Christopher Norris, professor of philosophy at Cardiff, sent the following message to Philos-L, in response to a CFP for a conference in the state of Georgia (re-published here with his permission):
Could I suggest that the Georgia CFP is a good opportunity for list-members to express their moral outrage at the murder of Troy Davis by the Georgia state and judiciary? This they might do either by withdrawing any previous commitment to attend the conference or by writing to the organisers and making plain their abhorrence of capital punishment generally and of this gross and hideous miscarriage of justice in particular. Short of that, delegates could make their attendance provisional on the organisers going public beforehand with a statement of protest and a commitment to do everything in their power to educate people concerning the moral evil of capital punishment. The organisers could make a good start on this by honouring Troy Davis’s memory at the outset of the conference and dedicating most of the sessions to aspects of his case and the urgent need for reform of the judicial system.
In the longer term, could British philosophers who share this view perhaps agree to boycott all conferences and so far as possible avoid all dealing with academic institutions in those parts of the US (especially the deep south) where this practice is carried on? They might even take the view – I do – that there is a moral obligation not to visit any part of the US so long as the infliction of capital punishment is left to the discretion of individual states under federal law.
I have mixed feelings about some of the suggestions he makes (e.g. academic boycotting of institutions located in states allowing for the death penalty), but I think this is a very good point. What can we, as philosophers, possibly do, both theoretically and practically, to fight judicial murder? I'd like to invite people to share their views on the matter.
UPDATE: Christine A. James, professor of philosophy at Valdosta State University in Georgia, sent the following reply to Prof. Norris on Philos-L, which I repost here with her permission:
I'm a philosopher living and working in Georgia, a transplanted resident to the state who is also actively engaged in fighting capital punishment ("a blue dot in a red state" in American vernacular). I grew up in a state that does not have the death penalty. I made a conscious decision to come to Georgia and teach at a publically supported state university, sharing the academic field I love with students who are the descendants of every possible economic status within the state, including descendants of former slaves. I'm trying to make a difference. I've enjoyed taking conference trips to the UK, Spain, Germany, Austria - each time I was openly apologetic about various US policies (especially when I was able to go to Wales and meet my distant cousins, and have serious talks about the different lives the parts of our family had led). As someone who is in this state fighting the good fight, let me simply express the wish that you not abandon people like me and my students. I have no direct connection with this planned conference or with the SPCW, but I recognize that conferences with a wide range of international and national participants are necessary for the intellectual enrichment of this state. If you agree that attitudes on the death penalty can be shaped by education, and that education can suffer in the context of academic boycotts, please just consider that the suffering you hope to impose on the economically related tourism industries in the context of a conference will be accompanied by a commensurate suffering in the educational and cultural development of this state. I share your frustration over capital punishment, please know that there are academics like me trying to change Georgia from within and we hope for your continued interaction.
It's clear that both Prof. Norris and Prof. James are 'on the same side'; the question is how best to oppose judicial murder. I thought it would be pertinent to post Prof. James' reply here so that we have different sides of the story in the same post.