Pranav Jani

Pranav Jani


* English professor at Ohio State University
* Marxist
* Encourages his students and colleagues to become political activists

Pranav Jani earned a BA in English from Yale University in 1993, an MA in English from Indiana University in 1994, and a Ph.D. in English and Post-Colonial Studies from Brown University in 2001. He became a Marxist when he was introduced to Marxist literature during his years as a graduate student, and has been a member of the International Socialist Organization since 1995. Today Jani describes himself as “a socialist of color.” He has served as an Assistant Professor of English at both Wagner College (2000-04) and Ohio State University (2004-present). A passionate endorser and practitioner of what he calls “radical action” in the form of demonstrations and protests, Jani writes that he has been “consistently disappointed by the [low] level of activist engagement in the academy.” 

In the September 28, 2001 edition of the Socialist Worker, Jani wrote a panegyric to the victims of 9/11 who happened to be illegal aliens: “Lists of the dead and the missing from the World Trade Center [WTC] tragedy are updated daily as New York City mourns the victims. But we may never know the full length of another list – the undocumented workers killed on September 11.” Among those unfortunates, Jani cited the “window washers [who] braved great heights to keep the buildings gleaming,” the “delivery workers [who] transported food to the offices above,” and the “workers making pizzas, washing dishes, delivering flowers, staffing delis, cleaning rooms, operating elevators” – all of whom “kept the WTC running.”

In December 2004 Jani served as a presenter at a conference held in tribute to the late Columbia University professor Edward Said.

In May 2006 Jani participated in some of that year’s massive “immigrant rights” rallies demanding education, voting rights, social welfare benefits, and ultimately amnesty and citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States.

With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, Jani has long viewed Israel as “an apartheid state” that bears most of the blame for the hostilities in the region. He supports the creation of a single, “secular democratic state with Jews and Arabs living side by side,” rather than a two-state solution. Such a plan, if enacted, would render the Jews a permanent minority in their country, an arrangement that would threaten not only their human rights but also their very lives.

While Israel was engaged in an anti-terror military campaign known as Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, Jani emceed a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel rally in Columbus, Ohio, where he led fellow demonstrators in chants of “Long live the Intifada,” “Free Palestine,” and “Stop the killing, Stop the crime.” He blamed “U.S. funding” for enabling Israel to “commit these atrocities.” And in an interview at the site of the rally, Jani said that the Hamas militants who had provoked the Israeli invasion by launching multitudes of deadly rockets from Gaza into Israel were not engaging in terrorism, but rather in “an act of self-defense.” “Any resistance against a colonial occupier is justified,” he explained, though noting that “I may not agree with a specific tactic that a particular group uses.” When asked if Hamas should be regarded as a terrorist organization, Jani replied: “It depends how you define terrorism…. I think the word terrorism is so politically loaded, that it’s not the kind of question that gets us anywhere…. [I]n the politically loaded use of the term today — [where] terrorism equals what Hamas does, but not what Israel does, not what the U.S. does, by definition — If that’s the definition that we use, then I reject the idea.” Jani also described Hamas as “a group that has a grassroots backing from the Palestinian people” and “has been leading a resistance against a colonial occupation.” “I would defend Hamas as actually doing practical things to fight Israeli colonialism,” he said.

Jani is an avid supporter of the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement against Israel. In May 2016 he testified before the Ohio House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, where he spoke in opposition to House Bill 476, legislation designed to prohibit state agencies from contracting with companies or individuals who were either boycotting Israel or divesting from the Jewish state.

An committed backer of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Jani deplores “the sheer racist brutality of the state against Black people and other POC [people of color], unleashed and made acceptable as it has been for hundreds of years.” “The extreme oppression against, the targeting of, and the incarceration of Black people in the U.S. is a central edifice of an increasingly unequal and undemocratic society,” he adds.

In addition to the activities cited above, Jani has also been a member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty; coalitions against U.S. involvement in various wars (Haiti, Serbia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan); groups promoting gay marriage and abortion rights; and Palestine solidarity organizations. Moreover, he was active in the Occupy movements on the OSU campus and at the Ohio Statehouse. He has maintained a personal blog since April 2005, and he served for some time as a non-fiction editor for DesiLit magazine, a forum for “contemporary writing and art focused on South Asia and the diaspora.”

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