Door Nyíri Pál op 25 April 2022
Dear editor, As Mohammed Badran's thesis supervisor (as well as the person who nominated him for the Echo Award), I would like to correct Mohammed's inaccurate representation of why the first version of his thesis received a low grade. This was not, as he suggests, because of a clash between "non-Western" and "Western" perspectives, but because, in my view and that of the second reader, his argument about the materiality of passports was not convincingly related to the concepts he employed or adequately supported by his fieldwork -- in other words, the kind of criteria against which we evaluate all theses. The perspectives Mohammed employed were, incidentally, also based on "Western" scholarship. It is common for someone who writes about a subject of which he is part to feel that he knows it better than outsiders and that adapting an external perspective does not do justice to the subject. Whether distance is necessary for valid analysis and to what extent activism and sound scholarship can be mixed can be and is debated, but the boundary between inside and outside is not a racial one. While the possibility of a "non-Western" epistemology of social research remains a vexed one, it would surely be wrong to claim an exception from standards applied to others based one's "non-Western" origin -- just as Mohammed rightly criticises the Echo Award for drawing such a line. Nyíri Pál, Professor of Global History from an Anthropological Perspective

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