Alert Top Message

The AAUP office reopened on September 7, 2021. Contact information for all staff, including those working remotely or on a hybrid schedule, is available here



Call for Papers

The March 10 submissions deadline for the call for papers has passed, and we are no longer accepting submissions.



Volume 13: Memory Laws or Gag Laws? Disinformation Meets Academic Freedom

Since spring 2021, Republican state legislators across the United States have introduced dozens of new laws targeting curricula related to race and racism. A number of states have already passed laws or established administrative requirements to restrict the teaching of American history, while others are set to follow suit. Under the pretext of suppressing “divisive topics,” several states have introduced Orwellian limitations on speech in the name of free speech. Some states, including Idaho and Florida, now specifically ban the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), and Texas forbids students from learning about the 1619 Project in public K–12 schools. School boards, university governing boards, and educators across the country have been drawn into these manufactured controversies, which appeal to fears that white students may feel distraught about the legacies of genocide, slavery, dispossession, and systemic racism in US history. 

The deep transformations that occurred in the wake of the US civil rights movements of the 1960s were paralleled by an international academic revolution led by Stuart Hall and others at the Cultural Studies School in Birmingham, England; Paulo Freire’s foundational publication Pedagogy of the Oppressed in Brazil; and many other approaches to colonialism and to the history of settlement and plantation societies in the Americas. Their critiques of racism and racial oppression present understandings of history that challenge the narratives that have advanced the interests of people of European descent since early colonial times. The thrust of this work in the last two generations contributed to a more inclusive and antiauthoritarian pedagogy attentive to social justice. Periodically, the political Right has reacted to these movements for social justice and inclusion with demands for censorship and curricular bans. It is now employing memory laws to restrict academic freedom and censor history. 

Spurred by the recent upsurge in white ethnonationalism in the United States, conservative activists have attempted to reenergize white-settler narratives of the nation’s founding while vilifying histories that call attention to slavery, oppression, and dispossession. Their reactionary agenda utilizes many disinformation tactics, including the production and dissemination of a counterfeit version of critical race theory, and has resulted in numerous attacks on the academic freedom of educators.

For its next volume, scheduled for publication in fall 2022, the Journal of Academic Freedom seeks original articles that critically examine attempts at thought control by the Right, the whitewashing of historical narratives, and specific assaults on academic freedom that cut across the K–12 and higher education sectors, both in the United States and abroad. We will consider submissions on any topic related to academic freedom, but we are especially interested in the following topics:* 

Book and idea bans, educational gag orders, and other forms of censorship. Examples could include interrogations of counterfeit representations of critical race theory and curricular restrictions based on those fabrications, historical instances that draw on similar strategies, or analyses of such efforts in other countries. More specifically, we seek an expanded discussion of the AAUP’s brief to the Texas attorney general on the banning of ideas about race.

The 1619 Project versus the 1776 Project, and the academic profession. What are the overarching ideological differences and impulses behind efforts to reframe history, and how can faculty members resist such incursions? What ethical and scholarly frameworks can they develop to find common ground across the disciplines and institutions caught up in memory battles? Articles may address matters related to academic hiring, firing, retention, and promotion in conversation with the “race and history” culture war; salient controversies such as the tenure case of Nikole Hannah-Jones; or other implications for academic freedom and shared governance.

Doublespeak in educational policy, including the use of free speech rhetoric to suppress education about racial, gender, and LQBTQ+ inequalities. Contributors might examine rhetorical tactics by conservative activists or media that flip terminology and weaponize it against scholarly standards and academic freedom. This mechanism is evident in the various claims that CRT is reverse racism and therefore serves as a pretext to insist that educators yield to a “color-blind” logic that precludes teaching about racism. What are the consequences for higher education of claiming that educators are using “divisive concepts,” like racial inequality, while denying the impacts of exclusion of histories of racism and dispossession? 

Strategies for truthful pedagogies and content on racism, racial inequality, and oppression. What is the continued valence of CRT throughout all educational stages? We welcome discussions about the use of digital archives, material artifacts, memory places, statues, and other forms of public memory in the educational system. What is the potential role of national standards and frameworks to tackle divisive memories such as those of the settlement of the West, slavery, Native American legacies, Puerto Rican statehood, the Civil War, and the Mexican-American War? What can we learn from curricular efforts in other countries?

Features of recent Republican “memory laws” or case studies of legislation in specific states such as Florida or Texas. How might the introduction of such laws in the United States whitewash the teaching of history, literature, the social sciences, and other disciplines? What would happen if African American students in a state with a memory law spoke up in class to say that teaching the story of the founding fathers without reference to their slaveholding caused discomfort and anguish to them specifically as Black people? What have been the consequences of memory laws in other countries, and how have faculty and students resisted their impact in higher education?

Attacks on Black history and critical race theory and ethnic, Indigenous, and gender studies. As we have seen with attacks on Chicano/a, Indigenous, Asian, women’s, and gender and sexuality studies, right-wing efforts to institutionalize forms of thought control typically arise in reaction to social movements demanding greater inclusion and equity. How do reactions to the Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements correspond to broader counter-movement dynamics on the Right?  How are epistemological and curricular struggles related to specific power dynamics in larger movement and countermovement mobilizations? 

Indigenous peoples’ history and decolonization struggles. Indigenous peoples are largely absent from curricula at all levels of the US education system. How can our teaching and scholarship account for and redress efforts to deny or render invisible their histories? What are the obstacles, both from within academic disciplines and from beyond the academy, that scholars face in their study of Indigenous decolonization struggles?

Comparative approaches to memory laws, history, and academic freedom. Countries with histories of colonial violence and state-sponsored terrorism, or that suffered other types of totalitarian regimes, have developed intellectually rich debates and robust legislations about the role of the state in memorializing the victims of oppressive forces. The most salient examples are to be found throughout Europe, where Holocaust denial is penalized in several legislations. These antidenial laws offer a good framework to compare and contrast how other countries have tackled their own legacies of oppression and the memory of freedom fighters and what recent Spanish legislation has termed “memoria democrática” (democratic memory). How might we contrast memory laws that prohibit denial of historical traumas and bring more equity and inclusion to historical narratives, such as Spain’s, with memory laws that explicitly minimize or deny historical events and exclude voices from historical narratives?

* Topics were revised in January 2022 following the earlier release of the call for papers.


Electronic submissions of 2,000–6,000 words (including any notes and references) should be sent to [email protected] by March 10, 2022, and they must include an abstract of about 150 words and a short biographical note of one to two sentences about the author(s). Authors using pseudonyms must notify the journal at the time of submission, disclose their real names, and explain their reasons for wishing to keep their identities confidential. Please read our editorial policy prior to submitting. We welcome submissions by any and all faculty, staff, graduate students, and independent scholars. If you have any questions, contact faculty editors Michael Dreiling and Pedro García-Caro (please do not send submissions to their addresses). 

While this is an academic journal with submissions subject to peer review (authors should indicate with their initial submissions if this is useful or important to them), we welcome innovative and journalistic prose styles. The journal uses the seventeenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, and authors should anticipate that, if an article is accepted for publication, it will need to be put into Chicago style. Read more about the Journal of Academic Freedom.