Thursday, June 24, 2010

Joan Cadden on the MAA in AZ

by J J Cohen

Professor Joan Cadden was kind enough to grant me permission to reproduce here an email she has been circulating about the Medieval Academy of America annual meeting for 2011, as well as the letter she sent to the MAA. It is eloquent, and I thank her for allowing me to reproduce it here.

Dear Medieval Friends and Colleagues,

As some of you are aware, many members of the Medieval Academy of America are calling on its officers to change the venue of the 2011 meeting, in order to support the protests against Arizona's new "immigration" law.

I support the boycott and am attaching (and copying out below) a letter I have sent to the MAA leadership stating my reasons.  If you are in agreement, I urge you to do the following:

1) Let the Medieval Academy know your position: speculum@medievalacademy.orgor by other means (see ).

2) Make clear that you will not attend the 2011 meeting if it is held in Arizona--even if you have submitted a proposal for a paper or session.

3) Pledge to make a donation to the Academy, if the venue is changed, to compensate for the cost of canceling contracts, etc.

Best wishes,

June 10, 2010

Officers of the Medieval Academy
Medieval Academy of America
104 Mount Auburn Street
5th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Colleagues:

I urge you to change the venue of the 2011 annual meeting of the Medieval Academy in order to support the boycott of Arizona because of its recently passed "immigration" law.  The law not only treats individuals without full and proper documents as criminals, it also stigmatizes and frightens an entire community.  While many of us have broad and deep concerns about current U.S. immigration policy, we have a responsibility, as individuals and through our organizations, to stand up against arbitrary and punitive measures inconsistent with human rights and humane values.

   That obligation arises first from our individual duty to do what is in our power to oppose injustice.  Few of us vote or pay taxes in Arizona, few of us have the ability to bring suit against the state.  But all of us have the right to withhold the benefit of our personal and professional expenditures.  And each of us should be exercising whatever influence we have within institutions, whether our pension funds or our professional societies, to bring meaningful pressure to bear.

   The Medieval Academy as an organization also has a collective obligation to join the opposition to this particular legislation.  Although it mainly targets poor, unskilled laborers, it is of a piece with policies that have impeded the free movement of scholars and thus the free exchange of ideas. In recent years, for example, academics have been refused entry to the United States to attend a conference of the Latin American Studies Association, which changed the venue of its annual meeting in response. And the Religious Studies Association, along with a group of other scholarly and professional organizations, joined a law suit to secure a visa for a scholar of Islam who was denied admission to the U.S. to take up an academic position.  The same toxic combination of xenophobia, religious intolerance, and prejudice that is embodied in the Arizona law is integrally related to these impediments to the free exchange of ideas, in which the Medieval Academy has an unquestionable and urgent interest.

   Undoubtedly the very community adversely affected by the law will also suffer consequences of the boycott.  But responsible members of that community, as well as individuals and groups concerned with human rights and law enforcement, both in this country and abroad, have called for a suspension of economic exchange with Arizona to protest the law.  The Medieval Academy has a choice between supporting and ignoring the principles and the people involved.

   I am aware that a change of venue will place considerable burden on staff and cause inconvenience for some members.  I hope that a sense of purpose and the satisfaction of doing the right thing will provide some compensation.  There will no doubt be monetary costs to the Academy as well, and I am pleased to make an initial pledge of a thousand dollars toward offsetting these, in the hope that others will also be willing to support participation in the boycott in this way. Anyone concerned with the fiscal implications of a change of venue should also consider that attendance at a meeting in Arizona may be affected by the decisions of individual members not to come.

   As officers of the Medieval Academy you will undoubtedly be engaging in a serious discussion of all aspects of the call to abandon the Arizona site.  I urge you to act on the broad principles involved and to seek pragmatic solutions to whatever practical consequences may result from the change.


                   Joan Cadden
                   Professor Emerita of History
                   University of California, Davis


Bruce Venarde said...

Professor Cadden's letter is, to make use of a dubious old-fashioned expression, one of the classiest things I've seen in a long time.

Eileen Joy said...

3 cheers for Prof. Cadden's letter.

Anonymous said...

Joan's letter is indeed the best thing I've read lately.

Let's get out the vote by August 1. And if you can, add to the commitments to support the cost of canceling -- despite the fact that no one has told us what the costs of going ahead would be if no one shows....

I'm very much in favor of windmills -- even tilting at them.