Homi K. Bhabha Succumbed to BDS: Canceled Israeli Sociological Society Conference Keynote Speech

08.10.2020
Editorial Note
 
Homi K Bhabha is a renowned scholar of Humanities at Harvard University who explores colonial and postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, and cosmopolitanism, among other topics. Bhabha was invited by the Israeli Sociological Society (ISS) to give a keynote speech at the upcoming annual conference in February 2021.  Bhabha, a friend of Prof. Lev Grinberg, the ISS president, initially agreed to participate, but recently changed his mind after pressure coming from BDS advocates.  

 He explained his decision by noting his “respect for scholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.”  He added that Grinberg is one of them since during Grinberg’s tenure as the president, ISS published in June 2020, a declaration committing itself “to reflect, expose and criticize the violence of security forces and the police against individuals and disadvantaged groups, due to their skin color or precarious civil status as often happens in the case of Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.” Also, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, ISS explicitly argued for “Palestinian lives matter.” Grinberg specifically, according to Bhabha, “has a steadfast record of opposition to the Israeli State’s discrimination against Palestinians and Arab Israelis, amongst other minorities.”  

In other words, even though the ISS passed all the purity tests as the self-appointed guardians of the Palestinians, Bhabha declined to attend the conference because of a decision made by the Israeli government over which Grinberg and the ISS had no say whatsoever.  

Bhabha has withdrawn because “Diplomatic maneuvers between Israel, the US and the UAE, in the past weeks, are amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvert the Palestinian cause, and more significantly, to expunge the Palestinian people from a radical reconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region. Dealt out of the process from the very start, the Palestinian people are pawns in the post-pandemic politics of three ethno-nationalist authoritarians. In these circumstances, I made my decision.”

It should come as no surprise that Bhabha is a veteran activist who uses his academic perch to pontificate on political matters.  Most telling was his response to the 9/11 attacks, where he essentially blamed the “aggressive discourse” of the “conflict of civilizations” for the catastrophe.  As well known, the “conflict of civilizations” populated that the democratic West is engaged in a conflict with radical Islamists like Osama bin Laden who wanted to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate. Conveniently, Bhabha did not mention Osama bin Laden’s eschatological plans. 

Covid-19 gave Bhabha another platform for his politically correct postulates. On July 9, 2020, during an event at Tel Aviv University, titled “Culture and Society in the (post)-Coronavirus Age – The International Dean’s Series Lectures at the Faculty of the Arts Tel Aviv University.”  The Harvard professor talked about his most recent work, the “Governance of the Unprepared.” In essence, his new theme, which he also intended to present at the ISS annual conference, argues that “ethno-nationalist populist leaders like Trump, Netanyahu, Erdogan, Modi, Bolsonaro, and Orban, amongst others, employ an affectively charged political discourse of degradation to polarize populations and racialize social relations. They keep their citizens and residents in states of anxious ‘unpreparedness’ and fearful indeterminacy to restrict their political agency, while expediently executing policies of oppression, inequity, indignity and the quelling of dissent. The pandemic, which has been woefully, and at times intentionally, mismanaged by these very leaders has been deployed to further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants, minorities and political dissidents.”  

Needless to say, Bhabha did not mention Iran, the Palestinian PA, and Hamas, or other autocratic regimes that left their populations unprepared.  Iran has one of the highest infection rates and mortality while brutally killing protestors and dissidents.  Such cherry-picking is widespread among the “politically correct” elites, who would not let facts stand in the way of their theories.  By creating such massive double standards, Bhabha and his cohorts undermine the legitimacy and morality of their arguments. 

In another double standard case, Bhabha participated at a Tel Aviv University conference but refused to participate in a conference by the ISS, a non-governmental organization. It indicates that Bhabha and his BDS cohorts cannot stick to their own rule, to target only Israeli governmentally supported institutions. 

As for Lev Grinberg and his peers, the withdrawal of Bhabha should serve as a moment of clarity.  No matter how much they beat their breasts and grovel before the masters of “political correctness,” they would be judged as Jews and Israelis who are held responsible for their government’s policies.   Nothing has changed in the anti-Semitism discourse.

האגודה הסוציולוגית הישראלית (עמותה רשומה 580016954)
האגודה הסוציולוגית הישראלית, המחלקה לסוציולוגיה ואנתרופולוגיה, הר הצופים, האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים, ירושלים 91905 Secretary@israel-sociology.com מזכירת האגודה: אליזה פרנקל

2020 15 ספטמבר

2020הודעה – ביטול השתתפותו של פרופ׳ הומי באבא בכנס הסוציולוגי השנתי לצערנו פרופ׳ הומי באבא הודיע על ביטול השתתפותו בכנס הסוציולוגי הקרוב. מלכתחילה הוא קיבל את ההזמנה מתוך הוקרה באגודה שלנו ופעולתה העקבית בעד שוויון ונגד גזענות. אבל הוא הגיע למסקנה שלא רק תוכן דבריו, אלא העיתוי והמקום חשובים. על כן הוא מבטל כעת, בעקבות היוזמה של טראמפ ונתניהו לדחוק את התביעות של העם הפלסטיני על ידי ההסכם שצפוי להיחתם היום עם האמירויות. הנה לשון הודעתו של פרופסור הומי באבא:

I received an invitation several months ago, from my colleague and friend Lev Grinberg, to speak byZoom at the Israeli Sociological Society Conference. Lev, the President of the ISS, has a steadfast recordof opposition to the Israeli State’s discrimination against Palestinians and Arab Israelis, amongst otherminorities. During Lev’s tenure, the ISS published a declaration in June 2020 committing itself “toreflect, expose and criticize the violence of security forces and the police against individuals anddisadvantaged groups, due to their skin color or precarious civil status as often happens in the case ofPalestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.” The ISS has also explicitly arguedfor “Palestinian lives matter” in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.To further this discussion Lev and his colleagues invited me to talk about my recent work on the“Governance of the Unprepared” where I argue that ethno-nationalist populist leaders like Trump,Netanyahu, Erdogan, Modi, Bolsonaro, and Orban, amongst others, employ an affectively chargedpolitical discourse of degradation to polarize populations and racialize social relations. They keep theircitizens and residents in states of anxious “unpreparedness” and fearful indeterminacy to restrict theirpolitical agency, while expediently executing policies of oppression, inequity, indignity and the quellingof dissent. The pandemic, which has been woefully, and at times intentionally, mismanaged by thesevery leaders has been deployed to further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants,minorities and political dissidents.I have withdrawn from the ISS conference because I have decided that it is not only what you say that
matters, but also when and where you say it. Diplomatic maneuvers between Israel, the US and the UAE,in the past weeks, are amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvertthe Palestinian cause, and more significantly, to expunge the Palestinian people from a radicalreconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region. Dealt out of the process from the verystart, the Palestinian people are pawns in the post-pandemic politics of three ethno-nationalistauthoritarians. In these circumstances, I made my decision. None of this diminishes my respect forscholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.

Homi K. Bhabha

============================================

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האגודה הסוציולוגית הישראלית (אס”י) הינה עמותה ללא מטרות רווח, אשר נוסדה לפני ארבעים שנה (1967). למעלה מ-1000 איש רשומים בה, מתוכם כ- 300 חברים עם זכויות מלאות. מטרות האגודה הן: לקדם את הסוציולוגיה כדיסציפלינה מדעית וכפרופסיה; לקדם את הוראת הסוציולוגיה ומדעי ההתנהגות בישראל; לשרת את הסוציולוגים הישראלים; לעודד מחקר ודיון בסוציולוגיה של ישראל; לקדם את תרומותיה של הסוציולוגיה לחברה הישראלית; וגם: למצב את הסוציולוגיה כדיסציפלינת-אם ולקדם את השימוש בסוציולוגיה בתחומים הפרופסיונאליים המגוונים הניזונים ממנה, ביניהם: ניהול, יחסי עבודה, תכנון עירוני ואזורי, חינוך, בריאות בקהילה, עבודה סוציאלית וקהילתית, קרימינולוגיה ועוד. האגודה מנוהלת ע”י נשיא/ה והנהלה, הנבחרים ע”י חברי האגודה, ומזכיר/ת האגודה. הנשיא הנוכחי הוא פרופ’ אורי רם, פרופסור לסוציולוגיה באוניברסיטת בן גוריון. מזכירת האגודה היא גב’ ליאור סבח, מאסטרנטית במחלקה לסוציולוגיה ואנתרופולוגיה באוניברסיטת בן גוריון. 

=======================================================

Prof. Homi Bhabha withdraws from Israel Sociological Society conference  

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel thanks Prof. Homi Bhabha for his principled decision to withdraw from participation in the Israel Sociological Society (ISS) conference, where he had been invited to deliver the keynote address. As he noted in his withdrawal statement, “I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it.”

Regardless of the positions they take on Israeli policy, Israel’s academic associations are structurally complicit in the ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine and its apartheid regime and are therefore subject to the Palestinian and global call for academic boycott, a critical part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. By withdrawing from participation at the ISS conference, Prof. Bhabha is taking an important stand and refusing to allow his name to be used to promote and normalize Israeli academia.

Click here to endorse the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Prof. Bhabha’s statement:

I received an invitation several months ago, from my colleague and friend Lev Grinberg, to speak by Zoom at the Israeli Sociological Society  Conference . Lev, the President of the ISS, has a steadfast record of opposition to  the Israeli State’s discrimination against Palestinians and Arab Israelis, amongst other minorities. During Lev’s tenure, the ISS published a declaration in June 2020 committing itself “to reflect, expose and criticize the violence of security forces and the police against individuals and disadvantaged groups, due to their skin color or precarious civil status as often happens in the case of Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.” The ISS has also explicitly argued for “Palestinian lives matter” in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

To further this discussion Lev and his colleagues invited me to talk about my recent work on the “Governance of the Unprepared” where I argue that ethno-nationalist populist leaders like Trump, Netanyahu, Erdogan, Modi, Bolsonaro, and Orban, amongst others, employ an affectively charged political discourse of degradation to polarize populations and racialize social relations. They  keep their citizens and residents in states of anxious “unpreparedness” and fearful indeterminacy to restrict their political agency, while expediently executing policies of oppression, inequity, indignity and the quelling of dissent. The pandemic, which  has been woefully, and at times intentionally, mismanaged by these very leaders has been  deployed to further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants, minorities and political dissidents.

I have withdrawn from the ISS conference because I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it. Diplomatic maneuvers between Israel, the US and the UAE, in the past weeks, are amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvert the Palestinian cause, and more significantly, to expunge the Palestinian people from a radical reconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region. Dealt out of the process from the very start, the Palestinian people are pawns in the post-pandemic politics of three ethno-nationalist authoritarians. In these circumstances I made my decision. None of this diminishes my respect for scholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.

Homi K. Bhabha

14.9.2020

======================================================
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/amid-criticism-scholar-homi-bhahba-pulls-out-israel-conference

Amid criticism, scholar Homi Bhahba pulls out of Israel conference Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat 15 September 2020

Homi K. Bhabha, the renowned scholar of postcolonial studies, has confirmed his withdrawal from a conference in Israel amid criticism of his acceptance of the invitation.

Bhabha, a humanities professor at Harvard, had been scheduled to give the keynote address via Zoom at the annual conference of the Israeli Sociological Society (ISS) in February.

“I have withdrawn from the ISS conference because I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it,” Bhabha stated in an email to The Electronic Intifada.

He cited as context for his decision the recent US-brokered normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Bhabha said these moves were “amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvert the Palestinian cause” and “to expunge the Palestinian people from a radical reconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region.”

“In these circumstances I made my decision,” Bhabha said.

He also expressed warmth towards his Israeli hosts, emphasizing that “None of this diminishes my respect for scholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.”

Don’t cross picket line

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) told The Electronic Intifada that it “welcomes the withdrawal of Professor Homi Bhabha as keynote speaker in the Israeli Sociological Society Annual Conference.”

“PACBI has consistently called on international academics to do no harm and to respect our BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – picket line.”

Bhabha justified his initial decision to accept the invitation because the ISS published a statement in June committing itself to “reflect, expose and criticize the violence of security forces and the police against individuals and disadvantaged groups, due to their skin color or precarious civil status as often happens in the case of Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.”

He said he had intended to speak about how “ethnonationalist populist leaders” like Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban employ political discourses that “polarize populations and racialize social relations.”

Bhabha added that these leaders have exploited the pandemic to “further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants, minorities and political dissidents.”

However Bhabha’s implication that he would have proceeded with the keynote but for the particular political moment drew a rebuke from PACBI: Not crossing the Palestinian BDS picket line is “a basic moral obligation that extends beyond the present moment of rule by ethnonationalist leaders,” the group said.

PACBI also rejected the notion that the Israeli Sociological Society has shown an adequate and genuine commitment to Palestinian rights.

“Aside from its sanitizing rhetoric about ‘police violence’ and its reduction of the Indigenous Palestinians into yet another ‘disadvantaged group,’ the ISS has failed to recognize, let alone work against, Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” PACBI said.

“This makes the ISS complicit in whitewashing, justifying and perpetuating this system of oppression.”

According to PACBI, the Israeli Sociological Society “also fails to publicly recognize the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people as stipulated in international law,” including the right of Palestinians ethnically cleansed by Zionists during the Nakba to return home.

Criticism

Bhabha is best known for his explorations of the concept of hybridity – a way of talking about the cultural outcomes arising from the encounters between colonizers and those they colonized.

He has received the Padma Bhushan Award, one of India’s highest civilian honors.

Bhabha has however come in for strong criticism over his treatment of the question of Palestine.

In a tribute to the late Edward Said, Bhabha represents the “conflict” in Palestine as being “between competing nationalisms, not between colonialism and national liberation,” according to Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, writing in the 2010 anthology Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation.

“Bhabha, who as a ‘postcolonial’ critic is presumably also anticolonial, never relates the Zionist enterprise or Israeli occupation to colonialism, which leads him not to call for an end to Israel’s colonization and occupation but for a negotiated ‘just and lasting peace,’” Massad writes.

This language, Massad charges, is “borrowed from US State Department pronouncements that also never mention colonialism or occupation.”

That tendency is apparent in Bhabha’s statement regarding the ISS conference – where he lumps Israel together with various nation-states and makes no mention of the settler-colonial nature of the Zionist regime that controls Palestinian lives.

While Bhabha’s withdrawal is indeed welcome, he might have avoided this predicament had he been more attentive to Palestinians in the first place. (Though he did reveal he consulted with Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi prior to issuing his statement to The Electronic Intifada).

If the message was not clear earlier, PACBI certainly hopes it is now.

“We call on all international scholars to boycott complicit Israeli academic institutions and associations, like the ISS, in solidarity with the Palestinian nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” the group said.

Update: 16 September

Following publication of this article, it emerged that in July, Bhahba participated in an online seminar organized as part of the “International Dean’s Series Lectures at the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University.”

PACBI has stated that Tel Aviv University is “deeply complicit in maintaining Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid,” including by hosting the Institute for National Security Studies “which boasts of having developed the so-called Dahiya Doctrine, or doctrine of disproportionate force.”

This Dahiya Doctrine involves the deliberate destruction of civilian areas and infliction of suffering on the population as Israel has perpetrated in Lebanon and Gaza.

Tel Aviv University, like all of its peer institutions, maintains deep ties with Israel’s military and intelligence establishment.

===============================================================================

Padma Bhushan Awardee Prof Homi K Bhabha Withdraws From Israel Conference After CriticismSeptember 16, 2020

He said he had intended to speak about how “ethnonationalist populist leaders” like Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban employ political discourses that “polarise populations and racialise social relations”

Clarion India

RENOWNED Indian British scholar Homi K. Bhabha withdrew from a conference in Israel after facing criticism of his acceptance of the invitation, The electronic intifada reported.

“He cited as context for his decision the recent US-brokered normalisation of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” the report said.

Bhabha, a Harvard University professor and one of the foremost experts on post-colonial studies, was scheduled to give the keynote address via Zoom at the annual conference of the Israeli Sociological Society (ISS) in February.

“I have withdrawn from the ISS conference because I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it,” the 70-year-old Harvard scholar stated in an email to The Electronic Intifada.

Bhabha was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2012 by the Indian government for his services in literature and education.

For Bhabha, the UAE-Israel deal was “amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvert the Palestinian cause” and “to expunge the Palestinian people from a radical reconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region.”

“In these circumstances, I made my decision,” Bhabha said.

He, however, expressed gratification towards the hosts of the conference. “None of this diminishes my respect for scholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.”

The report said Bhabha justified his initial decision to accept the invitation because the ISS published a statement in June committing itself to “reflect, expose and criticise the violence of security forces and the police against individuals and disadvantaged groups, due to their skin colour or precarious civil status as often happens in the case of Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.”

He said he had intended to speak about how “ethnonationalist populist leaders” like Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban employ political discourses that “polarise populations and racialise social relations.”

Bhabha added that these leaders have exploited the pandemic to “further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants, minorities and political dissidents.”

His acceptance of the invitation drew criticism from Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a pro-Palestine group that seeks academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Bhabha’s praise of hosts and argument for withdrawal has also come under criticism. “Aside from its sanitising rhetoric about ‘police violence’ and its reduction of the Indigenous Palestinians into yet another ‘disadvantaged group,’ the ISS has failed to recognise, let alone work against, Israel’s decades-old regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” PACBI said.

Bhabha has been criticised in the past for his views on the Palestinian conflict. According to him, it’s a case of competing nationalism. However critics say that the conflict is about “colonialism and national liberation”.==========================================================

https://www.tau.ac.il/events/art-culture-sociaty-8-7-20
הרצאה של כלל האוניברסיטה
אמנות, תרבות וחברה בעידן הפוסט קורונה
Dean’s International lecture series
08 ביולי 2020, 19:00 מפגש מקוון 

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds on, the role of the arts and culture as social instigators, sites of debates and modes of reflection is once again at stake.
How should the arts relate to current conditions, and what role should they play in the global and local arenas? While uncertainty abounds, it looks like the virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, transforming society and culture in ways we cannot predict. How, then, should art and culture prepare for the post-pandemic era?
Art, Culture and Society in the (post)-Coronavirus age presents a series of themed conversations between leading international scholars and staff members from the Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts.
ART AND SOCIETY
Dr. Vered Maimon , Department of Art History, in conversation withProf. Homi Bhabha , Harvard University
Please Register here >
A Zoom invitation and password will be distributed via email and social media before each conversation.

==============================================https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-narrative-of-divided-civilizations/

A Narrative of Divided Civilizations

By Homi K. Bhabha
SEPTEMBER 28, 2001

In these past, dark days, it has been difficult to draw a line between the outrage and anxiety provoked by terrorist attacks, and the urgent need for some more-humane and
historical reflection on the tragedy itself.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? The appalling images of death, destruction, and daring that invaded our homes on September 11 left us with no doubt that these unimaginable scenes belonged to a moral universe alien to ours, acts perpetrated by people foreign to the very fiber of our being.

But CNN had a sobering tale to tell. While the headline news staggered from one towering inferno to another, the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen interspersed its roll call of the brave and the dead with lists of Hollywood movies–films that had told a similar story many times before, and new, unreleased movies that were about to tell it again. What was only an action movie last month turned, this month, into acts of war. Same mise-en-scene, different movie.

I have chosen to start with the global genre of the terrorist action film in order to question the widely canvassed cultural assumptions that have come to frame the deadly events. This terrorism was a manifestation of a much deeper “clash of civilizations,” we were frequently told. One night during the week of the attacks, former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu developed this thesis and ended up, in effect, by placing Israel just off the East Coast of the United States. The next morning, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz affirmed wide international support for the United States from nations that he described as belonging to the “civilized world” and the “uncivilized world.” By returning to CNN’s ticker tape of terrorist movies and special effects, we see the futility of framing the event in such a divided and polarized civilizational narrative.

Each of the unimaginable actions we were subjected to on our television screens have been repeatedly imagined and applauded as plot devices in movie houses across the country by law-abiding Americans, and successfully exported to other ordinary film-loving folks across the world. The decision to carry out terror, whether it is done in the name of God or the state, is a political decision, not a civilizational or cultural practice.

Ironically, the “clash of civilizations” is an aggressive discourse often used by totalitarians and terrorists to justify their worst deeds, to induce holy terror and create a debilitating psychosis of persecution among oppressed, powerless peoples.

When we use the civilizational argument against them, we are, unwittingly perhaps, speaking in the divisive tongue of tyrants.

When American foreign and economic policy is conducted in terms of the civilizational divisions of “them and us,” the nation assumes that hawkish, imperialist aspect that provokes a widespread sense of injustice, indignation, and fear.

Once we see terrorism as an organized political action, rather than the expression of cultural or civilizational “difference,” we can both fight it and look toward the future — a future that makes common cause between the victims of terror, and those peoples around the world who are fated to live in countries governed by regimes or organizations that impose such unlawful and inhuman policies. Only those societies — whether they are in the north or the south, the east or the west — that insure the widest democratic participation and protection for their citizens are in a position to make the deadly, difficult decisions that “just” wars demand. To confront the politics of terror, out of a sense of democratic solidarity rather than retaliation, gives us some faint hope for the future: hope that we might be able to establish a vision of a global society, informed by civil liberties and human rights, that carries with it the shared obligations and responsibilities of common, collaborative citizenship.

Homi Bhabha is a professor of English and African-American studies at Harvard University.

——–

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, The Chronicle asked scholars in a variety of disciplines to reflect on those events. Their comments were submitted in writing or transcribed from interviews.

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