Academic Freedom at Risk: Turkey, the Middle East and Beyond

A one day conference

2016 was a terrible year for university professors and scholars working in Turkey and much of the Middle East. In Turkey, the one-year decline in academic freedom, university self-governance and security of tenure was precipitous and very far-reaching.

Beyond Turkey, academics faced troubling forms of repression and risk across the Middle East and North Africa, whether as a consequence of the wars raging in Syria and Yemen, or the increasing authoritarian interventions against academics by governments like those of Egypt and Bahrain attempting to quash the dissemination of their research. Scholars studying the Middle East at universities in North America also were affected by restrictions on their ability to travel and conduct research, and by a climate of intimidation from outside advocacy groups targeting them for teaching about the Middle East on campuses in the U.S.

This one day symposium addressed the threats to academic freedom in the Middle East and beyond with a special focus on Turkey and a keynote lecture by Iranian-Canadian scholar, Professor Homa Hoodfar. The symposium marked the launch of a campaign to host a scholar-at-risk from the Middle East at UCLA.


10 AM - Noon – Panel One: Eda Erdener (Pomona College), Can Aciksoz (UCLA), Zeynep Korkman (UCLA), moderated by Aslı Bali (UCLA)

Noon - 1 PM – Lunch Break

1 PM - 2 PM – Keynote: Homa Hoodfar (Concordia University, Montreal)

2 PM - 2:10 PM – Break

2:10 PM - 4 PM – Panel Two: Laurie Brand (USC), Pardis Mahdavi (Pomona College), Sondra Hale (UCLA), moderated by Sherene Razack (UCLA)

Panel 1- Eda Erdener (Pomona College)

Formerly an associate professor in the Psychology Department of the Arts and Science at Bingöl University in eastern Turkey, at the time of the conference, Erdener was a Visiting Scholar at Risk at Pomona College

Panel 1- Can Aciksoz (UCLA)

Can Aciksoz is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. His research interests include masculinity, political violence, trauma and disability, nationalism, and humanitarianism. His new research project focuses on political contestations over medical neutrality in Turkey and along the Turkish/Syrian border.

Keynote: Homa Hoodfar (Concordia University, Montreal)

Homa Hoodfar is professor emeritus, Concordia University (Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology), Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Professor Hoodfar held a faculty position at Concordia for the years 1990-2016. She has published many distinguished works and is the founder of the virtual research and teaching network "Racial Violence Hub" (RVHub).

Panel 2- Pardis Mahdavi (Pomona College)

Pardis Mahdavi is currently Dean of Women, Director of the Pacific Basin Institute, and Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Pomona College. Pardis was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the Asia Society, and has received fellowships and awards from institutions such as Google Ideas, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has consulted for a wide array of organizations including the U.S. government, Google Inc., and the United Nations. In 2012, she won the Wig Award for teaching at Pomona College.

Panel 2- Laurie Brand (USC)

Laurie A. Brand is the Robert Grandford Wright Professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the University of Southern California. A past president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (2004), and currently chair of its Committee on Academic Freedom, she specializes in Middle East international relations and inter-Arab politics, and directs USC's Middle East Studies Program. A four-time Fulbright scholar to the Middle East and North Africa, she is the author of numerous work including "Women, the State and Political Liberalization".

Panel 2- Sondra Hale (UCLA)

Sondra Hale is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Women's Studies (UCLA); Co-Founder and past Co-editor of The Journal of Middle East Women's Studies; former Chair of Women's Studies (UCLA), now called Gender Studies.

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Published: Friday, January 27, 2017