Engaged research = Terrorism: Germany arrests social scientists
Germany arrested urban sociologist Andrej Holm because of his academic activities. He was accused of being member of a “terrorist association” called “militante gruppe” (militant group) who is suspected to be behind arson attacks against police and army vehicles.
Holm was arrested because his publications contain keywords and phrases, which are also used in the texts written by the Militante Gruppe (especially the term “gentrification"). The warrant also claims that Holm is intellectually capable of authoring the rather sophisticated texts of the militant groups, since he has a PhD in political science. This person is also said to be suspicious because »he works in a research institution and thus has access to libraries, which he can use inconspicuously for doing the research needed to produce the texts of the militant group«.
After lots of emails the protest against German authorities has become global. The American Sociology Association demands that the Federal Prosecutor immediately release Andrej Holm and the other imprisoned from jail at once:
We strongly reject the outrageous accusation that the academic research activities and the political engagement of Andrej Holm are to be viewed as complicity in an alleged “terrorist association". No arrest warrant can be deduced from the academic research and political work of Andrej Holm. The Federal Prosecutor, through applying Article § 129a, is threatening the freedom of research and teaching as well as social-political engagement.«
What is especially troubling to me as an Activist or Public Scholar is that Dr. Andrej Holm, Dr. Matthias B., Florian L., Oliver R. und Axel H. were investigated and arrested for the kind of activities that I and most other socially conscious social scientists routinely engage in.
Over the course of my career I have engaged in research and writing about Civil Rights for Nonwhite minorities, Affordable Housing, and most recently the rights of the newest immigrants in the United States and abroad.
If such work can so easily be presented as “potentially” (therefore actually) criminal then it must follow that critical academic activities of all sorts, including those that are only distantly related to political and social engagement can be horribly transformed, by the State, into crimes of subversion and terrorism.
I understand that we live in dangerous and difficult times but such menacing actions by those who are sworn to protect the rights of its citizens must be ever more cautious and reluctant to use its power to take those rights away and cast a chilling shadow across the scholarly community that historically has been a bastion against tyranny.
Academic Advisory Council, Attac Germany warns that “if this reasoning is accepted by society it will destroy the fundamentals of a critical public in a free society. If the reasoning is taken as evidence for the membership in a terrorist organization, critical science is put under general suspicion.”
The Open letter to the Generalbundesanwaltschaft (Federal Prosecutor) against the criminalization of critical academic research and political engagement has already been signed by many of the most known social scientists.
More information on the website http://einstellung.so36.net/en
Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen: The war on shapeless terror. There seems to be no rational basis for the arrest of a group of German sociologists, and the case highlights the fragility of our civil liberties (Comment is free, The Guardian, 20.8.07)
Pessimistic Views on Academic Freedom: A greater percentage of social scientists today feel that their academic freedom has been threatened than was the case during the McCarthy era (Inside Higher Education, 15.8.07 via Savage Minds)
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