The Problem with Campus Watch


During my final year as an undergraduate student in Canada, I took a class taught by a professor whose monograph–which was required reading–argued that conflict, partisanship, and oppression in the Middle East were fundamentally attributed to tribalism. One lecture focused on honor killings as distinct from, and worse than, other kinds of domestic homicide because they were symptomatic of a violent (Arab/Islamic) culture. At another point in the semester, the professor suggested that Arab states should be thankful that they are in such close proximity to a democracy like Israel. It was in the context of conducting research for this class that I discovered Campus Watch, a project associated with the Middle East Forum that provides critiques of the discipline of Middle East studies in North American universities. Campus Watch highlights five main problems plaguing the discipline today: “analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students.” Initially thinking that I had stumbled upon a project that sought to combat the kind of offensive and deeply essentialist views that were being espoused in this classroom, I soon realized that this professor might have been just the kind of academic that Campus Watch lauded.

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