The American Studies Association advocates for our members and for the field of American studies in a variety of ways and in accordance with the association’s bylaws and policies.
The Advocacy Process
To address scholarly, professional, and institutional issues that impact constituencies within the organization, the ASA created committees that reflect the diversity of the membership: international scholars, students, secondary educators, ethnic studies departments, and regional chapter groups, among others. Committees are charged with advocating for members’ needs and interests as well as strengthening specific fields, methodologies, and pedagogies through sponsored sessions at the annual meeting and through awards.
Committee members, caucus members, and members of ad-hoc groups may all request association-wide response to emerging issues by bringing them to the attention of the Executive Committee and National Council. Through open and extensive discussion and debate, the Executive Committee is directed to act, or not; it may issue statements or write letters of support; or it may work with the National Council and interested members in formulating resolutions or actions. In this way, the ASA has addressed issues of critical importance to the membership—from defending academic freedom to upholding gender and pay equity and fair labor standards.
History of Advocacy
The history of the ASA’s advocacy is as long as the history of the association itself. As an organization serving to interpret the United States past and present, the ASA Council has made public statements on issues of the day, such as its support for women’s rights movements, its call for withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq in 2006, announcement of solidarity with the Occupy movement, and more recently a statement in support of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation.
The ASA’s 2011 statement of protest of the “dismantling” of public education captures the association’s articulation of advocacy and scholarly pursuit:
As American studies scholars, our work includes, among other things, addressing the problems and challenges societies face, drawing lessons from the past, comparing across polities, and making informed recommendations that will spark open debate. We draw inspiration from earlier social movements that have challenged the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and authority.
In the past and at the discretion of the Executive Committee and National Council, the ASA has worked to raise awareness around issues affecting members and the profession. They have formed task forces to gather information and recommend action. One such task force led to the development of working papers designed to meet the needs of American studies departments and programs, by offering discussion on such topics as “The Nature and Meaning of Research in American Studies” and “What is American Studies?”