I am an anthropologist because I strive to understand perspectives that differ from my own, particularly those that seem strange, irrational, or disturbing. I am an anthropologist because I aim to understand the ways historical trauma becomes discursively framed as collective memory and used as the material for social identities based on bounded and hostile forms of closure. I am an anthropologist because I seek to understand the competing moral perspectives and political-economic interests that structure enduring conflicts.
What is being described as an overwhelming vote for the boycott of Israel in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) mischaracterizes the scope of support for boycotts in the field and downplays the serious anthropology-based alternative presented at the conference to promote justice for Palestinians and Israelis, as well as academic freedom for Palestinian academics.
The passage of a resolution to boycott Israeli academia at the AAA’s business meeting two weeks ago represented the views of a well-organized and loud minority of anthropologists — less than 20 percent of the AAA’s membership was present. This group was focused on creating a spectacle rather than a scholarly forum one would expect at an academic conference, with BDS movement activists wearing black t-shirts declaring themselves “Another Jew Against Apartheid” and similar slogans.