Duke University Professor Scores One For Academic Freedom

I wrote earlier about the lack of an academic backbone at Yale University, whose Yale University Press refused to publish the controversial “Muhammad” cartoons.

I learned today that Duke University’s Voltaire Press will be publishing a book containing these images, in high quality color, along with several other controversial drawings.

From the Volokh Conspiracy:

I’m pleased to be the first to report that the newly founded Voltaire Press at Duke University has just published Muhammad: The “Banned” Images. The book includes all the images that were omitted by the Yale University Press from Jytte Klausen’s The Cartoons That Shook the World — including the 12 Mohammed cartoons — plus many more historically significant items (a total of 31), together with brief discussions of the context behind each work. The images, reproduced in high quality and in full color, include works by William Blake, Gustave Dore, and Salvador Dali, as well as Muslim artists from the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.

If you’re interested in reading the book, you can order it here. You can also ask your local public or university library for it, which I think will increase the chances that the library will buy it, and make it available not just to you but to others.

Let me also applaud Duke University for making a worthy stand on this issue, and with amazing quickness for the academic sphere.

Three cheers for Duke!


4 thoughts on “Duke University Professor Scores One For Academic Freedom

  1. Dear Mr. Shay,

    Thank you for mentioning my book Muhammad: The “Banned” Images. Two points, though, of clarification.

    “Duke University’s Voltaire Press.” Voltaire Press is not affiliated with Duke University Press in any way. VP was formed as an imprint within my program. We consciously avoided working with any university presses because we don’t not want a repeat of the debacle at Yale University Press, and we wanted the book to appear this decade.

    “Let me also applaud Duke University.” Neither the university nor any of its faculty (other than me) or administration were involved in the publication of this book. We used all independent contractors, again to avoid another kerfuffle and to bring the book to market quickly. I want to avoid any implication that Duke University endorses this book.


    Gary Hull

    • Professor Hull,

      Thank you for your comments and clarifications.

      I drew my conclusions (erroneously, I now know) about the Voltaire/Duke connection from Mr. Volokh’s post:

      “the newly founded Voltaire Press at Duke University”

      My apologies.

      Am I also to conclude from your comment that you feel Duke University would not have endorsed such a book (or at least endorsed its ability to be published)? If this is the case, then I may have to retract my congratulatory statements (or at the very least change the title of this post!).

      In any case, I thank you for your efforts to continue the dialogue on a difficult and sensitive topic. I look forward to reading your book.

      Best regards,

      Shay Colson

  2. Shay, Dr. Hull is just trying to be careful.

    Duke U is officially neutral on the subject of the book, as should be the case. Yale was NOT neutral, I should point out.

    The point is universities should not be in the business of endorsing, or preventing, speech.

    Still, I’d like to think that Duke deserves the “Yay” shout out you give us. After all, now the entire set of cartoons are published, so people can read, or not, as suits them.

    • Dr. Munger,

      I think you’re right – Dr. Hull is doing a good job of being careful, as is needed on such a sensitive topic.

      You suggest that Duke still deserves credit or recognition for the publication of this book. After doing some more research on this topic, I’m not as sure.

      I think that Duke only deserves credit if they would, indeed, be willing to publish this book themselves (which, as we know, is not being published by the Duke University Press). As you say, “universities should not be in the business of endorsing, or preventing, speech.” Although Duke may be officially neutral, there is significant sub-context in the fact that the publisher of this work is someone other than Duke.

      If you think that Duke University and the Duke University Press would be willing to publish this work in its current form, then I think Duke deserves the shout out. If not, then I don’t feel they’ve earned it (though I would hesitate to put them into the same camp as Yale U.).

      Thanks for the read, and the comment.



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