A pedagogical review of Palestine in academia: The Teaching Palestine conference at Birzeit University

The Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies and the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University.

The Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies and the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University, in cooperation with the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University, organized an international conference, entitled “Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice,” on March 20, 2018.

In his address, President of Birzeit University Dr. Abdullatif Abuhijleh said that targeting the Palestinian education process has always been a strategic aim of the Israeli Occupation and its institutions. “This is the reason behind their relentless attacks on student movements in Palestinian universities, attacks that aim at disrupting the educational infrastructure of Palestine.”

Director of the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute for International Studies Dr. Lourdes Habash noted the role of universities in defying the Israeli Occupation’s policies and highlighted the importance of the conference in reviewing how Palestine is presented in curriculums. She said, “Reconsidering how Palestine is viewed pedagogically and examining the views and presenting the experiences of researchers and activists in India, Africa, the United States, the Arab World, and all over the world will produce new knowledge and establish partnerships between universities and research centers, which will broaden and bolster knowledge on Palestine.”

The conference began with a plenary keynote, in which Professor Robin Kelley, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Rabab Abdulhadi introduced the themes and subtopics of the conference.

The first session of the conference, moderated by Professor of Women’s Studies Rula Abu Duhou, was a roundtable discussion on Palestinian higher education and included Professor of Social and Behavioral Science Ala’ Al-Azza, Professor of International Studies Majid Shehadeh, Professor of Political Science Ghada Almadbouh, and Professor of Arabic Language and Literature Abdel Karim Abu-Khashan.

The second session, entitled “Censoring Palestine: The Political Economy of Zionism and Neo-liberalism,” was moderated by Professor of Political Science Abderrahman Ibrahim and featured Mamyrah Prosper, postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean at the City University of New York; Tabitha Celeste Mustafa and Terrence Fraser, from the Black for Palestine Foundation; Salim Shehadeh,  doctoral student of anthropology at the University of California; and Jaime Veve, from the Transport Workers Union, Local 100.

The third session, entitled “Indigeneity, Pedagogies and Decolonizing the Curriculum,” was chaired by Professor of Women’s Studies Amira Silmi and featured Nanea Renteria, a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University; Matshidiso Motsoeneng, researcher at the Afro-Middle East Centre; Daniela Pinto, a graduate student at the London School of Economics; and Melissa Ann Tso, lead organizer at the Red Nation coalition. 

The final session of the conference was a closing plenary that featured Professor of History and Archaeology Rana Barakat, Professor of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies at San Francisco State University Rabab Abdulhadi, and Professor Robin Kelley. The plenary explored the importance of such activities and conferences in disseminating information on the Palestinian cause.