Steven Salaita, the Critical Importance of Context, and Our Professional Ethics

Sveta Stoytcheva


Shared professional ethics are an important aspect of North American librarianship; these ethics highlight values including diversity, social responsibility, and intellectual freedom. However, these values are contested, politically charged signifiers that are often in conflict. This paper proposes an “ethics of contingency” for librarianship that acknowledges that our values are contextually bound and negotiated and explicitly draws attention to power. As a case study, the paper considers Steven Salaita’s dismissal from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the context of institutional oppression—a context that has been under-examined in discussions of the case within librarianship. Interrogating the issue through these lenses can help illuminate the stakes of this debate, and others like it, for our work as academic librarians.


professional ethics; institutional oppression; critical librarianship; Salaita case


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Copyright (c) 2016 Sveta Stoytcheva CC BY-SA

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