Moshe Shokeid, “Can Academics Change the World?: An Israeli Anthropologist’s Testimony on the Rise and Fall of a Protest Movement on Campus” (Berghahn, 2020)

AD KAN (NO MORE) was founded in 1988 by a group of academics at Tel Aviv University. The initiative, a public pressure group, was prompted by public indifference (at best) about Israel’s 20-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and its forceful attempts to suppress the nascent First Intifada popular uprising in the West Bank. Whilst outward facing in their basic ambitions, the founder members of AD KAN also understood that academia’s failure to engage with the realities of the moment—through debate, protest, even applied research—could easily be taken too as acceptance of the status quo, embodying as it did the subaltern position of the Palestinian people.

Can Academics Change the World? An Israeli Anthropologist’s Testimony on the Rise and Fall of a Protest Movement on Campus (Berghahn Books, 2020) by Moshe Shokeid, is a personal account of the author’s experiences as co-founder of AD KAN. An account of dissent on campus, the book is at once a memoir, a historical account, and an anthropological consideration of the academic’s responsibility as a public intellectual.

Can Academics Change the World? remains relevant today, with many of the issues underpinning the formation and activities of AD KAN still live: the occupation of the West Bank; attempts to force Israel into concession and compromise, principally through the Boycott, Diversification, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; and the continued status of the academic as public intellectual, in Israel and elsewhere—this cast against a university landscape that has reorganized itself around a different set of principles in the three decades since AD KAN ceased its activities.

Professor Moshe Shokeid is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. His other books include Three Jewish Journeys through the Anthropologist’s Lens: From Morocco to the Negev, Zion to the Big Apple, the Closet to the BimahA Gay Synagogue in New YorkChildren of Circumstances: Israeli Emigrants in New York; and The Dual Heritage: Immigrants from the Atlas Mountains in an Israeli Village.

Akin Ajayi (@AkinAjayi) is a writer and editor, based in Tel Aviv.

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