Statement of Solidarity with the “People’s University For Gaza” encampment at UBC

Members of the faculty leadership and staff teams of the Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement (ACRE) and the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration (ACAM) Studies program express our solidarity with the “People’s University For Gaza” encampment at UBC and our unwavering support of the rights of students, faculty, staff and community members to participate in the encampment as an exercise of their free speech and assembly rights.

The “People’s University for Gaza” encampment at UBC exists in protest of Israeli state violence in Palestine, the well documented attacks on Palestinian civilians, and the targeted destruction of schools, universities and hospitals in the last few months.  It is one of a growing number of campus-based, student-led encampments across the world, which put into practice commitments espoused by universities, including UBC, to global engagement, academic freedom, public relevance and inclusive excellence.

We understand the encampment as part of a long history of student and community activism, including the Third World Liberation Front in the late 1960s, which led directly to the establishment of critical ethnic studies.  As Asian Canadian studies scholars and teachers, we recognize that our own field owes its existence to this history, and we continue – in our research, teaching, and community engagement work – to commit to the principles of decolonization, anti-racism, and anti-imperialism that have been foundational to it.  In his essay “Palestine is in Asia”, theorist and writer Viet Thanh Nguyen also reminds us of our particular ongoing intellectual and political debt to the Palestinian American postcolonial theorist Edward Said. As his work on Orientalism and other Saidian postcolonial theories remain foundational to our syllabi and curricula, our research agendas, and our creative and community work, we must never forget that Said “was Palestinian and claimed the Palestinian cause as his own”.  Nguyen reminds us of this fact not to compel us simply to enfold Said and Palestine into the scholarly formations of Asian American and Asian Canadian studies. Instead, for Nguyen, this reminder is an invitation for us to commit to an ethic of what he calls “expansive solidarity.”

It is in this spirit that we affirm our solidarity with the “People’s University for Gaza” encampment’s right to free speech and assembly, its participants’ work to educate themselves and others, and the student calls for UBC to take meaningful action, including by:

  • Divesting from companies that profit from the genocide and oppression of Palestinians
  • Participating in the global academic boycott of Israeli state institutions 
  • Condemning genocide and scholasticide in Palestine

Organizers have been clear that there is no tolerance for discrimination or harassment in the encampment.  As we witness escalating violence directed at other student encampments and their allies, including by the police, we also call on the UBC administration to recognize and respect the rights of encampment participants to free speech and assembly, and to refrain from exercising carceral and punitive measures that will disproportionately harm vulnerable members of our community, including racialized, Muslim, 2SLGBTQ+, and international students.

This statement was drafted by members of the faculty leadership and staff teams of ACRE and ACAM.  It does not reflect the official views of UBC or the views of all affiliated ACRE or ACAM faculty members, staff, students, community partners and community members.