[Click here for previous lectures in the series.]
We are pleased to announce the launch of The Bisan Lecture Series (BLS) in concert with Scientists for Palestine and the Bisan Center for Research and Development. It will take place every second Wednesday of the month at 7 pm Palestine time (6 pm Central European Time, 12/noon US Eastern time) during the academic year.
The BLS aims at the full integration of Palestine into the global learning community. It sponsors discourses on subjects of cultural, scientific, and societal importance by leading research experts and public intellectuals of varied heritage and viewpoints. The interactive webinars are free and open to the public, and recordings of each will be posted soon afterward.
The first lecture will be given by Prof. George Smith (the University of Missouri, Nobel laureate in chemistry in 2018) on March 9, 2022. The second lecture will be given by Dr. Honaida Ghanim (Director of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies “MADAR”, Visiting Professor at Birzeit University) on April 13, 2022. The titles and abstracts are available here and here.
The Bisan Center for Research and Development which sponsors the BLS and which gives it its name is a non-governmental, nonprofit, democratic, and progressive Civil Society Organization (CSO) that seeks to enhance Palestinian abilities and potential for building an active civil and democratic community. It was established in 1989 and officially registered with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in 2004. The Bisan Center aligns itself with the poor and marginalized in Palestinian society, as it works to support their struggle in advancing their socio-economic rights and builds partnerships with other progressive institutions. Among other activities, the Bisan Center regularly produces research reports centered on various problems of development, gender, youth, and social justice. These reports are published (in Arabic) in its annual journal Al-Taqadomi, which is peer-reviewed and focused on issues of development.
The Bisan Center is one of the six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations designated by the Israeli Defense Minister “terrorist organizations” on October 19, 2021. This baseless defamatory accusation targets organizations recognized for their professionalism and competence in the field of human rights through research, exchanges, advocacy, and training activities. Their work is frequently cited by United Nations experts and major international NGOs. The Israeli decision to declare them “terrorists,” with the intention to defund them and make them cease to operate, is a new step aimed at criminalizing Palestinian civil society actors. It constitutes a new violation by Israel, the occupying power, of international humanitarian law and of its obligations as a state party to the various human rights conventions to which it has acceded.
The BLS is a response by the international academic community to the Israeli attacks on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, in particular, their rights to education and academic freedom. We stand in solidarity with the six Palestinian NGOs targeted by the Israeli government, and through them with all Palestinian civil society, in particular with Palestinian academics and students.
The BLS website is accessible here. To receive BLS announcements, you can subscribe to the mailing list here. Zoom registration for the first lecture by Professor George Smith is open here.
1. Wednesday, 13 April 2022, 7 pm Palestine time.
Dr. Honaida Ghanim (Director of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies “MADAR”, Visiting Professor at Birzeit University)
Title: Post-justice, exceptionalism, and the normalization of Apartheid
Abstract: The post-justice concept is introduced here to theorize the normalization of oppression, dispossession, and Israeli Apartheid in international relations. Post-justice is a state of indifference in which the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil is irrelevant to politics. Because post-justice is a product of unequal power relations and rests on in-deep oriental racism toward the Palestinian, it facilitates colonization and apartheid through various tools that emphasize the “exceptionalism” of the colonizer. In doing so, I draw my examples from the Israeli ongoing and official subjugation of the Palestinians, the privatization of colonization in East Jerusalem and mixed cities, settlers’ violence in the West Bank, the enactment of the nation-state law, in parallel to the Israeli international relations expansion.
2. Wednesday, 11 May 2022, 7 pm Palestine time.
Dr. Gertrudis Rojas (Center of Molecular Immunology, Havana, Cuba)
Title: Soberana vaccines against SARS-CoV2: handling antigenic complexity in a versatile biotechnological process
Abstract: The advent of COVID-19 in Cuba has given rise to an urgent need for effective vaccines in the face of severely limited resources. To meet this challenge, Cuba relies on diversity: multiple production facilities with different platform technologies, multiple vaccine antigen formats, and multiple vaccine candidates. The Soberana family of vaccines are an important component of this complex landscape whose story is written at the interface between biology and chemistry. Their specific antigen component is the virus’s receptor-binding domain—its RBD.
The RBD is a promising vaccine antigen because it’s the part of the main viral surface protein that binds specifically to the receptor protein ACE2 on human cells to initiate infection. People vaccinated with the RBD produce antibodies that can prevent infection by blocking the interaction between the virus’s RBD and the ACE2 receptor on cells in vaccinees’ airways, lungs, and other tissues. A specially engineered form of the RBD was prepared by recombinant DNA technology in mammalian cells—living factories that produce the protein in a natural human-like environment. The RBD was then incorporated into vaccine platforms that had already been developed by Cuba’s extensive vaccination programs, creating three vaccine candidates, Soberana-01, Soberana-02, and Soberna-Plus, that are already being tested and deployed.
3. Wednesday, 14 September 2022, 7 pm Palestine time.
Prof. Salim Tamari (Birzeit University and Institute for Palestine Studies)
Title: Autobiographic Narratives of the Great War and the Creation of the New Middle East
Abstract: The Great War on the Eastern Front, looked at from the passage of one century, led to major transformations in the way in which the people of the region – from the Ottoman capital of Istanbul to the Arab provinces of the Empire – looked at themselves and at the world. What I propose to do is to see how the war and the fighting were reflected in the biographical trajectories of soldiers who fought in it and civilians who endured it, and how the war affected the transformation of their lives and the reshaping of their identity and affiliations during and after the war.
The war was so devastating that, according to contemporary accounts, it took a toll of one-sixth of the total population of greater Syria—one of the highest among all war fronts during that period. In this presentation, I will examine this great transformation through the lives of three civilians and three soldiers whose life trajectories marked the transition from Ottomanism to the new Middle East of Arab and Turkish nationalism. The writers include Khalil Sakakini, who kept a diary during the war in Jerusalem. His account is riveting in that it captured a vivid portrait for the desolation of the city in 1915 and 1916, the famine years. Muhammad Kurd Ali’s Damascene memoirs include his period as a publicist, some critics would say apologist, for the excesses of Jamal and Anwar (Enver) Pashas in Syria and Palestine. The most important fictional work to come out of the Great War in Arabic is The Life of Mifleh al Ghassani (1921) by the Palestinian writer and journalist, Najib Nassar, whose the novella is a thinly disguised autobiographical war memoir of the author, who spent 1916-1917 hiding from the Turkish gendarmes in the Bedouin encampments of the Jordan Valley.
4. Wednesday, 12 October 2022, 7 pm Palestine time.
Prof. Nancy Kanwisher (MIT)
Title: Functional Imaging of the Human Brain: A Window into the Architecture of the Mind
Abstract: The last 20 years of brain imaging research has revealed the functional organization of the human brain in glorious detail. This work has identified a set of regions of the cortex, each of which is specifically engaged in a particular mental task, like the recognition of faces and places, perceiving speech sounds, understanding the meaning of a sentence, and thinking about another person’s thoughts. Other brain regions play a more general role in intelligence, getting engaged when we perform nearly any difficult mental task at all. Each of these regions is present, in approximately the same location, in every normal person. I like to think of this initial rough sketch of the functional organization of the brain as a diagram of the major components of the human mind, a kind of picture of who we are as perceivers and thinkers. But at the same time this new map is just the barest beginning, revealing a vast landscape of unanswered questions. What other specialized regions exist in the cortex, and what are they specialized for? What exactly is computed and represented in each region? What are the structural connections of each region, and how does information flow among them? How do these regions arise in development, and how much of the organization of the brain is specified at birth? How did brain regions specialized for uniquely human mental abilities evolve? Perhaps most fundamentally, why, from a computational point of view, is the brain organized the way it is, with this combination of highly specialized brain regions, along with very general-purpose systems? These open questions are much harder to answer, but I will mention a few tantalizing glimmers that are beginning to emerge from labs around the world.
In concert with Scientists for Palestine and the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and in keeping with their joint commitment to full integration of Palestine in the global community of learning, the Bisan Lecture Series sponsors discourses on subjects of cultural, scientific, and societal importance by leading research experts and public intellectuals of varied heritage and viewpoint. The interactive webinars are free and open to the public, and recordings of each will be posted soon afterward.
Bisan Center for Research and Development
The Bisan Center is a non-governmental, nonprofit, democratic, and progressive Civil Society Organization (CSO) that seeks to enhance Palestinian abilities and potential for building an active civil and democratic community. The Bisan Center was established in 1989 and officially registered with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in 2004.
The Bisan Center aligns itself with the poor and marginalized in Palestinian society, as it works to support their struggle in advancing their socio-economic rights and builds partnerships with other progressive institutions. Among other activities, the Bisan Center regularly produces research reports centered on various problems of development, gender, youth, and social justice. These reports are published (in Arabic) in its annual journal Al-Taqadomi, which is peer-reviewed and focused on issues of development.