During the International Conference of Critical Geography, which took place from 26-30 July 2015 in Ramallah/Palestine, the International Critical Geography Group endorsed the Academic Boycott of Israel in support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign and the anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinian people.*
This past summer the International Critical Geography Group (ICGG) convened its seventh conference in the occupied city of Ramallah, Palestine. Following a two-decade tradition and nearly three years of preparation, the conference brought together scholars and activists committed to combating social exploitation and oppression. This was our first gathering in the Middle East, one that was transformative for participants. Together we opened up a new vista for critical geography that is both timely and long overdue. Our five days (and six nights) program was packed with inspiring and thought-provoking engagements anchored around the theme Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility. Breaking the limits of existing academic paradigms, we shared analysis of the mounting crises of capital, space, bodies and nature and explored ways to turn them into moments of political possibility by reconnecting scholarship with solidarity and struggle.
Altogether four hundred scholars, activists and members of the public from over forty countries energetically took up issues on and beyond the violent frontlines of class, gender, race, sexual, and colonial divisions. Yet we also took critical steps beyond discussion and debate of our intellectual work towards concrete collective action. Before attending the conference, every participant that registered already agreed to a political statement that supports basic Palestinian rights. By endorsing this statement, they acknowledged the power asymmetries and injustices that define Palestinian life and stood on the side of the oppressed. Through the political statement the conference shed any false facade of normalcy and openly acknowledged the realities of settler colonial oppression and racial discrimination. Palestine is, after all, not an abstract geography and no conscientious meeting can place itself above the politics that define this context. More importantly, during the final session, conference participants voted overwhelmingly for a strong resolution drafted by the ICCG 2015 Organizing Team to sign onto the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott and the broader Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The ICGG Steering Committee also unanimously supported the resolution.
The statement Forging Solidarity, taking a stand on Palestine is more than a resolution. It is both a political statement in solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle of our Palestinian comrades and the agenda for a new paradigm in critical geography that radically expands the International Critical Geography Group’s founding statement of purpose. The widespread Palestinian anger and protests we are witnessing throughout historic Palestine in response to Israel’s intensification of a long history of ethnic cleansing, house demolitions, land theft, repression and imprisonment, remind us that there is an urgent imperative for action to end injustice in Palestine. Building on the momentum generated by the conference and this resolution we aim to open up serious discussion about BDS and the academic boycott of Israel within the Association of American Geographers (AAG), the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), the International Geographical Union (IGU), and other geographical societies to bring them on board. It is time to further the work of decolonizing the discipline of geography and we can do this by consolidating and carrying the conference insights and this resolution into our work as scholars, teachers and change makers.
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