Good relations, freespeech and political activism
in Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics
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This chapter begins by asking how sociology can respond to the abnormal and tragic transnational politics of Palestine-Israel. I discuss how my ethnographic approach challenges the violent abstractions of dominant political theories and offers a distinctive contribution to the field of the ‘anthropology of ethics’. I then address a series of questions arising from my research into campus struggles around Palestine-Israel. First, what social conditions enable ethical modes of relationality to develop between student activists? Second, how can a sense of ethical relations as responsive to the singularity and uncertainty of ‘the other’ come into tension with the political expression of moral commitment and coherent action? And how can more complex, localised ethico-political responses be scaled up to the level of more broadly mediated communications, in which reductionist, symbolic representations flourish? Grounding my responses to these questions in an ethnographic vignette, I show how an easily overlooked interpersonal encounter carries the potential to transfigure the seemingly intractable tensions between ‘free speech’, ‘good relations’ and ‘political activism’ within universities. In this way, this book concludes with an - at once - philosophical and ethnographic response to the continued presence of the Palestine-Israel conflict within British campuses.

Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics

Palestine– Israel in British universities


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