This roundtable will discuss challenges to academic freedom posed to those working on and in Asia, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the academic community, universities, publishing houses, and professional scholarly associations
In particular, the roundtable is motivated by the difficulties and restrictions encountered by the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) and the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) when organising conferences in, respectively, Thailand in 2017, and India in 2018. In both cases there seems to have been a lack of awareness and contingency plans. Nor were there clearly stipulated strategies on what to do when facing restrictions, including threats to participating academics. These incidents are just the latest in a series of worrying developments for academics working on and in Asian contexts—from the revelation that publishers are willing to censor content to ensure access to the Chinese market, to the increasing ability of repressive regimes to threaten and coerce academics domestically and across borders.
The roundtable will discuss questions such as: What are the challenges to academic freedom in Asia today, and how does it affect local scholars and academic collaborations across borders? How can the academic community and professional associations rise to these challenges, and what methods and strategies are needed? How can we as individual scholars support colleagues in Asia and rise the issue of academic freedom in our home universities? What are the considerations that need to be taken into account when planning and organising conferences in countries where academic freedom is not respected and scholars have been silenced? What are the actions and contingency plans that universities and professional associations need to develop when/if facing interference in conference topics, or restrictions on/threats to participants? How can universities and publishing houses ensure and safeguard academic freedom? Should we be looking to work with Asian institutions with the aim of helping to strengthen academic freedoms and civil society—if so, how should individual scholars, universities, and professional associations best proceed? What platforms and networks are there in order to support or host scholars who are facing repression and restrictions in their home countries in Asia?
The participants in the roundtable will each briefly address a distinct threat to academic freedom. This will be followed by a general discussion between participants and attendees aimed at identifying practical ways in which the academic community can respond to the challenges.