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The start of a new semester is frequently charged with excitement and a sense of fresh beginnings. But for Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct lecturer of political science at Brooklyn College, the beginning of this Spring semester brought the shock of discovering that he was unemployed. Making matters even more confusing, he was notified of his sudden termination less than two days after he had signed all of the paper work and formally accepted the college’s offer to teach a Master’s class at the college in Middle East politics.
When later pressed by the New York Times for an explanation of why Petersen-Overton had been fired, college spokesman Jeremy Thompson pointed to Petersen-Overton’s qualifications — or lack thereof — to defend Brooklyn’s decision to let him go just days before the start of spring classes. “Mr. Petersen-Overton was not sufficiently credentialed to teach at this level,” Thompson noted. “The course is an advanced [master’s] course and he is only three semesters into his doctoral studies.” Continue reading
Brooklyn College on Monday reversed an earlier decision not to hire an adjunct professor to teach a seminar on Middle East politics, a decision that the professor and others called politically motivated.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Karen L. Gould, the college’s president, said she had endorsed a recommendation from the political science department that the adjunct, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, teach the class this spring.
On his Web site, Mr. Petersen-Overton, who is a student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, called the decision “a victory for academic freedom and an outcome I think we can all be proud of.” Continue reading
I had some misgivings about teaching at Brooklyn College. Having worked for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip, and having written works critical of modern Zionism in the past, I knew that some students might take issue with my political views. Anticipating this, I devoted one of the earliest meetings in my course to the place of objectivity and humanism in scholarship—issues we all must confront and which I hoped might instigate a serious classroom discussion. Indeed, I never imagined that my affiliation with a group that combined the words “Palestinian” and “human” in its title would become suspect. Nor did I imagine that an analysis of martyrdom and its place in Palestinian identity would be crudely associated with admiration for suicide bombers. But most of all I did not expect to be dismissed before having been given the opportunity to hold a single session of the course. Continue reading
Last fall, it was an assigned book that brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict home to Brooklyn College. A wealthy alumnus said he was cutting the college out of his will because all incoming freshmen had been asked to read “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor there.
This week, it was a course — a graduate seminar on Middle East politics scheduled for the spring semester. The focus of the dispute was the adjunct professor who had been appointed to teach it, a doctoral student whose writings raised hackles even before he set foot in the classroom. Continue reading
I’ll be presenting my paper “Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice & the Signification of Palestinian National Identity” at the upcoming MPSA annual conference (March 31-April 3, 2010).
Sacrifice and struggle constitute two of the most important themes for contemporary Palestinian national identity. Physical displacement, exile, military occupation, and especially the struggles and sacrifices undertaken in resistance to these forces inform the narrative upon which Palestinian society imagines itself. This paper attempts to problematize Palestinian national identity by exploring the ideals of struggle and sacrifice as manifest in the concept of martyrdom. Continue reading