Contested framings
Democratic conflict and the public university
in Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics
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This chapter provides a brief history of the campus politics of Palestine-Israel in Britain alongside a genealogical account of how the stakes, boundaries and grammars of these struggles have been represented in the media, policy interventions and research. Taking up Nancy Fraser’s emphasis on the injustices produced by framings of justice, I show how these public representations have made liberal, secular and nationalist assumptions so that they have been unable to account for the limits of consensus or attend to students’ complex investments in the Palestine-Israel conflict. In the process, I situate these campus struggles in relation to historically evolving relations within British society, the emergent geo-politics of the ‘War on Terror’, and the legacies of the Holocaust and British imperialism. Finally, I consider how public constructions of this as an ‘imported’, ‘ethno-religious’ conflict have failed to address the role played by the British university in shaping these dynamics. I discuss how, in a post-imperial, globalising world, universities in Britain have become conflicted in their public role, creating different challenges for institutions operating in a fragmented higher education field. I conclude by explaining my multi-sited approach in this study, describing my selection of case study institutions and introducing these field-sites.

Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics

Palestine– Israel in British universities


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