Friday, May 21, 2010

Arizona and the MAA

by J J Cohen

There's been some Facebook discussion about the fact that the Medieval Academy of America is holding its annual meeting next April in Arizona. Members of the Academy were notified of this long ago, of course, but the recent dissemination of a CFP reminded us of the location at a time when many of us are none too pleased with the terrible choices the state government has been making regarding social issues we care about. Governor Jan Brewer's signing into law an immigration bill that seems almost carte blanche for police intimidation and harassment is, to my mind, racist and just wrong. Now comes the possibility of banning ethnic studies.

So when the MAA CFP arrived in my inbox I wrote back asking "Given the recent and reprehensible choices that the Arizona state government has made, will the Medieval Academy consider moving its annual meeting to another state?" Today I received a reply from Elizabeth Brown, the Academy President. I am sharing the letter because it brings up several points that deserve a wider (public) audience:
        Thank you for your eloquent message, which Paul Szarmach, our Executive Director, has just forwarded to me.  On behalf of our Vice-Presidents and Treasurer, and Robert Bjork, who is organizing the meeting, I want to express our gratitude to you for writing to us. 
    The situation is very complicated indeed, and we are monitoring it carefully. We have been concerned about this problem from the moment the governor of Arizona signed the bill concerning immigrants.  We are all following developments closely and are keenly aware of the importance of the issues that are at stake.  I have responded to inquiries from many colleagues, and have followed up with Bob Bjork, who has established that cancelling the meeting now would cost something in the neighborhood of $30,000. 
    We at the Academy are attempting to monitor the situation attentively and are fervently hoping that the offending legislation will be nullified or radically changed -- which we understand is a very real possibility. Like you, we are concerned about the legislation's implications, which go beyond the federal requirement that identity papers be carried (as is true in many countries). In short, we are adopting a policy of watchful waiting.
    We will do our best to keep you informed about developments and would appreciate any further counsel you can give us as we attempt to deal with these problems.
    With every good wish,

     Elizabeth A.R. Brown (Peggy)
     Professor emeritus of History, CUNY; President, The Medieval Academy of America
I understand very well that the situation is complicated; that's why I wrote asking if moving the meeting was on the table, rather than insisting (with whatever insistence a member can voice) that the meeting must be relocated. And you know, maybe it is completely hypocritical of me to have ever written, because I am not attending the meeting in April for reasons having nothing to do with its location (though if I had been intending to go, I doubt I would as things currently stand). Still I'd like to think that I have an investment in this professional organization that represents me, and indeed I'm heartened that the political context is being taken seriously. I can hope -- as I think many of us do -- that the law will be modified or nullified soon. Robert Bjork has done a great deal of planning for the meeting, planning that I know can often seem thankless; I am truly grateful for the labor that Professor Bjork has undertaken. Yet I also can't help wondering: would it be the worst thing in the world for the MAA to be out $30K and skip a year of meeting if that sends a message to the state that the law it has enacted is so unjust that as a measure of support we medievalists will not convene in Tempe?

I ask that as an open question. I wonder what our readers think.

[EDIT 1:30PM More on the letter from President Brown at xoom]

74 comments:

Elizabeth Schirmer said...

I'm very glad to see this.

When I first saw the MAA call for papers, I was so thrilled to have the conference in driving distance that I momentarily forgot about the boycott. Those of us who work in small departments in relatively isolated communities very much need this kind of opportunity. I do appreciate, moreover, the difficulty and expense of moving the conference. No one I know in the field has that kind of time and money readily to spare.

As a teacher in a Border state, however, I can't support a conference in AZ. If the MAA is held in Tempe, I will not be able to attend. My vote would be to get out now. It will only cost more to move the conference as time goes on, I imagine. And while I devoutly hope the law will be changed, I see no evidence that will happen in the immediate future.

meg said...

Would it be the worst thing in the world for the MAA to be out $30K in order to send such a message?

No. No, it would not.

Something else about Brown's response bothers me, but I'll go fulminate about that on my own blog, rather than hijacking your comments.

Mo said...

I think you're right on, Jeffrey.

I hope the MAA will see that this isn't just a moral issue. In Arizona, some MAA faculty and students can reasonably fear being harassed in a way that isn't legal elsewhere in the US, including being forced to show proof of citizenship or legal residence/travel. That's--I mean, especially considering the huge problem with diversity in the field--an issue for us of safety, equality, freedom from discrimination for people AT the conference.

Also, I'm a little surprised by Professor Brown's comment about "the federal requirement that identity papers be carried." There's no such requirement for American citizens.

Nice hanging out with you all at Kzoo. :)

Karl Steel said...

As a longstanding MA member, I'd like to know more about this 30K figure. Is this deposits? Is this expected revenue from the event? I'm talking to the former professional event planner who lives in my house to get more context.

At any rate, the "offending legislation" is almost certain not to be "nullified or radically changed" before, say, the deadline for abstracts, nor before people start planning their summer conference schedules for 2011. That alone should lead the MA to take immediate action.

Alison said...

>>followed up with Bob Bjork, who has established that cancelling the meeting now would cost something in the neighborhood of $30,000.

OK, Karl's resident event planner weighs in. Leaving aside the ethics for a moment, the above is an ambiguous statement; does she mean it would cost MAA $30K, or cost ASU? And is this amount (assuming she means MAA, which isn't necessarily a good assumption) in potential payments, or in deposits already paid? For an academic institution to have required $30K in deposits, a year out from an event, is kind of extortive; the majority of event costs accrue from food, booze, and staffing, none of which, at this point, would yet be charged in. A review of the actual contracts would be useful; it would clarify who would actually lose the money, and how much. It's incredible to me that $30K could actually be lost by MAA, so far in advance; if that money has actually already been committed in deposits, then that's shoddy event-planning--and another host institution should have been found. And if it hasn't already been committed, then there's no reason why MAA shouldn't withdraw.

Eileen Joy said...

Okay, I can speak directly to this as someone who has planned and hosted conferences on more than one occasion; like Karl, I want also to know what, exactly, that $30,000 represents. Now, in these lean academic times, I don't think we should act as if this figure doesn't matter at all--it likely matters a great deal to the organizers as well as to the MAA and it could be painful, indeed, to pull out of Arizona and move to another venue at this point. But, having said that, as someone who has organized conferences, I'm wondering how much cash has actually been paid to anyone yet [typically, space rental fees have to be paid way in advance, but pretty much everything else-- catering, shuttle services, printing costs, plenary/featured speaker fees & travel reimbursements, reservations of blocks of hotel rooms, A/V equipment rentals, excursions, etc.--are not paid for this far ahead of time and can be cancelled. Also, it's not too late to undertake the preplanning for another venue. BABEL is running a conference at UT-Austin in November 2010 and we started the pre-planning in earnest in early March of this year. We've reserved spaces for sessions and receptions, blocks of hotel rooms, and have been running around with open hands asking for in-kind and other sorts of donations, etc. and we won't be receiving registration fees until August/September. This being May 2010 and the conference happening in March 2011, I see that there is *ample* time to move to another venue. I hosted the annual meeting of the Southeastern Medieval Assoc. in 2008 when another venue pulled out sort of last minute--i.e., I did not have the standard amount of pre-planning time, but I had approx. 15 months and for the first 5 or so months of that I did . . . nothing.

I do not, however, want to presume to ASSUME how MAA and their host universities pre-plan conferences, but to follow up on Meg's discomfort here with Elizabeth Brown's letter to Jeffrey, it goes something like this [and Elizabeth Brown, I mean no offense, because I know you're in a terrible position, but . . . .]:

[continued below]

Eileen Joy said...

[continuing]

It *is* terrible, isn't it (?), what's happening in Arizona and we're appalled, too, and we're hoping and praying the Arizona legislature does the right thing so that we don't have to actually take a stand . . . right now.

But, if the legislature doesn't do something, THEN will the MAA take a stand, and will it be too late at that point, for REAL? Because it is not too late to do anything right NOW. I just can't believe that as someone who has organized regional *and* national conferences. [It may be, by the way, that when Robert Bjork indicates that they are already out $30,000, that might represent in-kind contributions from Arizona that would be withdrawn if the conference were to go elsewhere--this should be clarified by Bjork and the MAA, but either way, it's still not a good enough excuse to stay there.]

Let's think for a minute, too, about all of the criticisms that are always being leveled against humanities scholars for going on and on and on and on in their WORK about the long-standing historical injustices they see being reflected in TEXTS and how they often do nothing when confronted with injustices unfolding right in front of them [one example: tenure cases that go horribly awry for reasons that demand a certain *collective* outrage that doesn't materialize when it is most necessary]; there is no better place than the humanities to put into practice something that *might* be called a humanistic practice of aligning one's ideals with one's practices in such a manner as to contribute to the well-being of Others and to work to sustain, as much as possible, what little purchase goodness has in this world. The MAA simply must withdraw from Arizona and not wait to breathe a sigh of relief later because it didn't have to decide. A bunch of medievalists gabbing on and on about the past in the desert under the aegis of a state regime invested in Agamben's "rule of exception" is going to create a frightful cameo portrait of our field that I simply can't bear to imagine.

Karl Steel said...

Frankly, I think the MAA not moving the meeting from AZ might be reason for me to cease to be a member, and to encourage others to do likenewise, at least for the next few years. If cost is an issue, one could make it a matter of weighing costs.

Those who believe in the AZ laws can, of course, simply offset the cancellations by increasing the $ they send MAA.

Bruce Holsinger said...

Jeffrey, thanks so much for opening up this discussion, and Eileen for linking to it on Facebook. I'm posting to this discussion an e-mail I've just sent to Elizabeth Brown and my fellow Councillors of the Medieval Academy (I'm a newly elected Councillor serving until 2013). Please note that this is not a response from the MAA itself, just the considered opinion of one of its elected officers.

*******

Dear Elizabeth, Paul, and Colleagues,

I write as a newly-elected Councillor to express my concern about holding the 2011 annual meeting of the MAA in Arizona in the aftermath of SB 1070, and to alert you to a discussion of the matter taking place on In the Middle, a medievalist blog hosted by Jeffrey Cohen at GWU. You can see the discussion here:

http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2010/05/arizona-and-maa.html

In response to the questions posted by the readers and contributors to this discussion, it would be helpful at this point for the Academy to clarify the source of the 30K in lost revenue should the convention be canceled or moved, as well as what percentage of our annual budget is represented by this 30K. I don't pretend to be an expert on these matters, but from what I learned at our business meeting in March, 30K is a small drop in a much larger bucket.

I will certainly not be attending the convention if it's held in Arizona. I would further urge us to consider following the precedent set by the now more than thirty national and international organizations that have canceled conventions or events scheduled for Arizona in the next year, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Alpha Phi Alpha, and, if what I read is true, perhaps Major League Baseball, which is considering relocating its All-Star Game. As those of you in the Cambridge area will know, the city of Boston has become one of the latest cities to stop doing business with Arizona, pulling its investments and ending its contracts with the state and its cities where feasible. In my considered opinion, the Medieval Academy of America should follow suit.

Respectfully,

Bruce Holsinger

******

Karen Bruce said...

I agree with Eileen. Academics are already battling the (very unfair and untrue) stereotype of dwelling in an ivory tower out of contact with the real world, preaching about all kinds of social justice while not working for it themselves. As a medievalist, I'm very aware of that charge levelled against us in particular, and I try to find ways to balance my theoretical work with activism. So, I also hate the idea of us meeting in the desert and talking about the past, as if nothing is happening in the present in that very place which requires comment and action. Even the desert saints did better than that!

I understand that moving the venue may be difficult and expensive, but I think it's necessary and ethical in this case.

Mary Ramsey said...

Like Jeffrey, I was not planning to attend the MAA meeting in Arizona for other reasons, but I feel strongly that we should move the meeting as a matter of principle. As Eileen and others have remarked, we talk about injustice in our classes, we encourage our students to think critically and to do the right thing even when it is uncomfortable, messy, or downright painful. The only pain we're really talking about here is inconvenience and some money. I know Bob has put a lot of work into the conference and I'm sorry his efforts would be for naught, but as a long-time member of the MAA, I cannot countenance doing nothing in the hope that the AZ legislature will see the light. I agree that we need more information about the $30K, but I'll go on record that I would cheerfully stump up a few dollars to help reimburse ASU or the MAA in order to see the organization behave in accordance with the principles we claim to hold. If it cannot do so, I agree with Karl that it may be time to allow my membership to lapse.

ASM said...

Hi all,

This year, the Medieval Association of the Pacific is jointly hosting with MAA, and I am on the MAP council. I have done all I can to urge us to insist on a change of venue, but I was unsuccessful -- albeit only by a vote or two. I concur absolutely that this venue must be changed. Should we host an event at which many of our colleagues will not feel welcome?

I can assure you I would not go to a state where Jews were required to show proof of their citizenship. Further, I am certain that if AZ passed a law of this nature, MAA would be out of there in a heartbeat. This law, though, targets the most economically (and therefore educationally) disenfranchised, a group therefore very poorly represented in medievalist organizations.

By the logic of the old adage of Niemöller ("They came first for the ..."), I can't in good conscience attend a conference in a state where some of my colleagues and friends are not welcome.

I would note that there are many voices with MAP that are in agreement (and some of us are going to draft a letter to MAA), and it seems that there are many voices within MAA that are, as well. I therefore have a concrete proposal: Shall we put together a petition of MAP and CAA members who demand that the conference be moved (and who vow to either not attend or withdraw from said organizations if it is not)?

Asa

Karl Steel said...

Shall we put together a petition of MAP and CAA members who demand that the conference be moved (and who vow to either not attend or withdraw from said organizations if it is not)?
YES.

Tom Elrod said...

Maybe we should all follow Jeffrey and Bruce's lead and write letters to the leaders of the MAA, explaining how important this is and how failure to act could result in lapsed memberships, etc. How many members does the MAA have? A concerted letter campaign could garner a lot of support and send a strong message.

Karl Steel said...

Tom, I wrote a letter the same day Jeffrey did and received precisely the same response. It's a form letter.

Perhaps there'd be a different form letter if we wrote again.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Wow, this is moving quickly -- I am a little surprised but heartened by the level of support. And thank you, Bruce, for writing to the MAA as a new Councilor.

How about:

We the undersigned disagree profoundly with the immigration bill signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer. We condemn the law as racist and urge its immediate repeal. To demonstrate our support to those in Arizona whom the law targets, we request that the Medieval Academy of America not hold its planned annual meeting of April 2011 in the state if the law remains in place. We cannot in good conscience attend the meeting under such conditions, and will urge all members of the Academy to think seriously about not renewing their membership if the MAA does not move or cancel the meeting.

What do you think?

Karl Steel said...

Thanks, Jeffrey. That looks good to me.

(and, yes, thanks Bruce)

shall we give it a few days before we really start the petition ball rolling? or not?

Eileen Joy said...

Jeffrey: the letter is perfect. Could we perhaps add to the sentence about the law being racist that it is also inhumane? I will sign that letter.

meg said...

Undersign me!

Tom Elrod said...

Me too!

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

OK, so:

"We the undersigned disagree profoundly with the immigration bill signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer. We condemn the law as racist and inhumane. We urge its immediate repeal. To demonstrate our support to those in Arizona whom the law targets, we request that the Medieval Academy of America not hold its planned annual meeting of April 2011 in the state if the law remains in place. We cannot in good conscience attend the meeting under such conditions, and will urge all members of the Academy to think seriously about not renewing their membership if the MAA does not move or cancel the meeting."

I am going to leave this draft petition up over the weekend to get more feedback. I'll also FB. Many of us have clearly made up our minds -- but I also want to leave room for further discussion before posting the petition. I'd also like to see what response Bruce's email garners.

Masha said...

I'm so glad that this discussion is taking place, and would also like to sign any petition -- is there a PLACE to sign yet?

I very much *wanted* to go to MAA in 2011, since I have a new project that I want to air out as much as I can while it's fresh and flexible; I have submitted an abstract to the Arizona conference, assuming that it would be more of a gesture to *withdraw* from the conference if it does not change its venue than not to have submitted anything at all.

I'm so glad that there's discussion of collective movement on this, however, since it would be great to get to attend, and I could only do so if the conference venue were to move to a state not actively engaged in institutionalizing racism (and incidentally banning ethnic studies from being taught, which directly impacts medievalists' freedom of speech). Yay organizing via "In the Middle"! Also, this is my first comments posts ever, do I even have an identity on this thing?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Masha, welcome! And thank you for posting.

It is looking like there is a groundswell for the petition so far. If that remains true -- and enthusiasm remains high -- come Monday, I will place a copy of the petition here and on Facebook and invite all interested to sign. I'll make sure that electronic and hard copies are sent to MAA as well.

Is there anything I'm not thinking of?

ASM said...

Hi all,

Great letter, Jeffrey. I've used it as the basis for a petition I've set up at thepetitionsite.com. I don't want to post it until we are sure of the text, since it cannot be changed at that point. I've done a screenshot of it that I've posted here:
http://utfus.blogspot.com/2010/05/does-this-work-for-petition.html
Click the image for a full-size view. Some questions:
--Do we all agree on the current text?
--I put Inthemiddle down as the sponsor, tentatively, since the petition originated on the blog. Are the Powers the Be at ITM happy/willing to have it listed as such?
--How long should we leave it open? I'd say we want this done quickly, so I'd propose a month.

Best,
Asa

Karl Steel said...

Asa, that looks great (although I am restraining myself from adding a critical animal theory footnote to the "inhumane"!). However, I'm concerned about the petition being posted for all and sundry on a public website. I'm not sure how else to collect signatures, but at the same time, I think the signature list will have the most impact if only current MAA members can sign it AND if it isn't choked with comments from shall we say people who might not wish this cause well.

Thoughts?

Myra Seaman said...

As Eileen noted, BABEL is organizing its first conference in Texas, to be held in November. In the midst of the conversation about the MAA's response to Arizona's new law, a situation that is certainly complicated, I couldn't help but imagine a bill such as this being signed by Gov. Perry in TX. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all difficult to imagine. Despite the losses that would follow, BABEL would simply have to reschedule elsewhere for another time. There would be no other choice. Realizing that made the decision the MAA faces appear suddenly rather less difficult than it had at first.

[Thanks, Jeffrey.]

Karl Steel said...

Also...oh to have been in on the Medieval Association of the Pacific deliberations...thanks, Asa, for fighting the good fight on that one.

BTW, I'm okay w/ ITM being associated with this petition.

ASM said...

Carl -- I wondered the same thing about MAA members, but the conclusion I came to is that WE have no way to check membership or planned attendance, anyway, so there is no way we can enforce that. We can add a note that requests that only members (or those who were planning to become so for the conference) of MAA and MAP sign it. We can choose the version where the petition is not advertised on their site, so it should only be found by folks we contact through ITM, facebook, the mearcstapa list, etc.

If that makes sense, then the next question would be to whom do we send a note on the petition? Do we blanket the medieval lists (medart, EMF, Ansax, medfem, etc.?)

Best,
Asa

Thomas said...

Very often large evils come about and are allowed to endure through polite and seemingly benign accommodations undertaken by polite and benign people. This is true whether one's act of accommodation is going in every morning to a job one knows to be immoral and doing the paperwork that keeps hell's wheels spinning, or merely hopping on a plane to a conference with vague misgivings placated by lots of very reasonable rationales about why it is okay to do business in a state that is doing something one finds reprehensible. Academics like to point and moralize about other people’s grand acts of evil or cowardly complicity. Conveniently, these are most often judgments on decisions taken by other people in circumstances we academics will never have to face ourselves. Those of us who do not have the stomach for a simple boycott and the prospect of losing a largish sum of money in service of a statement about how our national society will define itself in the coming years and decades need not bother ourselves to become exercised in the future about the ethical failures or moral cowardice of others who, in the face of difficult decisions, decided to be prudent, polite and accommodating.

Thomas Sizgorich

Eileen Joy said...

I think what Asa has done looks good, albeit I understand Karl's concern about the term "inhumane"--I just want an adjective that moves the scope of Arizona's law beyond just being a racial concern, as I believe it encompasses more than that while also, of course, being definitively *about* that as well. I think the petition *should* be publicly posted, and we can use list-servs to gather signatures specifically from those who might be MAA members. I myself, by the way, am NOT an MAA member, because when Rick Emmerson left, I didn't see the point. I want to sign the petition as a medievalist! Membership in the MAA is beside the point, since many medievalists join MAA often just for the conference itself. I *was* a member for almost 10 years, now I'm not, yet I still care deeply about where the meeting is held. If that makes sense.

Brantley L. Bryant said...

Thinking with Karl, could we consider "unjust" in place of "inhumane"?

Perhaps for the petition we could have a section for current MAA members and then a section for non-MAA members who are interested/supportive? If that's too ornate, though, I do think it's important that it come from current paying MAA members.

Either way, many thanks to Jeffrey for starting this and to everyone who's continuing it, like Eileen, Asa, Bruce, and Karl. You have my signature.

-Brantley L. Bryant

theswain said...

I've been away for a few days, but I'd like to chime in. I don't need to know about the $30K. Withdrawing from AZ as our meeting place is the right thing to do under the circumstances. I sympathize with Bob and the other organizers. It may be that a 2011 conference simply can not happen by beginning the process now.

Whatever. These issues are of no consequence. It is the right thing to do on every level; sometimes doing the right thing hurts us more than those against whom we stand. My half-pence.

BLB said...

Oh, and in my thanks, I'm sorry to have not mentioned Mo's incredibly salient point that "In Arizona, some MAA faculty and students can reasonably fear being harassed in a way that isn't legal elsewhere in the US." The MAA should show practical concern for the protection of all of its members.

Karl Steel said...

thanks for the comments everyone, (and, EJ, I was just sort of doing my little turf-dance w/ the 'inhumane.' I honestly don't mind it.)

LF said...

I completely agree that the conference should be moved--or even canceled, if need be. I'm sure this is a nightmare for the organizers, but the policy of "watch and wait" is disturbing (we must wait to see how much more atrocious the situation gets before doing anything?).

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I'd give them an extra $20 to help make up the losses...

irina said...

I've read all 36 comments, and everyone has agreed with each other. It's terrible when everyone agrees with each other, so let me be the gadfly here. (Or shit stirrer, as you will.)

I share the outrage and horror at the gov't of Arizona's actions, and I share them as someone who both used to live in a police state and who is in the US on a work visa, and therefore in a somewhat vulnerable position.

But I get really, really antsy the moment people start suggesting we react to the horrific actions of states by punishing their scholars.

The scholars of a state doing terrible things are usually the ones who disproportionately risk their own careers, families, and sometimes lives, by criticizing those terrible things. Marginalizing scholars and their work is, I think, acquiescence to the forces of ignorance and barbarism that we would like to fight.

While I recognize that having a conference in Arizona will funnel some money into local businesses, and therefore benefits the state, moving it away will also mean less of a critical, scholarly presence in the state at this point in time. Isn't there a way, dare I say, a braver way, to protest within Arizona? Is there perhaps a way to use the conference to question the kind of prejudiced, anti-intellectual thinking taking hold in the state?

Which is also to say: couldn't several hundred medievalists cause more of a fuss, and draw more attention, by showing up and saying critical things than by being absent?

Sarah Rees Jones said...

Is there a theme at the conference on citizenship, neighbourliness and belonging?

I feel for you all - on both sides there are people I would count as good friends. I hope that you find an amicable way through all this.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

couldn't several hundred medievalists cause more of a fuss, and draw more attention, by showing up and saying critical things than by being absent?

I wonder about that, Irina (and Sarah, since you imply something similar): would it be better to have the meeting and use the event as a combined protest / teach-in? The calculus is this: would medievalists be listened to most attentively through their presence (ie will the content of what they say about neighborliness, citizenship, belonging receive its proper audition?) or through their absence (where to be honest it is the bad publicity and financial repercussions that are likely to be most cogent, not content -- though there is the possibility of making a statement heard via the media as the boycott is announced)? My gut tells me it is the latter.

As to this point:
The scholars of a state doing terrible things are usually the ones who disproportionately risk their own careers, families, and sometimes lives, by criticizing those terrible things. Marginalizing scholars and their work is, I think, acquiescence to the forces of ignorance and barbarism that we would like to fight.
This seems to me more true of when countries and regimes are boycotted than when a state like Arizona is: there the scholars possess mobility and intellectual freedom (and live without the fear that some of their fellow inhabitants of the state will have with this law in effect). Nothing stops Arizona scholars from hopping in a car and going to, say, New Mexico if that is where the conference is moved to; nothing stops them from presenting their work in 2012 rather than 2011 if the conference is canceled; no ill effects accrue (that I am aware of) if the conference is held virtually and their papers are shared via the web. I think the primary loss to Arizona scholars is likely the prestige of hosting the MAA, but I'd actually like to hear from some medievalists in Arizona to see what they feel the impact will be and get a sense of the counterarguments like those that Irina has brought up.

Thanks for the comment, Irina.

Sarah Rees Jones said...

I didn't mean to imply that you should meet in Arizona - but I did mean to imply that the conference should address the issue, wherever it meets.

I am not going to enter into the debate more than that. I am not a member of MAA, I don't know what kind of negotiations have already taken place.

Bruce Holsinger said...

Colleagues,

I'd also like to suggest giving the petition a few weeks--especially given some of the rhetoric in this exchange (about the MAA "keeping hell's wheels spinning" and so on). Yes, the Arizona law is hideous; but to throw the hard-working leadership of one of our professional organizations under the bus because they haven't *yet* canceled the convention, and to organize an international petition drive threatening the cancellation of membership when the organization (which consists of everyone who is a member!) hasn't even taken a position yet, seems premature and unnecessarily antagonistic to me. Elizabeth (Peggy) Brown, the current Academy president, doesn't have the authority to cancel or move the conference; neither does Paul Szarmach, the current executive director. Both are handling this as the leaders of large, complex international organizations should: with sensitivity, efficiency, and care for the organization's best interests, and with wide consultation of the broader leadership and membership before making any decisions. The Council is currently and actively discussing how to move on this--perhaps, as some have suggested, by putting the matter to a vote of the membership, perhaps to a vote of the Council or Executive Committee. My sense is that the conference will be moved from Arizona or cancelled altogether through these internal actions--all of which will be the direct result of the urgent and impassioned pleas from scholars such as Jeffrey, Karl, Eileen, and others.

So: I agree entirely that a strong position needs to be taken. It appears to me that a strong position is *going* to be taken by the MAA through the internal deliberations and actions of its *elected* leadership, and in response to the articulate concerns of its many members--concerns its leadership, from everything I've seen the last few days, shares strongly. This is a position that will be more impactful than one perceived as taken as a result of opposition to a yet non-existent organizational position on the matter.

Hope this makes sense.

Karl Steel said...

Bruce, thanks, and I agree.

It appears to me that a strong position is *going* to be taken by the MAA through the internal deliberations and actions of its *elected* leadership,
Rumor's told me this too. I think it's great that we have the groundwork for action laid, but I think there's not need to act just yet, given that we're so far out from the conference and given that, barring you and Peggy, we've as yet heard very little from our MAA Council.

irina said...

Jeffrey,

To your second point: yes, there is a difference between scholars in a regime where there is little or no freedom of movement and those in a free country, but I've seen movements to boycott scholars of a country where the scholars, at least, had freedom of movement and priviledge, but where they were often the most vocal critics of their state's actions. So I'm not just referring to situations where scholars are personally at risk. The idea of cutting off a place from the academic community is one that bothers me.

And you are making assumptions about scholars in Arizona living without fear that may be right most of the time, but not necessarily all of the time.

To the first point: aside from Kalamazoo, MI, I can't imagine a place where a bunch of medievalists not showing up will be much of a big deal. Kalamazoo probably relies at this point on the income. Now, true, if all conferences were to be canceled, with the MAA as part of that movement, it might have an effect that's felt by local businesses. I see that point. But unlike the dermatologists' convention, we spend our time talking and criticizing, so we might actually do something better there, not elsewhere.

Look at it another way. You're a reporter for a Tempe newspaper. A medievalists' conference is canceled. You can get a line out of that, maybe, but you're unlikely to have a full article without, well, a bunch of people there to interview. But what if a conference does take place, and a whole lot of the staid-seeming professors who attend walk around town with signs saying, "Please ask me for papers"? Or they protest in the center of the city, with the occasional horned helmet on to make good photos? And when you interview them, they speak eloquently about the issue, perhaps also about the papers being given that challenge this kind of thinking?

Karl Steel said...

although I'm not sure I agree here:
a yet non-existent organizational position on the matter
since the default position is to hold it in AZ. The current position, then, is to hold it in AZ, and it's that position I find objectionable. I do expect it to change, though, either through decisions of our elected MAA folk, or through the pressure of the membership, which is why I'm not cancelling my MAA membership just yet.

Eileen Joy said...

I agree, also, with what Bruce says here [I, for one, do not consider the MAA "evil" or any such nonsense vis-a-vis their decision, or not, to pull the annual meeting out of Arizona], but I'm a little confused, like Karl, by the statement regarding "a yet non-existent organizational position on the matter"--doesn't the letter from Pres. Brown serve, for now anyway, as such a position? My protest, such as it is, is formulated precisely against the position ["wait and see"] put forward, however tentatively and subject to revision, put forward in the letter. Having said that, of course we should place good faith in scholars who are our colleagues, but I don't see anything radically wrong or near-sighted about having a petition, or concerted discussion [that *should*, pace Irina's comments, be productively dissensual], that simply signals to the MAA that a lot of members of the MAA, and medievalists more generally, feel strongly that the MAA should move its venue to another state. This is simply a matter of voicing one's opinion publicly.

Also, I have to say I am distressed by how many people here seem to think this is a "members only" concern. Like many academic organizations, the MAA has memberships fees, and to present a paper at an MAA meeting you would have to be a member, for *at least* the period of the year in which you present a paper, but I don't see this as an *internal* matter of the MAA and its current dues-paying membership or leadership only. Maybe it's just me, but I think what the MAA does or doesn't do concerns all who work in medieval studies, and I don't think whether or not I paid membership dues should determine the so-called stake I have in this decision.

This is also, I have to say, an *individual* matter of conscience, and it actually is, no matter what anyone says, about money, no matter how little, going into the Arizona state economy, in whatever fashion. Per Irina's point, boycotts can often hurt the people who least deserve to be hurt this way, but at the same time, when you add up all of the organizations and other state that are refusing to do business with Arizona, collectively this does have a huge impact, and the Arizona legislature isn't stupid. They probably *will* reverse this legislation; I would just hate the MAA to stay in Arizona when so many other organizations have already withdrawn their institutional presence there. If that makes any sense.

Eileen Joy said...

And Irina: you're right that medievalists canceling one meeting won't make "the papers," per se, and yes we could show up with signs and provide sound bites [although honestly I believe that kind of old-fashioned street protesting is less effectual than it used to be--granted the Tea Party folk are making me wonder . . .], but it's not about the MAA by itself withdrawing to signal conscientious dissent with Arizona's law, it's about joining *so many other* organizations that have already done so.

Karl Steel said...

EJ,
right, and thanks. by no means do I think that ONLY MAA members have a stake in this; it's rather than I think that in a formal petition, when/if one is circulated, the voices current MAA members will have the most impact. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, when/if etc.

old-fashioned street protesting is less effectual than it used to be--granted the Tea Party folk are making me wonder
It's effective only when it's the right wing. Pro immigration reform rallies occurring in the same block of time, which involved hugely more people, received virtually no news coverage (see also the international anti-war rallies in 2002). The difference is that the Tea Partiers have the backing of the institutional right, which is in turn backed by big $; leftists or liberals have no such comparable backing. Medievalists, wherever they fall politically, even less so! A medievalist street protest might attract news attention, but it would do so only to make us ludicrous. It would be 'first they laugh at you...then they laugh at you...then they laugh at you some more...'

Eileen Joy said...

Karl: every non-MAA member medievalist is a potential member. That's my argument in one nutshell. Another nutshell: the community of medievalists [and yes, it's a community, if even a misfit one] cannot be contained within the boundaries of any *one* medievalist organization. This is an intellectual community, and not just an organizational, matter [in point of fact, it's both].

Myra Seaman said...

Given what Rumor's told Karl and what is implied in Bruce's reference to the leadership's internal deliberation, I am feeling much better than I did initially upon seeing the call for papers without any accompanying acknowledgement of the difficulty of the situation. The impression is left, as Karl and Eileen note, that the default position is to hold the conference in Arizona, but given that this *was* the plan before recent events unfolded, it's not particularly surprising I don't think that there hasn't been a public statement that this *isn't* the default position, as that would be, in effect, taking a specific position and making a decision before allowing for deliberation. I would like to see us work with those who represent us and the field, including those who aren't currently dues-paying members, as Eileen notes. I find the conversation happening here especially productive and, like Karl, would like to hold off acting until we have more input from those we're trying to talk with.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to comment on one point.

J.J. Cohen said : there the scholars possess mobility and intellectual freedom (and live without the fear that some of their fellow inhabitants of the state will have with this law in effect).

I don't live in AZ and I am glad I don't. It is hard to judge what scholars there do fear and how much mobility and intellectual freedom they do possess.

I do think that were I there I would be extremely nervous. I know my family members could very easily be targeted by AZ's new legislation. My mother would have to carry her passport at all times as would anyone who were to visit me.

For two years I, a Colombian-American, lived in Spain teaching at the University. Despite being a visiting professor there I was harassed by people everywhere I went including within the university. People on the street do not know you are a professor, as I told my incredulous students.

I look forward to the MAA's announcement that they will be changing the venue and paying for the cost of travel for all Arizona students and faculty who had planned on attending.

Valerie M. Wilhite

dtkline said...

Just to throw another couple of considerations into the mix. I find myself agreeing with Bruce in regard to letting the internal processes work and to seeing how the issue develops. The meeting is 10 months away, and a lot can happen in the interim, and another suitable venue can be found if that's the will of the organization.

Another possibility for active engagement - and this would require some additional coordination but would not necessarily need to be sponsored by the MAA - would be for a public forum (or series) on an issue/issues related to the controversy, headed by medievalists (many of which I'd say are taking up this conversation here and other places).

We could start be brainstorming something along the lines of 'medieval race and power' and related possibilities and throw it open to the public. You know, 'teach the controversy' kind of stuff. It'd be a terrific chance, I think, to highlight some of the great work medievalists are doing in this area *and* demonstrate again how the academy is engaged in the issues of the day.

Boycotting, petitioning, and marching all have place, but so does pedagogy, in the broadest sense, to confront and engage. I find myself wondering if a boycott by the MAA wouldn't get lost in bigger going's on but a group of academics who explicitly raise the issue of the abuse of race, privilege, and power right in the backyard of those abusing such power seems to offer different kinds of possibilities.

Boycotting, it seems to me, immediately puts us in an either/or position, which actually plays into the opposition's hands. Their ability to piss off 'liberals' is a mark of their bona fides.

What if we didn't take the bait? What if we turned it into a nonviolent confrontation with power?

Wouldn't that be cool?

I hadn't planned to attend and haven't been a member for a few years, but I might be convinced to help pull off a pedagogically subversive action like the one I'm envisioning.

Just more grist for the mill,

dkline

ASM said...

I, too, have heard a bit of insider news that MIGHT suggest that MAA is deliberating moving the conference, and I sincerely hope this is the case. I hold the Academy is the highest regard, and think that, as in national politics, dissent is patriotic.

I also think that, if the MAA does decide to move or cancel, we should all be just as active in our PRAISE and appreciation.

I therefore suggest that we wait a few more days before we post the petition, to give MAA more time to clarify their position. I am incensed about this law, but I should be careful myself to not confuse my anger about this law with my hopes for positive, collective action by MAA, MAP and their supporters and communities.

I do have some info to supply for the discussion, in an effort to clarify the issue of the the need to carry papers. I contacted a friend who is a lawyer for the ACLU (which has filed a law suit over this legislation). He writes:

(1) There is no federal law requiring United States citizens to carry proof of citizenship with them at all times.

(2) For approximately the past seventy years, non-citizens aged fourteen and over who have been in the United States for more than thirty days have been required to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which, upon registration, will issue the person with identifying documents. Non-citizens aged eighteen and older who willfully fail to carry those documents with them may be punished with thirty days imprisonment and/or fines. 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e). Where the
story gets very complicated is the question of enforcement; the short
version is that state and municipal police officers only rarely possess
the authority to enforce immigration law, and as a matter of
practicality would be completely unable to determine which of the
dizzying array of INS documents is properly carried by which type of
immigrant.

(3) States do not possess the authority to require anyone to carry proof of citizenship, because the federal constitution explicitly vests the power to regulate aliens and nationality to the national government. No state has been foolish enough to try legislating on the topic until Arizona's recent folly. My organization has filed suit to enjoin enforcement of the statute in question just this week:


(4) Generally speaking, one need not carry any identification documents when not driving a car, operating a boat, or conducting some other activity requiring a license. Some states have so-called "stop and identify" statutes requiring a person to identify himself to a police
officer when asked, but truthfully stating one's name and address
fulfills the query. Not being licensed to practice in Arizona, I can't tell you what that jurisdiction's law on stop-and-identify is.

For the full picture, see the ACLU's handy reference guide to dealing with police encounters:


This information is boiled down to a printable, wallet-sized bust card:

David Rundle said...

I've posted an outsider's view, from across the Atlantic, on my own blog:
http://bonaelitterae.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/immigration-and-the-medievalist/

Karen Bruce said...

My gut feeling is that a boycott would be more effective than public protests and lectures, which may attract some attention but probably from people already sympathetic to the cause. Money sometimes speaks louder than words, particularly to people in power. The MAA may not bring in the same amount of money as K'zoo, but it does have an impact on the economy of the city/university hosting it. The fact that the MAA is talking about it potentially costing them $30 000 AT THIS EARLY STAGE suggests that the final amount of money spent in AZ won't be insignificant.

I should add that I grew up in apartheid South Africa. The international community's response to those racist, unjust laws was generally sanctions and boycotts. Those sanctions and boycotts affected ethical, liberal people who were fighting against the system too, but they realized they were in the name of a just cause and accepted them. I would hope that sympathetic academics in AZ would feel the same.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Thank you, everyone, for these numerous and thoughtful comments. I am so happy that we are having this discussion and that it has been proceeding with caution and care. And also with heart.

I've been spending a fair amount of time this weekend mulling the MAA response to the situation in Arizona. I keep coming back to two things. (1) There has in fact been no public response so far: nothing on the website, no mention in the recent CFP that holding the meeting in Arizona is being given any special scrutiny. What we have is a business as usual call for papers. (2) President Brown has sent a form email to those who contacted the MAA with concerns about the location of the meeting, and that email says exactly what should be stated: that the situation is complex, that the MAA is deliberating, and the law is troubling (she rightly calls it "offending legislation"). But the email contains an unnecessary and puzzling line that comes across as a partial apology for some of the law, mentioning the (non-existent? partially existent?) "federal requirement that identity papers be carried (as is true in many countries)." I don't know what this means or why it was included; it certainly detracts from the rest of the message.

As a member of the MAA, and as a concerned medievalist, I would like to go a step further than my email and blog post. I want to ensure that what has been discussed here at ITM is truly heard by the MAA. Bruce assures us that it has been, but a blog post and a private email just don't have the weight of a more official collective action, I think. What I now suggest is an open public letter, signed by anyone who would like to sign it, whether an MAA member or not, urging that the situation in Arizona be given a public discussion and that moving or canceling the event be considered seriously, despite the financial impact.

I personally believe that holding the meeting in Arizona is not acceptable. I love the idea of a teach-in; I love the idea of strands on migration and tolerance; but I also believe in voting with one's feet as well as one's voice. Hold the meeting in a place where no presenter or attendee need worry about having papers demanded of them, and where we can as a group of scholars insist that a state which makes such demands of anyone has crossed a line that we hold inviolable.

So here is my suggested wording for a public, open letter to the MAA, based on the petition:

"We the undersigned condemn the immigration bill signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer as racist and inhumane. We urge its immediate repeal. To demonstrate our support to those in Arizona whom the law targets, we request that the Medieval Academy of America seriously consider not holding its planned annual meeting of April 2011 in the state if the law remains in place, even if this means canceling the meeting and a financial loss. We further urge that a theme on "Immigration and Tolerance" be added to the meeting's program no matter where it is held in order to place these recent events in a longer historical perspective."

What do you think?

Karl Steel said...

Given the history of boycott in South Africa or indeed in AZ during the MLK day crisis nearly 20 years ago, I think a boycott of AZ is the only action that has the slightest chance of effecting any kind of political change, either by compelling AZ to repeat its nasty laws or by warning other states off from trying to pass similar legislation. The content of an academic conference, particularly in the humanities, will make no difference to the powers-that-be; such content never registers with the mass media except for the annual anti-MLA hit piece or the occasional anti-Kzoo hit piece (see: Charlotte Allen). Sections on (im)migration at the MAA meeting might lead to interesting discussions, but they're likely to preach only to the converted. I should also say that my conscience could never be salved if I traveled as a tourist to AZ while these laws are still in place.

So: Jeffrey, great idea, and it has my full support. Consider me one of the undersigned.

Derrick said...

I'd support a boycott, and added a post here on this: http://gladlywoldehe.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/medieval-academy-in-arizona/

Eileen Joy said...

As I said in my previous posted comment, I see the necessity of the open letter as simply a way to let the MAA know how some of us feel about the possibility of an Arizona meeting, so that, in short, a collective voice is raised on the point that, for some of us, anyway [those who would sign the letter], an MAA meeting in Arizona is troubling to our conscience, for exactly the points JJC raises here in his last set of comments. I in no way want to condemn or vilify or otherwise unfairly caricaturize those who hold offices in the MAA who have to deliberate, and perhaps painfully, over this decision. I just want to be able to say to them: I would not/could not go to Arizona if the meeting were held there. As Bruce H. himself points out in his own letter, the MAA would simply be joining a broad group of organizations who have already decided to do this as well as the very state, Massachusetts, where they are primarily based. So, yes, I'll sign that letter.

dtkline said...

I appreciate the compromise position you've articulated, Jeffrey. I wasn't advocating meeting in AZ as much as I was just thinking through possibilities.

I'll sign as well.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

From Inside HigherEd: speaking up in Arizona.

Claire said...

Please don’t send that letter yet until you consider this point: that while the political gesture of boycott may be an important symbolic response to legal oppression, we may be more effective in encouraging change through our roles as teachers, educators, and public voices by being present in the state. Some of my main concerns with boycotting are that it tends to affect those oppressed more than the system at large. A friend of mine has worked extensively with the Bangladeshi Women Workers Collective and has demonstrated to me on more than one occasion that boycott tends to affect the material realities of oppressed classes much more heavily than it affects business models and economic practices. My other concern is that boycotting really does not do much to make visible the realities of immigrants, illegal or otherwise: it puts out a message that we do not approve of current legal decisions, but then it cuts off conversation with the rest of the community affected. A better strategy would be to hold the conference in Arizona and 1) Title the theme as Jeffrey has proposed, making precise public statements about the practical and ethical reasons for holding the conference in Arizona; 2) organize workshops/ rallies/ speeches with local activists and community organizations that look at present political circumstance in light of historical event (We are medievalists! We learn from the past!); 3) Make it VISIBLE: contact local, state, and national media. The truth of the matter is that withdrawing ourselves from the epicenter of political and social prejudice is only a drop in the bucket to the state—-they’ll shrug their shoulders and say, “oh darn, the medievalist aren’t coming.” Big deal. Boston’s response and the possible response of the Major Leagues will get much more media coverage. But we have a very real opportunity to go in and raise some hackles with business owners and lawmakers while reaching out to the people who are affected by Arizona’s immigration laws and helping to make those people and their voices visible and heard. Any commentary or suggestions?

Eileen Joy said...

Claire: thanks MUCH for your details comments and suggestions here, which several other commenters also raised in yesterday's discussion. If you look at the letter carefully, you'll see that no boycott whatsoever is implied [although some of us may choose to go that route if the MAA does not change the venue of the meeting]. The letter simply does 3 primary things:

1. voices condemnation of the actual Arizona law

2. respectfully requests that the MAA *consider* changing the venue of its meeting

3. asks that the MAA also add a theme on "Immigration and Tolerance" to its program

This letter does not constitute a call for a boycott. Signing it, therefore, does not constitute signing on to a boycott of the MAA meeting. I can't see what is objectionable at this point in writing a *group* letter simply asking the MAA: please consider moving the meeting.

See most recent post above this one.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Claire: what Eileen said. We decided on a letter NOT a petition. We request the MAA seriously consider not holding the meeting in Arizona despite financial repercussions. That's all, at this point.

Anonymous said...

The Medieval Academy is a comparatively small organization and almost certainly can't afford to lose that 30K, even for such an important principle. Why should the MAA simply join a list of other organizations that are boycotting? Why not hold the meeting in Arizona and use the opportunity to speak out against the law by examining hatred and intolerance in a medieval context? That seems to me to be the most powerful statement we could make.

Karl Steel said...

Why not hold the meeting in Arizona and use the opportunity to speak out against the law by examining hatred and intolerance in a medieval context?
See the comments above.

Elly said...

I'm delighted to have found this blog, and to discover this conversation. I see no reason why the many excellent ideas about how to approach this situation are mutually exclusive. It's possible to sign a letter to the MAA, not attend the meeting, and/or boycott the organization; send a letter to AZ papers; and use this as a teaching moment in classes.

Claire said...

Thanks so much for this conversation--and the clarification on the stance on boycott. (I probably missed a few of the comments...) I will certainly sign the letter! I hope that whatever the outcome, the MAA makes choices that not only voice our disapproval of Arizona law, but also that make possible positive action affecting the material realities of those affected.

prehensel said...

I love this conversation. It strikes me as an updated version of the Marx/Bernstein question--radical revolution or gradual reform.

By the by, I'd plunk down $30 to help offset the cost of moving/cancelling the conference (and I'm a grad student subsisting mostly on loans).

Simone PInet said...

Hi, I'd like to share with you a letter some 50 of us Hispanomedievalists sent to the MAA, with a very similar response from Prof. Brown as the one cited above:

Dear Prof. Szarmach, Prof. Bjork, and members of the Program Committee for the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America,

We, the undersigned, would simply like to express our disappointment with The Medieval Academy’s insistence on holding its next meeting in Arizona. While we are aware the recent politics leading to questionable new laws requiring people of “suspicious appearance” in that state be prepared to show immigration documents happened long after the Academy made its decision to hold its meeting in Scottsdale, it is nevertheless dismaying to think that the Academy has not considered moving its conference elsewhere. It is alarming to verify that it has yet to express any concern with how its Hispanists in particular, but in general anyone working on minorities, ethnicity, or just with an “accent” or a sense of social justice might feel about attending a conference held there under the present circumstances. Hispanism not only as a discipline considered in your conferences and publications, but as representing past and present membership in your institution, would have welcomed at least an acknowledgment of the situation and its speaking to the Academy’s concerns. If bishops, basketball players and owners (the Phoenix Suns, now, the "Soles"), the mayor of Los Angeles, and the thousands that have protested these laws can speak to these matters, we believe our institutions should do so as well, if in different ways.
We are not explicitly calling for a boycott of the conference, for the appropriateness of that decision (or its potential risks) will be something each scholar must gauge by him or herself. We think that the Academy, instead of ignoring the matter altogether, could consider sponsoring sessions on Hispanism, on identities, borders, racism, notions of ethnicity and citizenship, migration, etc. directly addressing the matter at hand that could have the added benefit of linking our research to our lived present. We feel the open discussion of these issues might prove more relevant, inclusive, and engaged at this time.
Sincerely,

(some 50 signatures of doctoral students and all levels of faculty in six countries)

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Posted on behalf of Elizabeth Robertson.
------------
This history may be useful.

In the 1990s I was asked to run the New Chaucer Society Meetings in Boulder. I spent a year planning the meeting. Then Colorado passed Amendment 2. Shortly after that, without notifying me, NCS polled its members and cancelled the meeting. The amendment was repealed before the planned meeting. We did hold the meeting in Boulder some years later.

First, I hope someone has asked Bob Bjork what he thinks because whatever the expense, he has already put in a lot of work for this meeting with no reward.

Second, the withdrawal of NCS made absolutely no difference to the state of Colorado--no-one noticed. It is possible that some members of NCS noticed.

I have often wondered if it might not have been more effective to hold the meeting and use it as an occasion to bring to the fore a discussion of the issues. I like the suggestion that sessions be added to the academy meeting dedicated to discussions of immigration and tolerance. Indeed, I would hope, if the conference is not cancelled, that we use our academic strength to speak out against these awful legal developments--and indeed to historicize them--and I would hope that the officers in the academy would take a particularly active and public role in speaking out.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Robertson
University of Glasgow

tenthmedieval said...

Claire suggests that the AHA:

1) Title the theme as Jeffrey has proposed, making precise public statements about the practical and ethical reasons for holding the conference in Arizona; 2) organize workshops/ rallies/ speeches with local activists and community organizations that look at present political circumstance in light of historical event (We are medievalists! We learn from the past!); 3) Make it VISIBLE: contact local, state, and national media.

It seems to me that 1) is difficult, because of people possibly being harassed for papers on their way in, whereas the negative consequences of a boycott for the local medievalists are, as has been said, small, it's not as if AZ is closing the state line; and both 2) and 3) can as easily be done outside Arizona as within it. I mean, you're doing it now. You don't have to go to the state to write to papers, give speeches, make press statements etc. So why is the state itself a better location of protest?

Anonymous said...

Ruth Nisse
Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies
Wesleyan University

I couldn't agree with this petition more, plus I think my family's internal passports from 1930s Europe have expired...

Lollardfish said...

Analogy and precedent.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/25/acpa-arizona_n_588389.html

Anders said...

I was struck by Elizabeth Robertson's comment. The state of Colorado did not notice the cancellation of what to us medievalists is an important conference. And I know from my own experience that Bob Bjork (who surely did not ask to live in a racist state) has already put endless hours of unpaid work into this conference.

But practicalities: it is easy to ask the Academy to cancel the meeting, but there still has to be a meeting in 2011, under the by-laws, and I would suspect the Academy might be more willing to consider moving the meeting if it has an invitation from elsewhere. So can someone invite the Academy to hold the meeting outside of Arizona?

By the way, I hope everyone has written to the governor of Arizona to directly express their anger (e.g. through MoveOn.org). I explained that I refuse to travel to a state where I need to always carry my permanent residency-card in order to avoid harassment from the police.

Anders Winroth