Which Literary Festivals Should You Boycott?

I’m open to the idea that my answers below are moderately to very wrong; please add your own in the comments or over email. [Note from later: There was also a boycott of the Qatari translation conference demanding the release of the poet Muhammad al-Ajami. Advertisements

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2 replies


February 23, 2017 • 10:16 am

It is a slightly different context but perhaps this blog I wrote on boycotts might answer some questions for some people. The poet has since been pardoned.] If writers want to make a positive difference, I would start by listening. Probably don’t go with the idea of saving anyone. Does attending a US-sponsored event make you complicit in drone bombings? In response to   the urgent request, I tossed together some very quick thoughts about   the interviewer’s questions, given (unedited) below. Read literature and literary history of the place where you’re going. Questions:
1. About other countries with human rights issues: I don’t think it can make a positive difference unless there’s a unified boycott movement with a specific aim, as there is with the BDS movement to affect change in Israel. 2. What difference can authors make by attending literary festivals in countries with human rights issues? Literary festivals funded by the Israeli government certainly create such a moral choice, as there is a BDS movement in place asking authors not to attend. Yesterday, ArabLit   got an “urgent” email interview request about “the issues facing authors when deciding whether or not to attend literary festivals in places like UAE”:
This comes just ahead of the 2017 EmiratesLitFest. Are there any that you think authors should attend and why? Last year, there were calls for international authors to boycott the festival,   and this call gained some traction in European   media. Are there any you think pose an ethical problem for authors wishing to attend? I’dd add that the climate-change argument is certainly a valid one, and if authors want to stop traveling internationally in order to shrink their footprint, that’s laudable. 3. Answers, provided backwards:
4. I think these connections between literary communities, when allowed to grow organically, can be key in sparking and fertilizing new literary movements. 1. 2. I am planning to attend this year’s EmiratesLitFest, as well as the London Book Fair that follows. Reply ↓ What advice would you give to authors invited to literary festivals in the Middle East? 3. Does attending the first-ever Saudi ComicCon in Jeddah make you complicit in the actions of the Saudi government? Thanks http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-boycott-ever-legitimate/

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February 23, 2017 • 3:09 pm

Some great questions to ask oneself, thanks Eoin. A handful of authors have made decisions not to attend literary festivals in the US/Trumplandia, and I absolutely applaud their integrity. Cairo LitFest just ended, and my delight with global participation is entirely separate from my thoughts on Abdelfattah al-Sisi. All actions create an opportunity for moral choices. 4. Each writer needs to make their own choices.