Academic Freedom and Censorship in a post 9/11 United States.

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Tapati Bharadwaj
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This is a collection of essays on academic freedom and censorship in a post 9/11 United States. The collection will be published by Lies and Big Feet, an independent publishing house based in India. For more, visit: or

Is there a threat to academic freedom in the United States, post 9/11? Are scholars and public intellectuals afraid to speak their minds and engage in a public debate as to how the state functions? When the American nation was formed in the eighteenth century, the works of Thomas Paine were seen as instrumental by those involved in the American Revolution. The French Revolution was also influenced heavily by the works of Thomas Paine. But his writings were considered incendiary by those Christian-British colonial powers who were living in the newly established colonies in the East. Even as his works were read by the citizens of the nascent American nation in the late 18th C, they were shipped across continents to India where the newly created colonized citizens were reading his works.

When Hindu College was formed in 1817 in Calcutta, it was a space where western learning and education was disseminated to the Indian natives for the first time. In the Life Of Alexander Duff, (1879), we learn how the nature of this western education encouraged native students to absolutely throw out tradition form their lives. Duff writes that by 1831, Thomas Paine's “coarse” writings were huge favourites; his Age of Reason, the Rights of Man, and “his minor pieces born of the filth of the worst period of the French Revolution were read avidly.” The demand of the reading public was satiated by an “American publisher [who] issued in a cheap octavo edition of a thousand copies, and shipped the whole to the Calcutta market; … [T]hese were all bought at once at two shillings a copy, and such was the continued demand for the worst of the treatises that eight rupees (sixteen shillings) was vainly offered for it.”

The writings of Thomas Paine must have been quite an eye opener for the newly formed colonial citizens, who after reading his works would have been busy figuring out the need for British presence in India. Paine’s works were seen as incendiary in India at that time period, but he is considered as a father of the American Revolution. Since then, over the last 200 years, has there been a gradual loss of such a kind of a public/ intellectual space in the United States?

For more details, please contact Tapati Bharadwaj at: tbharadwaj@yahoo.

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