28 March 2016

The Vote Heard Around the (Anthropological) World: American Anthropological Association v. Israeli academic institutions

Our North American association of Anthropologists (not the Canadian association - CASCA - but the Association that many Canadian anthropologists belong to), recently voted in favour of a resolution "calling on the group to boycott Israeli academic institutions by a 1,040 to 136 margin at the association’s annual business meeting on Friday evening"

According to the coverage in the Inside Higher Education article which details how Anthropology professors vote overwhelmingly to back boycott of Israeli universities. Issue now goes to their association membership, "proponents of the academic boycott see it as a way of protesting Israel’s continued hold on some territories occupied in the Six Day War in 1967, and of standing up for the rights of Palestinians." On a website for the boycott movement, there are 1230 AAA members who have signed in support of the resolution.

To the credit of AAA, their recent trade publication Anthropology News has published articles for and against this boycott which can be read here:

Should We Act on Israel/Palestine, or Not? by Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia U)


Beyond Zero-Sum Logics on Israel/Palestine by Michele Rivkin-Fish (UNC-Chapel Hill)

As a discipline, Anthropology often pictures itself as being reflexive of its colonial past and seeks to position itself, according to some, as a discipline of societal critique. I applaud the organization's willingness to publish dissenting positions to its boycott, which I see as tools of seeking closer representation to membership opinion, providing a balanced overview of AAA perspectives on this boycott, and unabashedly demonstrates the diversity (and dissent) found among its membership (it can be argued that the boycott blog also acknowledge the importance of dissent with its page: 'yes...but...').

Whether you agree or disagree, this approach to discussing a VERY political topic is insightful in terms of what Anthropology, as a discipline, is willing to do.