Open Letter to the University of Vienna, Department of African Studies

11.06.2018

We, the undersigned, condemn the interference by the Austrian Students' Union (ÖH), the Jewish Austrian Students’ Union (JÖH) and others in a lecture series organized by the Department of African Studies, the research platform Mobile Cultures and Societies and the Association Dar al Janub.

The Department of African Studies already hosted Dr. Greg Thomas, associate professor for Black Studies and Literature in English from Tufts University on 29th of May 2018. Professor Thomas gave a talk titled The Complete Fanon: African Revolution, Black Power Movement, and Neo-colonial Imperialism.

Another lecture is scheduled for the 21st of June. It will be given by former Black Panther member Dhoruba bin Wahad, who will reflect upon the Black Panther struggle and his 19 years of imprisonment in the US.

The attempt to prevent both lectures is based on the argument that the Association Dar al Janub supports the Palestinian-led international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people. Therefore—according to the argument—the association should not be allowed to hold events at the University of Vienna or even just to engage in cooperation with various departments and academic staff.

We strongly believe that such efforts violate academic freedom and the right to free speech at the University of Vienna. The invitation of Greg Thomas and Dhoruba bin Wahad aims to open up the academic space to engage with Black Civil Rights activists, their community struggles for justice and equality and their histories. These histories are entangled with transnational solidarity campaigns which include the BDS movement, as Angela Davis reminded us in her talk at the University of Vienna on the occasion of its 650th anniversary in 2015.

As much as we respect and support the democratic value of student unions to actively participate in debates about University politics and events planned on campus, we are deeply concerned about the attempt to prevent the upcoming lecture by Dhoruba bin Wahad and to exercise pressure on the Institute of African Studies to withdraw from cooperation with Dar al Janub.

We urge the University of Vienna and the board of the Department of African Studies to Support open discussions and the upcoming event.

Open letter and signatures here (Stand: 14.06.2018)