Sunday, June 13, 2010

Medieval Academy and Arizona: (non)update

by J J Cohen

So far as I know, no decision has been reached on holding the 2010 meeting in Arizona. Meanwhile the open letter to the Academy has garnered 161 signatures. I fear that no news is bad news in that if a change of venue is to be made, swift action is necessary.

On Friday I received an email from Speculum, requesting that I review a book I'd really like to write about. Here is the reply I sent.

Dear Marry-Jo Arn,

Thank you for thinking of me for this review. XXX is sitting on my desktop right now and I've already enjoyed some its chapters already. Reviewing the volume for Speculum would be just the excuse I need to make it my next book to read thoroughly.

Like many MAA members, though, I am deeply troubled by the possibility that the 2011 annual meeting may be held in Arizona as planned. Should that be the case (and I truly hope it will not be the case), it's my intention to cancel my MAA membership and no longer review books or essays for Speculum. I hope that does not sound petty, nor too excessive a reaction; but I believe that we as medievalists are facing down an important ethical choice here. I am going to hope that the MAA makes the right decision so that I can continue to be as proud of the association as I have been since I joined in 1992.

I know that this is more than you expected or perhaps need to hear from me. I just wanted to give some context as to why I cannot take on this important duty at this time. If you can wait until the MAA has made a decision about Arizona, I will be happy to undertake the review then, provided the meeting is moved or canceled. I certainly understand, though, if you will need to find another reviewer quickly.

All the best,



Anonymous said...

Perhaps some would claim the AZ decision is too far removed from their request. Perhaps some might think it is petty. However, medievalists aren't always thought of as in touch with today's issues. By continuing plans to hold the MAA in AZ while so many other entities are pulling out. To explain to colleagues across our campuses that what AZ is doing is not something that has disgusted one of our discipline's primary academic societies is to garner these colleague's scorn.
It is hard to choose when to pick one's battles but it seems you have chosen yours and I think it is laudable and I thank you for your choice as a Latina and a medievalist at a university that 3 years ago hired a large number of Latin American Studies faculty and cut the tenure-track line of medieval Iberian studies (for the time being supposedly).

epiphanygreen said...

as a Medieval Studies student all the way over in Sydney, Australia, I salute you! Keep up the good work.

Jenny Green

Anonymous said...

Would you really cut off your professional relationship with the MAA permanently because Arizona passed a law with which you disagree?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Anonymous, no, I would not cut off ties with an organization in which I've invested several decades because a state passed a law with which I disagree. When you put it like that, the two things are unconnected so it is easy to say no.

BUT let's get the causality right. If the MAA decides to hold their annual meeting in the state that has passed a law to which I am passionately opposed -- if they choose NOT to say to the state, sorry, what you did was wrong, we cannot under these circumstances meet in AZ -- then yes, I will cut my ties. Maybe not forever, but for a while.

Everyone will obviously make their own decisions on this one; it is deeply personal. I myself am opposed to holding the meeting in AZ and feel it is important to send a strong message against racism by boycotting the state. I will be very disappointed with the MAA if they fail to act publicly to condemn the law.

prehensel said...

Anonymous said: "Would you really cut off your professional relationship with the MAA permanently because Arizona passed a law with which you disagree?"

That's really, I think, a false representation of what's happening here. It's not like we're upset that AZ lowered its speed limit to 55 or lowered the cap on damages for malpractice suits. Those are legal issues, but this is much more along the lines of morality. I'm not certain that many medievalists would be comfortable shopping at, say, Circuit City if it was known that they financially supported an organization with racist tendencies. I don't see how the MAA holding a conference and bringing money into AZ is any different.

Some people vote with their dollars and some with their memberships. This is both.

Karl Steel said...

Thanks prehensel: my sentiments exactly.