NYU American studies confab featuring pro-boycott focus

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The New York University American studies program’s annual conference this year is focused on the boycott Israel movement and dominated by its supporters.

Titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel and Palestine,” the student-organized conference is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday.

A flier advertising the conference promises discussion on how “recent American Studies scholarship on the political economy of racialization, empire, and settler colonialism led the highlighting of this particular ‘triangle.’ ”

The flyer notes the American Studies Association’s decision in December to boycott Israeli educational institutions.

Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU and the president-elect of the ASA, is moderating a conference’s panels on the “History & Efficacy of Boycotts.”

Individuals and organizations identified with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement are featured throughout the conference. Its three workshop sessions will be led by representatives of groups –Adalah-NY, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace — that advocate for Israel-related boycotts. The sessions focus on activism, with titles such as “Movement Building,” “Student Organizing” and “Public Engagement.”

A pro-Israel blog, Elder of Ziyon, re-posted the conference flier on Sunday after Duggan posted it on Facebook. In a comment below her Facebook post, Duggan asked that the flyer not be widely distributed, writing, “We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention.”

In a statement issued to JTA, NYU said the conference was intended for academics, not the press or the public.

“This weekend’s American Studies Program Annual Conference is an annual academic conference that is organized by graduate students in NYU’s American Studies Program and designed for faculty and students in this and related disciplines,” said Philip Lentz, the university’s director of public affairs. “Given the purpose of the conference and space considerations, it is not open to the general public or the press.”

Duggan told JTA in an email that nothing was unusual about how the conference was planned or announced.

“It is not ‘secret,’ it is simply a limited registration academic conference, not a public event,” she wrote.

Duggan said the student organizers did not deserve to be caught up in “the maelstrom of publicity surrounding the ASA boycott vote.”

“I wish our students could have their conference in relative peace and obscurity, as is usual for their conferences,” she wrote.

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