Do academic boycotts work?

Posted March 21, 2022

A piece by Simon Baker, for Times Higher Education:

The Ukraine war has led to unprecedented curtailment of academic ties, but could breaking off all relations with Russia cause further problems?

The sheer brutality of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has presented a challenge to the interconnected global academic community that it has arguably never faced on such a scale.

Ukrainian academics within and outside the country – as well as many other scholars horrified at the terror inflicted by Russian forces – have often been vociferously clear: there are no circumstances under which academic ties between Western academics and those in Russian institutions can continue while such an onslaught is being maintained. […]

The reach and the speed of the decisions to sever ties are exceptional compared with previous political actions in the academic sphere, such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in relation to the Israel-Palestinian conflict or refusals to work with South African academia during apartheid. […]

Although all these actions have broad support, they are also raising fundamental questions about international research collaboration, academic freedom and the flow of knowledge that always come alongside the prospect of scientific sanctions, although perhaps never against the backdrop of a war of this scale and type.

Read the full piece. 

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