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The AAA Process and Discussions of the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions

Today’s guest blog post is written by AAA members, Fida Adely and Lara Deeb

At the upcoming (December 2014) annual meeting of the American Anthropological Society (AAA), several panels will take up the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, providing a context for learning about how anthropologists have been and could be further engaged in a just resolution. Several of these forums specifically focus on discussion of the call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. We support this boycott, but whether or not you agree with our position, we would like to clear up some circulating misinformation about how the discussion is taking shape in the AAA.

As of late, a number of people outside anthropology who are either opposed to an academic boycott, and/or opposed to any discussion or debate of such a boycott, have criticized the AAA for failing to provide “balance” in this annual meeting programming, implying that somehow this was deliberate on the part of the AAA, or at best, a glaring oversight. It is important to note that all of the panels mentioned above were vetted through the standard review process for proposed events at the annual meeting, the deadline for which was February 15 of this year (see the call for proposals). Indeed, the panel on the AAA program that, based on its title, will present an argument against the academic boycott was also submitted and vetted through this process. If there are fewer panels that seem to argue against the academic boycott rather than support it, this is because fewer were submitted by AAA members for inclusion on the program.

To those who suggest that opponents of the academic boycott were “surprised” by the multiple panels discussing the issue on this year’s AAA program: It is worth noting that this is the second year that discussion of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions has taken place in this venue. The 2013 AAA Annual Meeting included a well-attended panel of papers addressing various aspects of the boycott, and at that panel, a draft resolution was circulated and attendees were informed that further discussion of the boycott would take place at the 2014 Annual Meeting. The passing of academic boycott resolutions at the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Asian-American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and other academic associations should also have been an indication that similar discussions would arise at the AAA and elsewhere. This is not a matter that is somehow limited to anthropologists but a broader response from scholars to a call for solidarity from Palestinian civil society, in particular the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees. Clearly a few people understood that this would be discussed at the AAAs, as there is an anti-boycott panel on the program. If people do not find that particular panel “credible,” it is not the AAA’s fault.

There are a number of possible explanations for the dearth of anthropologists from major Israeli universities on panels addressing these issues. Those scholars may not have wanted to open up discussion of the academic boycott, as indicated by a letter from the Israeli Anthropological Association that condemns the AAA for its panel selections and for focusing on Israel as a key topic of discussion at the upcoming meetings. Yet it may also, instead, be an indication that it is not an easy task for Israeli scholars to publicly advocate the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – for fear of reprisals or punishment under Israeli government anti-boycott laws. While boycott advocates are not calling for scholars working in Israeli institutions to boycott their own institutions, some scholars in Israel have spoken out in support of the boycott. More than forty Israeli anthropologists responded to that letter from the Israeli Anthropological Association in a counter-letter defending the right of their anthropology colleagues to have this discussion. Notably, quite a few of the signatories on the second letter chose to sign anonymously, highlighting the very real possibility of sanctions, especially for early career scholars. As demonstrated in the IAA letter, those opposed to the academic boycott of Israeli institutions have sought to shut down even the mere discussion of the boycott. The default “anti-boycott” position is to not address it at all. This may provide a possible explanation for why only one such panel was organized and submitted for inclusion on the 2014 Annual Meeting program.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the demand for “balance” in the context of an academic conference such as the AAA Annual Meeting is a puzzling one. What does balance mean in this context? That every argument should have a counter-argument? That AAA should henceforth review proposals with “balance” of theoretical and ideological leanings in mind? The AAA leadership’s job is to make sure panel proposals meet minimum criteria and are vetted through an established peer review process. They are not tasked with – nor should they be tasked with – micromanaging the conference program. Those who demand “balance” are asking the AAA leadership to interfere with existing process by which the conference comes together each year, something we are certain neither Association members or those in its leadership positions think is a good idea.

It’s Webinar Wednesday!

Join Dr. Ken C. Erickson this afternoon at 2pm ET for Webinar Wednesday! Registration is required, webinar is free: http://bit.ly/1lU3FNY

KenDoing “Consumer” Anthropology, Warnings and Advice*

Whether its burgers or Boeing, anthropological technique and theory have found significant purchase in the business world. Sometimes. The questions Anthropologists ask often lead to discomfiting revisions in thinking about who buys products and services and what using or experiencing them means. Bringing anthropological stories to the enterprise table can even raise fundamental questions about the nature of business. Fundamental questions (about value, valuation, sustainability, and suffering caused by organizations, for example) need not be laid aside while asking and answering enterprise tactical questions. Using video examples and tales from the field, this webinar offers tips and tricks for finding an anthropological focus that can be heard and, sometimes, become levers to think about and change organizational practices.

DSP Member Special Invitation – New Faculty & Students receive 30% off membership dues

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA Membership Manager, Haleema Burton.

AAA is kicking the fall semester off with a special invitation to Department Services Program members for 30% off membership dues to your new faculty and students. As a benefit of DSP membership, this special invitation will provide substantial savings for both membership and registration rates for the upcoming 2014 AAA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Here is an informational flyer that can be printed and posted or distributed. This is a limited time offer for first-time and lapsed (5 or more years) professional and student members who are affiliated with a DSP member that ends on October 15, 2014.

http://www.aaanet.org/membership/DSP-Members.cfm

Doing “Consumer” Anthropology

Join Dr. Ken C. Erickson next Wednesday afternoon for Webinar Wednesday! Registration is required, webinar is free: http://bit.ly/1lU3FNY

KenDoing “Consumer” Anthropology, Warnings and Advice*

Whether its burgers or Boeing, anthropological technique and theory have found significant purchase in the business world. Sometimes. The questions Anthropologists ask often lead to discomfiting revisions in thinking about who buys products and services and what using or experiencing them means. Bringing anthropological stories to the enterprise table can even raise fundamental questions about the nature of business. Fundamental questions (about value, valuation, sustainability, and suffering caused by organizations, for example) need not be laid aside while asking and answering enterprise tactical questions. Using video examples and tales from the field, this webinar offers tips and tricks for finding an anthropological focus that can be heard and, sometimes, become levers to think about and change organizational practices.

Anthropologists Announce New Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) announces the creation of the Task Force on AAA Engagement with Israel/Palestine, part of a broad association effort to respond to members’ interest in dialogue about the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict. The Task Force is charged with helping the Executive Board consider the nature and extent to which AAA might contribute to addressing the issues that the Israel/Palestine conflict raises. It will report to the Executive Board by October 1st, 2015.

Task Force members were appointed by AAA President Monica Heller based on criteria including: significant expertise in relevant subject areas (e.g. conflict; historical memory); a representation of the main sub-fields of archeology, linguistics, biological, and cultural anthropology; understanding of the association; no two members from the same organization or university; no one with publicly identified positions on the issue.

The members of the group are Chair Don Brenneis (UC-Santa Cruz; AAA past president), Niko Besnier (University of Amsterdam), Patrick Clarkin (University of Massachusetts-Boston), Hugh Gusterson (George Washington University), John Jackson (University of Pennsylvania), and Kate Spielmann (Arizona State University).

The Executive Board has asked the Task Force to: 1) enumerate the issues embedded in the conflict between Israel and Palestine that directly affect the Association. These issues may include, but are not limited to, the uses of anthropological research to support or challenge claims of territory and historicity; restrictions placed by government policy or practice on anthropologists’ academic freedom; or commissioning anthropological research whose methods and/or aims may be inconsistent with the AAA statement of professional responsibilities; 2) develop principles to be used to assess whether the AAA has an interest in taking a stand on these issues; 3) provide such an assessment.

This may include providing a comprehensive and neutral overview of arguments for and against a range of specific possible stands on these issues, as well as on any broader but relevant issues that are raised in the context. The Task Force will also recommend whether or not the Association should take any action, and if so, will recommend what form it should take. To read the full Task Force charge, please visit http://bit.ly/1t9ELse.

“The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is of great relevance to the AAA, and it is worth the investment of time and careful thought that the Task Force is being asked to make,” Task Force Chair Don Brenneis said today. “The Association’s engagement in the relevant issues may take several forms. We want to be sure that we have the facts straight, and a clear understanding of the impacts associated with our choices before we recommend to the Executive Board a course of action.”

2016 Call for Editor-In-Chief, American Anthropologist

The American Anthropological Association seeks applications for a new Editor-in-Chief of the discipline’s flagship journal, the American Anthropologist, for a four-year term beginning July 1, 2016. Now in its second century of continuous publication, the American Anthropologist publishes articles, reviews, and commentaries from the diverse anthropological community. It is the most widely circulated anthropology journal published by the American Anthropological Association and showcases the breadth of the discipline.

Editorship of the journal provides a unique opportunity for an anthropologist to be a central player in anthropological scholarship shaping the discipline’s identity, impacting the future of anthropology, and initiating and participating in transnational dialogues. The editor is not expected to have expertise in all subfields of anthropology, but to be interested in creatively developing vital conversations within and across fields and national boundaries that will invigorate and contribute positively to the landscape for the transmission of knowledge and collaborative engagement. Applicants are encouraged to develop innovative and creative approaches that will allow them as Editor-in-Chief to put their own stamp on the journal. Editors are encouraged to solicit articles and contributions for special sections, and to develop issues of the journal that highlight critical topics in anthropology and in public debate. As the publishing field continues to develop the editor should also embrace new digital forms for scholarly content and build best practices for collaborative editorial team engagement. Above all, the AAA Executive Board seeks an Editor-in-Chief who will maintain the journal as a leader in intellectual and scholarly advances.

The AAA appreciates support from candidates’ institutions and is especially aware of the importance of institutional recognition of the intellectual leadership and challenges entailed by the Editor-in-Chief’s position and responsibilities. Graduate assistant support and adequate space to house the journal are highly desirable with other kinds of institutional support significant for the success of operations. Candidates who are unable to get substantial institutional support, however, will also be considered with the expectation that AAA will work with the institution to insure core working needs are provided for. The position of Editor-in-Chief is a four-year appointment.

Click here for application and submission details.

Book Your Annual Meeting Hotel at a Discount

113th AAA Annual MeetingThe 2014 Annual Meeting will take place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel and Omni Shoreham Hotel. Both hotels will host scholarly panels and roundtables, special events, and other activities during the week-long conference.

AAA has negotiated special rates for AAA attendees at both hotels. Reservations can be made online via the links below. These rates are limited. Don’t hesitate and book today!

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