Logic(s) Enters The Collective at Incite

J. Khadijah Abdurahman

When the Gaza Solidarity Encampment was announced at Columbia, I was sitting outside of my house in Jimma, a zone in Oromia, Ethiopia. It was a cognitive dissonance to witness, via social media, the New York City Police Department’s threats against, and eventual brutalization of, Ivy League students against the backdrop of the Great Lawn’s clinically idyllic scenery. Members of our team who are based in New York City quickly rushed uptown to purchase supplies requested by the encampment, protesting that first day as the police dragged them out, and returning repeatedly in the weeks that followed. That initial impulse catalyzed an organization-wide reckoning with our complicity on account of being administratively housed within Columbia, and an examination of our specific duties to fortify demands for the university to divest from a genocidal occupation—even though we, as an organization, neither primarily serve nor are staffed by faculty and students. This began with a suspension of normal operations on April 18, the day the university’s president, Minouche Shafik, authorized the NYPD to violently disperse the student encampment, resulting in the arrest of most of its direct participants.

How could we continue business as usual within an institution that is violently enforcing its investment in genocide and criminalizing students it supposedly exists to serve? What does it mean to interface with Western academic institutions when there are none remaining in Gaza, and when many students in Tigray and Sudan are deprived of attendance due to the relentlessness of genocide there? Also, how could we approach this when the majority of our team lives outside of New York City and, with few exceptions, had never previously been to Columbia’s Washington Heights campus?

The consensus was that to remain within Columbia was not ethically tenable; however, the way forward wasn’t immediately apparent, because Logic(s)’ model also relies on leveraging the university’s administrative support structure to drive resources into places rarely supported by academic institutions. One thread lost in the many statements that posed faculty and/or students in binary opposition against the administration is that the latter is not primarily composed of counterinsurgency positions like Student Affairs, or the elite cabinet of the president et al. More than half of those who work at Columbia are administrative officers like myself who underpin, and contribute to, academic capacity to produce knowledge—including processing visa applications on time, setting up community members as vendors in order to move money out of the institution towards those we claim to represent, developing public communications, and bolstering outside partnerships with day-to-day operational support. Leaving is not just a question of identifying a new fiscal sponsor through which to move grant funding; it also requires the reconstitution of the staff and all the procedures required by a complex administrative project like Logic(s)—a challenging, but not impossible, endeavor.

Ultimately, we’ve decided to establish a collective of aligned projects at the Incite Institute, effective July 1, 2024, that will begin to agitate against structures that reproduce inequalities within the university and for the people our work centers. We will actively seek to deprive the university of resources while working toward a new configuration for these projects that ensures the interests of the people who engage with Logic(s).

We will deploy a combination of strategies to avoid channeling administrative resources into the university. Where this is impossible, we will seek to actively identify how we are financially supporting university leadership and work to offset those costs. We will share the procedures we develop for other like-minded groups, in order to lend collective support to their efforts while divesting it from the many aspects of university life that run counter to our mission. Indeed, this should be a priority of any nonprofit university seeking to improve the material conditions of the lives and worlds it touches.

The way universities across the US, Europe, and Canada have beaten, criminalized, and arrested students and faculty demanding financial transparency and divestment reveals both the ethical and pragmatic bankruptcy of a network of legacy institutions with which society has endowed responsibility to produce knowledge for the public good. We need other models for universities and for the production of public scholarship. Arguably, this is at the core of what Logic(s) has already sought to do; with the combined efforts of The Collective, we seek to deepen this commitment to developing operational capacity to this end. This transition is not an attempt to provide symbolic catharsis but to concretely and materially build out the infrastructure and ideas to support transnational resistance movements in their own right, and as they relate to computation and technology more broadly. For now, we have found a temporary solution within our home at Incite that allows us to continue producing the work and ideas that you have seen in the most recent issues of Logic(s). As we advance in this work throughout the next academic year, we will begin to organize ourselves into partnerships and approaches that drive energy away from the university’s fortified walls and toward an ecosystem capable of supporting world-building projects.

As part of this decision, we have also decided to transfer the money raised for stipends for the Palestinian Journalist Fellowship to another organization that will co-administer the program with us. More information will be released in the coming weeks, but we’re very excited to soon get these resources to Palestinians doing the work we need so much more of in the world. We see this as a blueprint for supporting community-led reporting across many other contexts and hope to launch similar initiatives in the future.

J. Khadijah Abdurahman

Editor in Chief

Khadijah Abdurahman is the editor in chief of Logic(s).

This piece appears in Logic's upcoming issue 21, "Medicine and the Body." Subscribe today to receive the issue as part of a subscription, or preorder at our store in print or digital formats.