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Mar. 1 | 2015 Franklin Prize
Nominations for 2015 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize for the best-published book in American Studies due
Mar. 1 | 2015 Romero Prize
Nominations for 2015 Lora Romero Publication Prize for the best-published first book in American Studies due.
Mar. 1 | 2015 Community Partnership Grants
Applications for the 2015 Community Partnership Grants Program to assist American Studies collaborative, interdisciplinary community projects due
Mar. 1 | 2015 Regional Chapter Grants
Applications for the 2015 grants program to assist regional American Studies conferences and projects due
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2014
Los Angeles, CA - The American Studies Association (ASA), one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change, today announced at its annual conference a nationwide effort to document and publicize instances of assaults on academic freedom, faculty profiling, widespread dismantling of academic programs in American Studies (as well as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ethnic Studies, and other allied programs), access to education, and hostile environments on many campuses for faculty and student labor organizing and protest.
“Against a backdrop of rapidly changing economics in higher education, it’s clear that university scholars and students in America are increasingly under attack,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan of New York University. “From elimination of tenure, to the expansion of a precarious class of adjuncts and instructors with neither the benefit of academic freedom nor the basic dignity of a living wage, to a burgeoning cohort of students drowning in debt, these assaults on higher education are part and parcel of political and economic privatization efforts that will have devastating long-term effects.”
The effort, called Scholars Under Attack, will document examples of assaults on academic freedom, program cuts, labor organizing and political protests, and instances of faculty profiling. The following examples have occurred just in the past few months:
* In August 2014, Steven Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Technical Institute whose tenured job from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was rescinded when UIUC decided statements he made on Twitter about Israel and Palestine were “uncivil” and made him inappropriate for the classroom.
* In Spring 2014, University of Southern Maine announced a plan to cut dozens of tenured and untenured faculty and staff, as well as several masters and undergraduate programs. Faculty members disputed the university president’s claim that the cuts were financially necessary. The Board of Trustees approved the elimination of 50 faculty members, which made up almost 20 percent of its total, and a number of departments, including American and New England Studies. English, philosophy and history departments would be collapsed into a single humanities department.
* In October 2014, Utah State University received an email threatening a mass killing if the school did not cancel Anita Sarkeesian’s lecture. Although Sarkeesian, a video game critic and feminist, requested metal detectors and pat downs, she was forced to cancel the event because it is illegal to restrict the possession or use of firearms in Utah.
“In addition to methodically documenting and raising awareness, it is our goal with Scholars Under Attack to build a more systemic response to these issues and moving forward begin to reverse these trends for the sake of America’s scholars, students and renowned system of higher education.”
About the ASA
Chartered in 1951, the American Studies Association has 5,000 members dedicated to promoting meaningful dialogue about the United States, throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Our purpose is to support scholars and scholarship committed to original research, critical thinking, and public discussion and debate. We hold in common the desire to view US history and culture from multiple perspectives. In addition to being the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of US culture and history in a global context, we are also one of the leading scholarly communities supporting social change.
See further, the Los Angeles Review of Books, LARB Senior Humanities Editor Sarah Mesle interviews Lisa Duggan
“American Studies” is necessarily engaged in the study of US policies and their impact; there’s no way we can really remain aloof from policy debates… American Studies is a site where the engagement with politics is part of what the field does.
Published on December 15, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2014
In recent days, several erroneous reports have circulated claiming that the American Studies Association (ASA), the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, will bar Israeli academics from participating at our upcoming annual conference in Los Angeles, November 6-9. This allegation is false. There will not be discrimination of any sort against anyone. We welcome Israeli academics to attend, and in fact several are already scheduled to participate in the conference program (see here for more information on the program).
Subsequent reports also stated, erroneously, that the ASA had changed our policy regarding support for the academic boycott. We have not. Last year, after careful consideration by its membership, the ASA overwhelmingly endorsed an academic boycott to call attention to the violations of academic freedoms and human rights of Palestinian scholars and students by Israel. This limited action means simply that the ASA on an institutional level will not engage in collaborative projects with Israeli research institutions, and will not speak at Israeli academic institutions.
The ASA has a longstanding commitment to social justice and believes in the power of nonviolent strategies, such as boycotts and divestment movements, as a tool to effect political, social and economic change. The United States Supreme Court has upheld boycotts against human rights violations to be constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.
“We recognize that the boycott issue has been controversial, even among our own members, and in the spirit of openness and transparency, we have scheduled a panel discussion on precisely this topic,” said ASA President Lisa Duggan. “However, the ASA annual conference is a broad and inclusive event. It’s an opportunity to explore and celebrate the diversity of issues, views and scholarship that falls under the umbrella of American Studies. We look forward to the upcoming participation of our members, invited guests and registered attendees in Los Angeles.”
Chronicle of Higher Education: 2014 Influence List
They changed the debate about sanctions against Israel.
“We got into the mainstream press and triggered a number of conversations not visible before about Israel-Palestine,” says the ASA’s president, Lisa Duggan, a professor at New York University. “In that sense we had done what we wanted to do.”
1.Hank Reichman of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) comments on ACLJ’s unsupported claim: “California’s Unruh Act does indeed bar discrimination in hotel accommodations and does permit an institution to be considered a “person” suffering discrimination and hence eligible to bring a lawsuit. But such a legal claim requires actual incidents of discrimination, and apparently the ACLJ has as yet identified neither an individual nor an institution that can be said to have been a victim of the alleged discriminatory behavior.” He adds, “Moreover, ACLJ’s claim that the ASA boycott is anti-Semitic rings hollow, since not all Jews—indeed, not all Israelis—support the policies the boycott purports to resist.”
2. For more information about the American Center for Law and Justice, read this piece from the Electronic Intifada which explains that, “Founded by the far-right Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson in 1990, ACLJ’s docket has been dominated by opposing same-sex marriage, outlawing abortion and evangelizing its anti-homosexual agenda in Africa.”
3. In January 2014, Shurat HaDin - The Israel Law Center sent the ASA a “cease and desist” letter threatening a lawsuit against it if it did not immediately end its academic boycott. Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and the Center for Constitutional Rights responded to Shurat HaDin’s threat. The following excerpt from the statement can also be applied to the latest false claim, this time from the ACLJ.
ASA’s boycott resolution could not be considered discrimination, let alone discrimination based on animus toward the religion, race or national origin of any individual or institution; ASA’s actions are undertaken because of the policies of politically-accountable leaders in the Israeli government. Moreover, boycott and divestment strategies and the ASA position are grounded in the same anti-discrimination principles as other historical divestment and boycott strategies used to protest repressive state practices, including those employed against the South Africa apartheid regime and racial segregation in the United States. It is precisely these kinds of boycott, which aim to effect “political, social and economic change,” that the United States Supreme Court has held to be constitutionally protected speech activities.
The ASA’s commitment to boycotting formal collaborations with Israeli institutions honors a long-standing American civil rights tradition. We are not deterred by baseless legal accusations, and we are not distracted by false reports that we are denying entry to our public conference. We look forward to a broad and vigorous academic discussion at our upcoming meeting, with scholars from a wide range of academic fields and national origins—including Israelis—on issues like transnational violence, indigenous rights, and, of course, the ASA academic boycott.
This points to an inability, and perhaps unwillingness, of the mainstream media to treat the issue of the academic boycott of Israel in a fair-handed manner…
Lisa Duggan and Mary Danico, representing two organizations that have endorsed the academic boycott of Israel, have it exactly right when they say that one of the very positive effects of the boycott is to put this issue (the absolute silencing of Palestinian voices in mainstream media) before people’s eyes. That is no small feat, given the reluctance of major news venues to treat this issue fairly, impartially, and accurately…
The academic boycott of Israel is not a matter of “piggybacking” or leaping on bandwagons. It is a matter of outrage at injustice and an emphatic act of conscience.
To dispute the relevance of Israel to American studies is to ignore how intertwined Israel is with America. The story of Israel includes the story of Harry Truman, who fretted deeply over the endless war he foresaw as the consequence of his 1948 decision to recognize Israel.
America’s story includes Israeli leaders like Golda Meir, Moshe Arens and Benjamin Netanyahu, who lived or grew up here. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., and his predecessor Michael Oren were products of the influential American Zionist movement—itself a topic worthy of study. Baruch Goldstein, the mass-murdering settler who killed 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron, had been an American Zionist too.
As Dahlia Scheindlin wrote on the Israeli site +972, “It is America’s U.N. veto, America’s enormous global weight, American financial and military aid that props up Israel’s standing and policies.” On November 9, at the Washington Hilton, political mega-donor Sheldon Adelson told Israeli American Council conferees, “Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state—so what?”
(Just two weeks later, a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people was approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character. Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.)
Duggan emphasized that ASA’s academic boycott of Israel is part of a larger existing tradition for the organization, one that includes protests against the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
“The effort here is about putting into context the boycott vote with all of the other kinds of social justice work we do,” Duggan told Inside Higher Ed of the endeavor. “There’s a very long list. The boycott is not the only thing about us.”
The scholarly profession needs a cutting edge, politically radical, mildly indecipherable group of intellectuals to continue to push us to dare more. We need to remember that the ASA has been at the future of the scholarly profession for the last half-century. We need to go back to the future. We all need to go back to ASA.
My sense of American Studies—admittedly from outside the field—is that it always has derived a great deal of its animating energy and intellectual purpose from the international arena (otherwise known as other countries). As Lisa’s interlocutor himself acknowledges, the early years of American Studies were shaped by the imperatives of the Cold War, and then in the 1960s and 1970s the field was reshaped by the Vietnam War, producing such canonical works as…Richard Slotkin’s learned and literate trilogy about the long and terrible career of American violence.
In order to reconcile this past of the discipline with the complaints of its contemporary critics, you have to make one of two assumptions: either that the field has another, completely different past or that Israel is not part of the foreign policy of the United States. Either way, you’re living in a fantasy land.
Once upon a time American Studies’s elders took apart the “myth and symbol” of America; now they’ve turned their field into one.
The (2014) conference, drawing 2,300 scholars, was the first to follow our resolution last December supporting the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The boycott is a form of nonviolent resistance that proved its value during the successful fight against South African apartheid… with 1,000 new members (net gain) since the resolution passed, record fundraising and robust conference attendance, it’s hard to argue our association has suffered.
Because we support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions as a nonviolent means to secure Palestinian rights and freedom, we too find ourselves under attack. But the critics’ complaint that our stand is unfair to academicians who don’t agree with it is a recipe for never doing anything that might draw opposition.
Uri Blau reporting for Haaretz mentioned MESA’s status in the field of Middle East studies as being considered “the most important” and that Israeli academics are calling this both “unprecedented” and a “game changer”. Blau went on to acknowledge the growing strength of the BDS movement. “Even if for now the significance of the resolution is mostly symbolic, the debate over a boycott of Israel is gradually moving into the center of the academic sphere and is no longer on the margins,” he wrote.
Universities cannot restrict student (or faculty) speech because they are nervous about views that challenge state violence, or express anger about Palestinian suffering. Debate, disagreement, and free expression, including protests, demonstrations, and other expressive activities, embody the highest values of a free university and a democratic society.
Advocates of the movement to boycott Israeli universities see it as a way that foreign academics can stand in solidarity with Palestinians and put moral pressure on Israel’s government to change its policies…virtually all anthropologists who work in the Palestinian territories support the boycott, having “come to this decision through years of research and a realization that supporting the boycott is part of their ethical practice as anthropologists.”
Under the boycott, Israelis would still be permitted to participate in AAA meetings and publish in its journals. Zareena Grewal of Yale University reminded the audience that the American Studies Association’s support for the boycott did not prevent numerous Israelis from attending that group’s recent annual meeting.
UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65% (almost 2/3) of voting members in support. The measure calls on: 1) the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid; 2) the UAW International to divest from these same entities; 3) the US government to end military aid to Israel. 4) 53 % of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid.
Published on December 15, 2014 by ASASTAFF.
Since its formation in 1994, the Material Culture Caucus has bridged the gap between university-based and museum-based scholars to promote the study of material culture in American Studies programs. To celebrate its twentieth birthday, the Caucus sponsored a workshop on Friday November 7, 2014, during the ASA national meeting in Los Angeles.
In the spirit of fun embedded in the conference theme, Debby Andrews, Sarah Anne Carter, Estella Chung, Ellen Gruber Garvey, and Catherine Whalen challenged workshop participants to play a variant of the classic game, “Twenty Questions.” Videographer Mark Escribano documented the event. To see how the workshop played out, and how such questions can inspire object-based exercises in the classroom or the museum, watch the video at:
Twenty Questions to Ask An Object
Material Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association wishes to encourage participation in the 2015 Annual Meeting: “The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance,” October 8-11, 2015, Toronto, Canada. To read the conference Call for Papers please see:
We hope to help link potential panelists with shared interests in material culture topics.
The Sports Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association seeks panel proposals for the 2015 Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada, October 8-11, 2015.
In particular, we seek proposals that address the 2015 Annual Meeting theme: “The (Re)production of Misery and the Ways of Resistance.” We likewise encourage panel submissions that engage the Canadian sportscape and its role in the sporting cultures of the Americas.
More follow-up to our “Twenty years, twenty questions” workshop will be forthcoming. Here are notes from the business meeting.
The annual conference of the Chesapeake American Studies Association (CHASA) will be held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on Saturday, March 28 (plenary panel discussion on Friday evening March 27).
The 2015 meeting theme “Urban Places, Digital Spaces” will investigate issues of place and space as well as the role of media and digital culture in an urban context. Papers may explore the impact of digital technology on cities or other places, examine specific digital projects on places, or analyze the changing nature of space in the digital age.