Birzeit academics explore aligning research with community needs, aspirations in inaugural ‘What future do we want’ lecture series

Decolonizing knowledge production and restructuring discourses beyond colonial hegemony were the main topics explored by Birzeit University academics Drs. Rita Giacaman, Maher Al Hashweh and Mudar Kassis in the first lecture of the “What future do we want?” series, a set of university-wide forums exploring the future of higher education in Palestine, held on April 26, 2022.

Inaugurating the series, Dr. Beshara Doumani, the university’s president, explained that  the lectures will highlight critical issues and concerns in knowledge production and scholarship, stimulating discussions on all levels and effecting positive change not only at Birzeit University, but also within the broader Palestinian community.

Featuring a lineup of scholars, academics and thought leaders, the series, said Doumani, “will foster intellectual interaction and dialogue within and beyond Birzeit University’s community and highlight fundamental areas of concern in scholarship and knowledge production.” The dialogues created as part of this series, he added, will help create a shared basis through which positive impact can be made locally and nationally. 

In the lecture, Giacaman, Al Hashweh, and Kassis discussed their recently published study, “Decolonizing Knowledge Production: Perspective on Promotion and Tenure Regulations in Palestine and Beyond,” exploring ways of producing  scholarship beyond Western dominance and methodological approaches and stimulating discussions on how to promote local knowledge production relevant to societal needs by going beyond the prevailing, neo-liberal and neo-colonial-based research frameworks.

A key aspect of producing knowledge that fits the community’s needs and aspirations, the speakers argued, is probing its members’ priorities and concerns. Focusing on the case of Birzeit University and the broader Palestinian context under the prolonged, brutal Israeli occupation, the panelists emphasized the need to understand the conditions and factors in which Palestinian academics live in order to make education fit the Palestinian society’s needs and develop a suitable research infrastructure.

Dr. Asem Khalil, dean of Birzeit University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, concluded the lecture by emphasizing the importance of such research as that carried out by Giacaman, Al Hashweh, and Kassis, describing it as a catalyst for change at Birzeit University, pushing for a rethinking of its criteria for promotion and tenure such that they facilitate the production of distinguished, socially aware research that is more aligned with the Palestinian context.