Society for Cinema and Media Studies
Middle East Caucus / Caucus on Class
March 21-25, 2012 - Boston, MA
The concept of boycott has been theorized in many ways, inter alia as a buyer’s strike, a form of consumer resistance, a means of non-violent political protest, and a mode of low-intensity warfare. Perhaps the most famous, large-scale boycott in recent historical memory is the international boycott of South Africa, which effectively served to help dismantle and overturn the Apartheid regime. Boycotts have also been implemented in support of union struggles and in protest against breaches of consumer product safety. And they have been deployed to pressure population displacement, for instance by pre-state Zionists against Palestinian labor in British Mandate Palestine.
Of pertinence to SCMS is the fact that the boycott of South Africa entailed a prominent cultural aspect. Not only did the anti-Apartheid movement target corporations such as IBM for their significant business dealings with South Africa, but also institutions of cultural production, including film and television industries, their divisions and venues along with their subsidiaries, affiliates, and associates, in protest against their ideological and/or economic support for Apartheid.
The practice of cultural boycott has been directed quite vocally in more recent years against the state of Israel. For various reasons more controversial in the U.S. than was the anti-Apartheid boycott, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has accrued public attention and support unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Barely a week passes without at least one more major show biz figure announcing her refusal to perform in Israel unless at the very least it stops expanding its colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories. In July 2011, Barbara Hammer, one of the most important and influential lesbian/feminist filmmakers of all time, declined a fellowship from an Israeli foundation for precisely this reason. In 2009, several Canadian filmmakers, among them John Greyson and Elle Flanders, challenged the Toronto International Film Festival’s "Spotlight on Tel Aviv" by threatening to pull their own works from that festival.
What are the implications for U.S. filmmaking and for the field of cinema and media studies of the BDS cultural boycott? Should film and media scholars participate in this boycott, thus also joining the BDS call for an academic boycott? Why or why not? What grounds and criteria should be supplied in gauging and evaluating the advisability and/or strategies and tactics of this particular boycott?
E-mail proposals for 10-minute position papers by August 25, 2011 to .
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