Statement in Response to ASA Council Endorsement of Boycott

As a non-voting member of the National Council and editor of the Association’s Encyclopedia of American Studies, I can make this statement. I do not represent or lead any opposition organization, but am disturbed, as someone deeply involved in American Studies for the last 35 years, by the ethical stance represented by the statement issued by the ASA on boycott and its ramifications for American Studies and academic scholarship generally (

The ASA’s National Council has chosen to endorse a resolution for a pernicious boycott that undermines the principles of intellectual freedom and free inquiry. Despite vigorous opposition from prominent members of the ASA, including eight previous presidents of the association, the Council has issued guidelines for discriminatory “symbolic and material action” based upon misstatements and distortions of a complex situation. My hope is that the membership will vote to not endorse this action, although the rhetoric of the correspondence to the membership clearly is slanted toward the Council’s desired outcome.  The news of misguided censoring action by a supposedly learned society serves as a wake-up call to the American academic community and public. No academic association should enact policies that in the words of the ASA’s resolution on intellectual freedom promotes “acts of censorship that endanger intellectual freedom…,” including “laboratories where students and teachers are free from suspicion because of their ethnic affiliations; and to campuses open to the widest range of opinions.” Further, the ASA states that it is committed to “the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad.” The Council’s endorsement is clearly a move toward the weakening of those relations and to the integrity of American Studies as a scholarly pursuit. In contrast to the Council’s statement, the public repeatedly has rejected “blacklisting” and the exclusion of institutions, people, and points of view as destructive to finding the path to peace and reconciliation. Impeding dialogue and free inquiry,  making a mockery of democratic process, and issuing one-sided attacks based on falsehoods should shame proponents of this resolution and the American Studies Association. I call upon the members of the American Studies Association to not endorse it and upon the global academic community to condemn this action.