Kennedy School lecturer Marshall L. Ganz ’64-’92 and Rutgers University associate professor Noura Erakat discussed power and decolonization in Palestine and Israel in a virtual conversation hosted by the Divinity School on Wednesday.
The event was a part of a series hosted by the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative at the Divinity School, where Erakat is a fellow. Hilary Rantisi, the associate director of the initiative, introduced the speakers.
Ganz kicked off the discussion by questioning how people mobilize around their struggles. He responded to his own question by referring to the teachings of the Protestant theologian Walter Brueggemann, who wrote about the relationship between criticality and hope.
“One, [Brueggemann] calls criticality, which is a clear view of the world’s need, of its pain, of its hurt, coupled with hope — that sense of its promises, possibilities — and that one without the other goes to despair or irrelevance,” Ganz said. “The tension, together, can inspire transformational change.”
Erakat drew on her background in activism to answer the question.
“My greatest education — like you, Marshall — was not from my institutions of academic excellence, so to speak, but have actually come from the ground, have come from community, have come from struggle,” Erakat said. “My greatest teacher about power was being a student activist at UC Berkeley.”
Erakat also described how her family and friends in Palestine had pushed her to engage in “a more traditional form of power” through the political establishment.
Still, Erakat said she felt that there was a need to address other forms of power — “how we’ve captured institutions, or how we’ve created cultural shifts, or how we’ve introduced language.”
Ganz emphasized the importance of accompanying discussions of power with action.
“The intellectual work of deconstructing ideas that are problematic, I think, is important. But it’s also got to be accompanied by the constructive work of building power and not simply identifying the sources of a lack of power,” Ganz said. “That, to me, is the challenge.”
Erakat concluded the conversation by calling on the audience to endorse Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — a Palestinian-led movement advocating for boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel.
“There is a way that you can be involved and be a part of helping us to grow more, and be a part of that change and changing power,” Erakat said.
—Staff writer Kenny Gu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KennyGu8.