politicization and ideologization of our field of scholarly inquiry and having witnessed sustained profiling of our colleagues in different national contexts, we are committed to the scholarly autonomy of our society, which was established with the goal of de-governmentalizing the field of Iranian Studies. In view of the intense national, regional and global conflicts that have arisen since its founding, ISIS has sought to remain inclusive of all competing perspectives while concurrently resisting its instrumentalization as a venue for the advancement of particularistic and extra-academic agendas. With its strong commitment to the autonomy of scholarly inquiry and to academic civility, ISIS has effectively addressed issues of concern to its members through reasoned deliberation and via its own constitutional principles. It will continue to do so in the future.
The International Society for Iranian Studies firmly believes that scholarship is not politics by other means, and scholarly societies cannot be substitutes for political parties and political campaigns. We stand firm against the attempts by any government to dictate the principles of research in the humanities and social sciences and to regulate and control academic and scholarly inquiry. While respecting the work of political pressure groups and recognizing their significance, we likewise remain fully committed to the scholarly autonomy of our society, and we disapprove any attempt to use it as a venue for the advancement of political agendas, regardless of how justified those agendas might be.
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, President
The International Society for Iranian Studies