Tag Archives: AAA

About the American Anthropological Association

A Smear in Disguise: Comments on Starrett

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to present  Charles Hirschkind‘s powerful rebuttal to Gregory Starrett’s recent essay in Anthropology News that discredits the call to boycott.

Voting on the resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions is open to all AAA members from April 15 – May 30. You can watch an informative webinar covering the basics of the boycott at this link — featuring anthropologists Ilana Feldman, Lisa Rofel, and Nadia Abu El-Haj. You can also read the AAA’s Israel-Palestine Task Force report here.

***

A Smear in Disguise: Comments on Starrett

Charles Hirschkind

In “The Symbolic Violence of Choice” (Anthropology News, March 2, 2016), Gregory Starrett denounces the Resolution to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions currently being considered by AAA members on numerous grounds. Despite a thin and misleading veneer of impartiality, the essay is unequivocal both in its condemnation of the proposed resolution and its disparaging assessment of those who support it. Having read the piece a number of times now, I find it profoundly confused, a set of rhetorical feints disguised as an analysis. But given the timing of its publication, just before AAA members must decide on the boycott initiative, I feel that a serious response is necessary. Continue reading

Walter Benjamin in Palestine

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to offer this reflection on a Walter Benjamin conference in Palestine by David Lloyd, ally of anthropology and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California at Riverside. Lloyd finds that such a conference is “a model…for an alternative to the insidious corporatization of our intellectual and creative lives under the neoliberal dispensation we all confront, wherever we reside, and not only in occupied Palestine.”

Walter Benjamin in Palestine

The law which is studied but no longer practiced is the gate to justice. The gate to justice is study.            

Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka.”1

Walter Benjamin never did go to Palestine. Despite frequent invitations from his friend Gershom Scholem, who emigrated there in 1925, and despite the rapidly deteriorating situation for European Jews in the 1930s, he never abandoned whatever ambivalence prevented him from making a decision he often contemplated. The reasons for that ambivalence are unclear, though his critique of Zionism for its racism was early and prescient. Scholem reported that Benjamin had named, among the three things that Zionism would have to abandon, its “racist ideology” and its “”blood and experience’ arguments”.2 Whatever he foresaw before its foundation about the predictably racist evolution of the so-called “Jewish State”, and however the ugly ethnic exclusivity of such a state would have stuck in his craw, there can be little doubt that Benjamin would have recognized in the current state of Israel and its occupation that “state of emergency” that his last writing recognized to be the permanent state of the oppressed.3 Continue reading

It’s Not the End of the World, It’s a Necessary Challenge to Our Cosmology: reflections of an Israeli anthropologist

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions was thrilled to receive this essay from an Israeli anthropologist working in an Israeli state institution. The post is anonymous in order to protect the person from the attacks such supporters of the boycott from within increasingly face from their colleagues, administrations, and government. For more on Israeli anthropologists’ criticisms of their colleagues’ anti-boycott stances, see here and here.

Come to the boycott vote on Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm! See Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2, Vote Yes for Justice.

***

It’s not the end of the world, it’s a necessary challenge to our cosmology

By: Anonymous

When I was in first grade my teacher Ms. B. tried to teach us children a lesson on gravity. She drew a large round circle to signify the earth, surrounded by small stick figures placed all around it. ‘You see,’ she explained, ‘gravity works the same way all around the world, that’s why none of the people fall off.’ As citizens of the northern hemisphere we six- and seven-year-olds found this picture very perplexing. ‘We already understand gravity,” we insisted again and again, “we know we don’t float off the floor. We just don’t understand how people don’t fall off the bottom.’

When I hear progressive Jews and Israelis these days voice their heartfelt and terrified opposition to the proposed academic boycott of Israeli institutions, I am reminded of this picture. I am a Jewish Israeli academic and my milieu includes, mostly, other left-leaning Jewish Israelis like myself. When my colleagues insist they genuinely care about and reject the horrors of the occupation, I know they mean it. We already know – not just intellectually, but, so we think, in our basic physical experience of the world – about inequality, about human rights, about injustice. But when it comes to shifting the cosmology so as to include true equality with our Palestinian students and colleagues, we are confused and panicked. The world is being upended by the boycott movement in a way we cannot stomach. Continue reading

The Anti-Boycott Resolution: Entrenching the Status Quo, Denying Justice

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions rejects the anti-boycott resolution put forward for a vote at the AAA meetings. While claiming to support peace and justice for Palestinians, it reproduces the very structural inequality that drives the conflict.

Vote No on the Status Quo, Vote No on Resolution 1

Vote Yes for Real Change and Justice, Vote YES on Resolution 2

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote on Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2, for the boycott.

***

The Anti-Boycott Resolution: Entrenching the Status Quo, Denying Justice

At this year’s American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meeting, anthropologists will vote on two resolutions concerning Israel’s systematic violations of human rights.

Resolution 2 endorses the Palestinian call for boycott as an effective and nonviolent means to pursue their fundamental rights. By contrast, Resolution 1, submitted by the group, “Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel/Palestine” (ADIP), rejects the boycott in favor of “dialogue.”

Anti-boycott Resolution 1 must be seen for what it is: a thinly disguised vindication of an unjust status quo. Last year in Washington, D.C., the AAA’s membership voted overwhelmingly against a remarkably similar anti-boycott resolution. This year, boycott opponents are attempting to achieve the same goals – only this time they have added a mild reprimand of the occupation, boilerplate diplomatic talking points, and a vague charity program. Despite its perfunctory references to Palestinian human rights, Resolution 1 does not propose any concrete actions for pressuring Israel or its academic institutions into ending their discriminatory practices. Instead, it proposes “focusing research, debate, and teaching in and about the region,” as if the many anthropologists of Israel/Palestine who support an academic boycott have not been doing precisely this for decades. In restricting its criticism of Israeli policy to empty words, Resolution 1 disregards the unanimous conclusion of the AAA’s Task Force on Engagement with Israel/Palestine that censure alone would “be an insufficient course of action.” Continue reading

Stand in the Place Where You Live

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents this compelling statement of support from the perspective of Latin Americanist anthropologist Diane Nelson.  She connects the struggles in Guatemala to those in Palestine via US empire and colonial processes of enclosure and dispossession. Just as the AAA has acted in the past to affirm that Guatemalan lives matter, it is time to assert that, in Nelson’s words, Palestinian lives matter too.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2.

***

Stand in the Place Where You Live

Diane M. Nelson

I support the AAA boycott resolution because I have spent 30 years as a gringa (North American) working in Guatemala amid the detritus of US support for genocidal military governments.  Working with Guatemalans struggling for equitable conditions of life, justice, and redress I have learned that a large part of my role is to bring that struggle back to the US because “we” are such a potent player in blocking, materially and ideologically, the efforts to make other worlds possible.  Guatemalan lives matter. Mayan lives matter.  Once I acknowledge this basic claim, I have to ask, Who gets away with murder?  Who gets away with theft?  Who gets away with destroying the ability to live and continue to generate life?  In Guatemala it is national oppressors with transnational banks and geopolitics and respectability (and some folks with crazy visions of apocalypse) backing them up.  Academics tend to have rather weak weapons against such foes.  Yet the intensity of the negative reactions to the BDS movement suggest we’ve found a finger in the wound, a way to catch the beast’s attention.  A way to bring struggles back to one of the many sources of injustice.  Claude Levi-Strauss suggests there is a mutilation inherent in the vocation of anthropology, that we tend to be critics at home and conformists abroad.  The BDS movement is precisely about criticizing at home, attempting to level the playing field so Israelis and Palestinians can work out possibilities without the enormous weight of an imperial power backing only one side. Continue reading

Dialogue as Diversion

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents this incisive critique of the dialogue approach to ending the Israeli state’s occupation. Fida Adely and Amahl Bishara reveal how calls for dialogue mask a grossly asymmetric power relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to Know. VOTE YES on Resolution 2.

***

Dialogue as Diversion

Fida Adely & Amahl Bishara

What types of engagement are needed to end decades of occupation and repression of Palestinian human rights? Some call for more dialogue and argue that if only those interested in peace on “both sides” talked to each other more, this conflict would end. However, dialogue by itself will never end occupation. Across academic, cultural, and political fields, calls for dialogue obscure the tremendous asymmetries between Israel and Palestinians. In this way many dialogue initiatives disguise the real issues of settler-colonialism, oppression, and occupation, and act as a kind of marketing tool rebranding the reality of separation and apartheid as a fantasy of “coexistence.” Continue reading

Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions presents Jemima Pierre’s powerful critique of anti-Black violence in Israel and its connections to the oppression of Palestinians. This essay is a very important anthropological contribution to the renewed U.S. Black-Palestinian solidarity sweeping the academy and beyond.

For more information on the upcoming boycott vote at the AAA, Friday November 20 at 6:15 pm, see: Voting at #AAA2015 — What You Need to KnowVOTE YES on Resolution #2.

***

Zionism, Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Palestine

Jemima Pierre12

The video begins mid-action. A Black man sprawls on the ground. He seems injured. He tries to move but his efforts are slow, labored, slight. There is blood beneath him, fresh and bright against the polished white floor. On the edge of the frame, people move frantically. The Black man is encircled. Someone holding a gun – he looks like a soldier – steps forward and kicks the Black man in the head. From the bottom right of the screen, an orange bench is thrown, smashing into the head of the Black man. Someone – another soldier? – waves the others back and lifts the bench from the Black man’s head. Another man carrying a book bag quickly walks towards the Black man and swiftly kicks him in the head. His body spins across the floor, leaving a large smear of red blood. The man with the book bag walks away, unhurried. The Black man tries to lift his arm. A large White man places the legs of a tall stool over him. The man appears to be shielding the man on the floor from further attack; he yells at the crowd, flailing his arms, waving people away as they try to advance on the Black man. He is actually trying to keep the Black man from escaping. A person from the growing mob gets in another kick at the almost lifeless Black man on the ground, and the stool is briefly knocked away. The large man quickly replaces the stool over the victim while frantically screaming at and waving away the enraged mob.

I can no longer watch. Continue reading

Israel BDS — Why I Signed…Reluctantly

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to present this thoughtful reflection on the boycott by James Ferguson. The American Anthropological Association will be voting on a pro-boycott resolution (Resolution #2) at its annual business meeting at 6:15 pm on Friday, November 20. His essay joins others on this blog, by scholars such as Partha Chatterjee, Talal Asad, Rosemary Sayigh, and Bryan BoydWe urge all anthropologists to look at the facts of the boycott and VOTE YES on #2 if attending the meeting.

***

Israel BDS – Why I Signed…Reluctantly

James Ferguson

I did not come easily to the decision to sign the petition supporting an academic boycott of Israeli universities.  My experience has been that academic boycotts can easily do more harm than good.  They harbor the risk of creating divisions between scholars working on the outside (for whom grand denunciations come easily, and often without cost) and those on the inside (at least some of whom may be progressive intellectuals of courage and commitment, working under the most challenging of circumstances, who may resent rather than welcome attacks on the institutions that support them).  There are also, it must be said, risks of hypocrisy, when American scholars righteously denounce foreign universities while saying little about their own comparatively lavishly-funded institutions, which are of course dripping with their own forms of complicity with militarism and imperialism.

In a complex situation, however — one, moreover, of which I personally have only very imperfect and limited knowledge — I feel obliged to give great weight to the views of those more knowledgeable than myself.  This is, after all, the most basic sort of trust that we rely upon as a scholarly community.  And it seems clear to me that the members of our intellectual community whom I judge to have the most knowledge and the best understanding, both of the Israel/Palestine situation in general and of the political role played by Israeli academic institutions, are in strong support of the resolution.  This is not just a question of a list of names, but a set of convincing arguments that has been assembled by an impressive assembly of scholars, many of whom I know to be not only fine researchers, but fair-minded persons of honest character and good judgment.

We are right to pause and discuss over this complex issue, and not to blithely assume that a repugnance for Israel’s policies simply or automatically warrants a boycott of its academic institutions.  And, in truth, I would be happier if the boycott were more closely aimed at specific practices of specific institutions (certainly, this would be desirable if our goal is to help transform Israeli institutions and not just to declare our opposition to the regime in the abstract).  But my assessment, in the end, after reviewing the arguments on both sides (and, as I have noted, giving special weight to the judgments of the scholars of the region whose work I know and admire, within anthropology and beyond) is that the boycott will find its fundamental meaning not within the academy, but beyond it.  In this light, we might see anthropologists’ support for the BDS movement both as a kind of public declaration that we have taken notice of the illegal and immoral conduct of the Israeli state and the institutions that support it, and as a small gesture of solidarity with those who have suffered most from that conduct.  That is reason enough for me.

Myths and Facts About the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to extend its original series on this blog in light of a boycott vote at the November 2015 American Anthropological Association meetings. Endorsed by Jewish Voice for Peace and over 1000 anthropologists, a pro-boycott resolution will be up for vote at the AAA Business Meeting at 6:15 pm on Friday, November 20. It is Resolution #2 on the docket. This post debunks common myths about the boycott, and urges all attending anthropologists to VOTE YES on #2 at the meeting.

***

Myths and Facts about the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions

 

Myth #1: The boycott prevents Israeli and U.S. scholars from working together.

Fact: The boycott is not directed at individuals; it is directed at the institutions in which they work. It does not deny Israeli scholars the right to attend conferences (including the AAA meetings), speak at or visit U.S. universities, or publish their work in AAA publications. Nor will boycott prevent U.S. scholars from traveling to Israel. Individual AAA members will remain free to decide whether and how to implement the boycott on their own.

 

Myth #2: Dialogue is a better way to support Palestinian rights than a boycott.

Fact: Boycott and dialogue are not incompatible; individuals will continue to dialogue even after this institutional boycott is implemented. But dialogue is not enough. Despite decades of dialogue and diplomacy, Israel has continued to act with impunity and the occupation has grown only more entrenched and dangerous. The anti-boycott resolution, “Engaging Israel Palestine: End the Occupation, Oppose Academic Boycott, Support Dialogue” (Resolution #1) simply repackages the status quo of dialogue without justice, and flies in the face of the unanimous conclusion of the AAA Task Force on Israel-Palestine that it is time for the Association to take significant action. Continue reading

Highlights from the AAA Israel-Palestine Task Force’s Final Report

The Task Force on AAA Engagement on Israel-Palestine issued its final report today. It is a long and thorough report, so I won’t attempt to summarize the whole thing. (There is already an “executive summary” in the report itself.) But as someone who has followed the issue for a long time, both through the extensive coverage here on Savage Minds as well as on the blog of the Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, and who is therefore suffering from “BDS fatigue” from the repetitive nature of some of the discussions, I still found much that was new and interesting in this report. Even with regard to topics that I am already somewhat familiar with, the report provides examples from the daily lives of academics working in the region which bring these issues to life. Accordingly, what I have assembled below is a rather idiosyncratic selection of highlights from the report, based on what jumped out at me and got my attention, along with some comments and reflections of my own. I hope it will encourage more people to read the full report.1 Continue reading

“Waiting” in the Neoliberal University: The Salaita Case and the Wages of an Academic Boycott

This essay by anthropologists Martin Manalansan and Ellen Moodie at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides an updated account of the fall-out from their institution’s un-hiring of Steven Salaita for his tweets critical of the state of Israel during its 2014 war on Gaza. It argues for a broader campaign against the revanchist state and neoliberalization of the university.

“WAITING” IN THE NEOLIBERAL UNIVERSITY:  The Salaita Case and the Wages of an Academic Boycott

Martin F. Manalansan IV and Ellen Moodie**

The crisis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has become known as “the Salaita case,” or just “Salaita.”  In common parlance the surname refers not so much to the Palestinian American literary scholar who signed a contract with the university in the fall of 2013 as to the choleric situation that emerged from the efforts of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, in collusion with other Illinois figures, to prevent Steven Salaita from coming to campus to join the renowned faculty at the American Indian Studies (AIS) Program. The decision came after Wise began receiving complaints from alumni and donors, as recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal. By now, few people doubt that a campaign against this staunch critic of Israel and author of several books was orchestrated by well-funded political lobby groups. Continue reading

The new AnthroSource is fantastic! Here’s why I won’t be using it.

I haven’t yet seen any official announcement from the AAA about the change,1 but if you now click on the “Login to use AnthroSource now” link from the top of the AAA website, you will get directed to this glorious webpage. Those who know me will be surprised to learn that I am not being the slightest bit ironic when I say the page is glorious. It truly is. Not only does it look great, but at long last searching through the back catalog of AAA journals is simple and easy. Even better, when you find something you can quickly access the content you are looking for without any hassles. If you are an AAA member you will have access to that content as part of your membership fee and won’t have to use your school’s VPN to get the content you want. Bravo to Wiley and AAA for pulling this off, it really should make AAA membership that much more attractive for everyone.

Having said that, I probably won’t be using this portal for my own research purposes. The first reason for this is that AnthroSource limits you to just two search options: you can search an individual journal, or you can through the entire catalog of all AAA journals. I almost never want to conduct either of these searches. The AAA archive is great, but I prefer to conduct narrower searches. For instance I might want to exclude archaeology journals, and journals focusing on Latin America and Europe, without confining myself to just one journal. Secondly, there are a number of Wiley anthropology journals not included in the AAA’s catalog that I would like to search along with the other cultural anthropology journals. These include: Anthropology Today, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Oceania, and Social Anthropology. Third, AnthroSource doesn’t currently offer an advanced search interface. That means you can’t limit the date range for searches or restrict your keyword search to the abstract or title of articles, etc.

Fortunately, it is already possible to conduct such a search via Wiley’s Advanced Search Page. Continue reading

Anthropology and the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions: Is an academic boycott effective?

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to present this final essay in a series dedicated to the issue of the boycott.  Previous essays by Talal Asad, Mick Taussig, J. Lorand Matory, Rosemary Sayigh, and Brian Boyd reflected on the decision to boycott such institutions. This piece considers whether such decisions will have the desired effect.  The evidence thus far says: yes.

 

Is an academic boycott effective? Ask Israeli leaders

I. ben Alek

I. ben Alek is a pseudonym for an anthropologist and long-time student of Israeli politics

“Israel has been blessed with a lot of talent that manufactures many excellent products. In order to export, you need good products, but you also need good relations. So why make peace? Because, if Israel’s image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts.”

 —Then President of Israel Shimon Peres, quoted in the Belfast Telegraph, May 18th, 2012.

How can an academic boycott of Israeli institutions be effective? While debating the issue at the 2014 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association, several colleagues insisted it could not be effective. This was a central criticism they had of the Statement of Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. After all, critics said, a potential AAA boycott resolution would only be boycotting some hundred or less anthropologists that work or study at Israeli institutions of higher education. Further, they argued, many of these scholars are on the left side of the Israeli political spectrum, and are finding little room to maneuver at a time when Israeli leaders are fanning the militarization of public opinion. Isn’t it counterproductive to undermine their position, as well as that of other dissident scholars, living and working there? A statement against boycott of Israeli academic institutions signed by some four hundred anthropologists claims also that such a boycott would “collectively punish” academics for the decisions of their government, and further that “A boycott of anthropologists and academic institutions plays into the hands of those supporting the current political stalemate.”
Continue reading

Anthropology and the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions: Brian Boyd

Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is pleased to present the latest in a series of essays reflecting on the decision to support the boycott until Israeli higher education ends its complicity in the violation of Palestinian rights (including academic rights).

This piece by Israel-Palestine archaeologist Brian Boyd joins earlier statements on Savage Minds by Talal Asad, Mick Taussig, J. Lorand Matory, and Rosemary Sayigh.

Archaeology and the BDS/boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions: some personal fragmentary reflections

Brian Boyd
Columbia University

Reflecting on why I support the proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions, I found myself looking back through fieldwork diaries I made while I was an undergraduate student in the late 1980s. The first set dates from early July to late September 1988, the second from the same period in 1989: the early years of the First Intifada. My fieldwork was as a volunteer on a French-Israeli archaeology project in western Galilee. In 1988, the team consisted of a French director, a Palestinian assistant, and around 20 students, almost all European and one or two Israelis. In 1989, the situation was similar, with the addition of one Palestinian student. The project was mainly funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs/CNRS and the excavation license granted by, as with all archaeological projects in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority. All archaeological licenses granted to a non-Israeli project director must bear the name of an Israeli co-director, despite that person not being an active daily member of the project team.

During those six months, the archaeological team lodged in the old youth hostel in the Arab area of the northern Mediterranean coastal town that Arabs call ‘Akka and Israeli Jews call ‘Akko. A Christian Arab family ran the hostel, and the town itself was part-Arab (the Old City), part-Israeli (the New City). At that time, I knew little about the Israel/Palestine situation beyond UK media reports, but clearly the recently announced Intifada (late 1987) was on everyone’s minds, especially in a town with Akka’s/Akko’s demographic. I befriended a local Arab café owner, who said he worked for “the labor party”. One evening, a few of us diggers visited his café to find it full of tourists of different nationalities – Japanese, American, British, French. The owner had gathered them together from a number of tour parties and had given them cold-water melon on this hot day. After talking with us all about the Intifada situation, he orchestrated an international chorus around his tables – “We want peace! We want peace!”, over and over. This was, I guess, my first “political” encounter with an Arab person, and one which has stayed in my mind because of the contrast I was seeing between (a) this spontaneous Arab-led international “happening”, particularly hearing the call for peace, and (b) the fairly heavy Israeli police and military presence that I had seen everywhere since my arrival in the country only a few days before. Continue reading