The US academic boycott

the fog

The travel ban on many people travelling to the US is, of course, against all normal codes of decency. In addition it is antithetical to the basic tenets of research (the free sharing of knowledge) and open education (removal of barriers).

Like many others therefore I’ve decided not to travel to the US for any reason, including conferences, or even getting connecting flights. There are researchers I know who are banned from going. I’m not going to pretend academia under ‘normal’ circumstances is an entirely egalitarian system. There are many cultural and economic reasons why people end up excluded. But for a deliberate dual system to be instigated at the national level is a level of injustice that has to be resisted, by whatever small means.

But none of this is easy – I have many friends in the US who are suffering through this. How do we scholars demonstrate our support for those who have to operate within this regime? And yes, I think people will be soon saying the same about attending events in the UK. I’m up for all suggestions.

These are twisted, ravenous days. As I saw Audrey Watters say recently “fuck living in interesting times” – exactly, give me uninteresting, beige days again, please.


  1. I feel the same, and I’ve only just submitted a proposal for #domains17

    I’m really torn because I really want to support the great people involved in the conference but I just can’t bear the thought of travelling to a country whose leadership is actively denying entry based on religious belief.

    1. admin says:

      Yeah that’s what’s so tough – all these people are fighting that fight.

  2. katherinehinchey says:

    As an American, I think we need — possibly now more than ever — the voices and ideas of others, to help us figure out the day-to-day and longer-term approaches we can take. We can’t hear your voice if you turn your face from us.

    I would suggest a more targeted approach, boycotting (say) businesses that support certain causes — there’s the #grabyourwallet list to help with ideas.

  3. Alan Levine says:

    I’d boycott us too.

    Yours is a firm stand of principle but like Katherine I wonder if it’s really directed at the cause and not the effect.

    We can rant about the new authoritarians but does that accomplish anything? I’m studying and our efforts (in the country formerly known as “United” States) ought to be focused on the people who should be checking his balances, our Congress reps, and the people who vote for those reps.

    We need solidarity down here in the grass.

  4. Darco Jansen says:

    I agree we should (must) make statements to these limits of freedom (of travel). I’m not sure about the effect of not travelling to US. Especially where we boundaries are?
    Should I decide to not to travel to UK as well as EU academics needs to prepare to leave?
    Happy to discuss this over beer at Cardiff

    1. admin says:

      Hi Alan, Darco and Katherine – thanks for your comments. I agree it’s tricky, and it wasn’t something I came to lightly. I think as Katherine suggests you can boycott businesses. But this is not about protesting Trump’s administration in its entirety but the muslim ban in particular. In that case the message we should send is if you are going to exclude some of us based on religion then none of us are coming. I would argue that is slightly different Darco from who gets to have residency in a country. But I do foresee the UK possibly being boycotted and I wouldn’t blame people. I just know researchers in my own unit who were planning on going to the US and now cannot, so while that situation is in place, I don’t feel I can travel either. I fear it will create a sort of apartheid within the academic community (although I fully acknowledge there are many other factors that create a dual system already).

  5. […] Martin Weller: The US academic boycott […]

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