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Academic freedom is a crucial requirement for intellectual progress. Yet, this freedom is often taken for granted--we usually assume that academics are free to research and theorize about any subject which interests them. However, the freedom granted to those who pursue popular topics is not always extended to those who refuse to shy away from controversy.
Recently, Cambridge University Press (CUP) refused to publish a book about ethnic identity in the Greek province of Macedonia, written by former Harvard visiting scholar Anastasia Karakasidou. CUP executives claimed that the publication of her book, Fields of Wheat, Rivers of Blood, might have sparked violent retaliation by Greek nationalists against CUP employees in Greece. In her book, Karakasidou states that Macedonians may consider themselves Slavo-Macedonian rather than Greek, and this assertion could challenge Greek authority in the region.
However, Harvard Professor of Anthropology Michael Herzfeld, who resigned from the editorial board of CUP in protest, interprets this matter much differently. He sees the decision as a clear violation of academic freedom. In an interview with The Crimson last week, Herzfeld said, "It is the moral duty of the university presses to defend [academic freedom] as far as they are able to and [CUP] did not do that."
Herzfeld disputes CUP's fears of violent reprisals, claiming that CUP did not make a realistic assessment of the potential danger to their Greek employees. He attributes their fears to racist stereotypes of Greeks as "violent and uncontrollable." Karakasidou, who received police protection while at Harvard, says the issue is not nearly as volatile as it was two years ago. And Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies Margaret B. Alexiou also concurs that the publication of the book would not seriously endanger CUP's employees in Greece.
Fortunately, Karakasidou's book will be published next year by the University of Chicago Press. However, CUP's decision not to publish the book, after a year-long review and revision process, remains troubling. We support Herzfeld and his academic colleagues at Harvard and other institutions who have criticized and protested CUP's policies. Currently, Herzfeld and Stephen Gudeman, a professor at the University of Minnesota, are circulating an e-mail message that urges professors not to submit manuscripts to CUP. This call for a boycott of CUP has been dubbed the "Internet Manifesto." However, Herzfeld is careful to stress that CUP's previously published works should not be boycotted-this would be a further incident of censorship.
We applaud this effort to call attention to the issue of academic freedom. CUP should be held accountable for its censorship. Partial academic freedom is unacceptable-it is no freedom at all.
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