Sami al-Arian, the Politics of Injury, and the Academic Bill of Rights

I look here at the allegations against Sami al-Arian's alleged terrorist affiliations in order to question the limitations to liberal defenses of academia. The paper criticizes the "freedom of speech" arguments for academic freedom for reproducing class and race hierarchies and for being unable to disassociate the category of "speech" from the category of "violence." Al-Arian's alleged connections to terrorism made him into a poster-child for a post-September-11 right wing version of what the so-called "liberal academy" has become. For this reason, I think it important to ask here: 1) in what ways, to what extent, and why, has the defense of civil liberties, and therefore of democratic culture, become unworkable as a formative goal and function of the university; and 2) if there are other ways of formulating the role of higher education that do not depend on reiterative evocations of equal citizenship defined as a First Amendment practice. As Judith Butler puts it, "It is crucial to ask under what conditions some human lives cease to become eligible for basic, if not human rights."