Does the IPSA Statement on Academic Freedoms apply to researchers from the Global South?


The International Political Science Association (IPSA) has released a Statement on Academic Freedoms. This statement refers to the UNESCO
Recommendations on the status of higher education personnel’, adopted in 1997 (version
française). It further highlights:

IPSA understands academic freedoms to include the free exchange of ideas that is vitally
necessary for scientific endeavour and debate. Arbitrary and politically motivated arrest, and personal and professional harassment, are egregious violations of basic human rights, and such violations pose a clear and present danger to academic freedoms.

Academic freedoms can also be seriously compromised through indirect measures, involving retention, promotion and tenure policies, performance and research management systems, changes in funding for research and resources, or alterations in the teaching curriculum.

The crucial question to ask, from a global South, #decolonizing the academy perspective, is whether these guidelines apply equally to scholars from the global South (meaning, people with passports issued by states in the non-Western, non-White, formerly colonised and presently neo-colonised ‘states’ in the global South), especially when carrying out research on anything related to the global North, or when dealing with issues of international concern. For instance, would these erstwhile positions of IPSA apply in equal measure to a scholar from a First Nations background (in Turtle Island, for example, or from any other First Nations community elsewhere, for that matter) adopting a highly critical perspective on white settler governments and their policies, a black/brown scholar (of any nationality) who critically examines Western defence, military, intelligence and law enforcement structures, or to a scholar from the global South who critically engages with racial profiling and/or Draconian and essentially colonial immigration policies in some Western European states?

Or, do these guidelines that IPSA so earnestly highlights only apply to white Western scholars (with passports issued by powerful and wealthy nations of the global North – that wealth often built upon looted wealth from their ex-[and present!]-colonies in the global South and on [past AND PRESENT] slave labour – when they are carrying out research in the global South or in countries classified and castigated as the West’s foremost ‘enemies’?

Given the dominant trends in political science academia, there is more ground to assume that the latter, unfortunately, is the case.

It is all good to come up with statements on academic freedoms, but it is very, very important, and absolutely crucial, to highlight that that to date, there is no governmental authority that fully and consistently ensures academic freedoms. In the UK, for instance, a worthwhile question to ask, for example is the following: ‘Would the Home Office allow a scholar from the global South, and especially someone with a nationality from [the pathetically euphemistic] ‘New Commonwealth’, to conduct research on the archival records of the Colonial Office stored in a facility which provides no access whatsoever to ANYONE. Would the UK authorities ever allow a researcher, especially someone who is black/brown, and with a passport from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (and is therefore subject to stringent and colonial immigration control), to access archives that are vital to the violent excesses of imperial history?

The point to be made here, from a #decolonizing perspective, is that IPSA, if it is to present itself a a truly ‘INTERNATIONAL’ body, needs to get a grip, and clearly highlight its commitment to the academic freedoms of political scientists from the global South, not only when researching ‘belligerent’ polities in the global South, but, also, and especially, when researching sensitive issues that concern the global North and powerful governments.

If IPSA is not prepared to do so, they should clearly indicate in statements such as that on academic freedoms that its understanding of ‘academic freedoms’ only applies to white and ‘white-passing’ academics, and to non-white academics who enjoy white privilege/s, when researching impoverished neo-colonies of the global South, which continue to be divided/controlled/looted by the ‘wealthy North’.

#decolonize #DecolonizeTheAcademy #StopDuplicities #GlobalSouth #QTPoCAcademics

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