When sexual predation marks academic boundaries

I happened to be reading a journal on anti-colonial and migration studies from Beirut, when I got to know that one of the works being analysed was a work by a professor who had sexually harassed me.

He is still at the university, running free, gaining academic success. And here I am, in Paris, wondering whether women in this community across the Mediterranean are safe.

I was sexually harassed in May 2013, four years ago. I did set up a case against him, but the outcomes were not to my satisfaction. The level of efficiency of rule of law in Lebanon along with my previous experiences of sexual harassment from the local army meant that I decided to go through the university legal structure to seek remedy. After a long painful trial that lasted the summer, and after long testimonies given over Skype from India, I got an email from the then president of the university saying that the professor in question will undergo compulsory counselling. That’s it! No firing. No kicking him out of the university and the country! No shaming him in the academia as he continues to write about colonial subjugation.

Right now, I am realizing that some of the academics I would have wanted to work with and who fall into this group of anti-colonial writers are mostly men and would laugh if I ever brought up the misdeed of their fellow academic. I would find that my strength as a woman academic would be questioned. This is not the first time I find myself locked in the academic networking chain, so crucial for one’s success as a writer and an intellectual, because of the prospect and memory of sexual predation.

I find it ironic indeed, that this brown anti-colonial man attempting to re-write histories of subjugation is himself a creator of subjugation. I remember very well the event of harassment. I remember him, as we sat together for dinner at his place, beginning to cite some cringing phrases from the then popular Fifty Shades of Grey. While I clearly tried to express my disgust, he went forward to grab my hand, refusing to let me go out of the house and I began to realize the quick turn of the event. I did finally manage to get out of his apartment.

It took me many days to understand what had happened. I had refused to name it as sexual harassment. It was only during my conversation with fellow women classmates that I realized that this form of interaction, between someone who is a professor and someone who is a student is not normal. So much for the colonial subjugation!

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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