Anthropologists in Trouble

I guess one can't have his politics and teach them too - or not as this case may be. And still, David Graeber appears to be losing his job at Yale for raising his voice in protest. I suppose I shouldn't expect anything else. As if the stuffiness of the ivory tower is not enough, this too is probably influencing my desire to find work outside of academia to an even greater extent:

Associated Press

October 23, 2005

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- By all accounts, Yale anthropology professor David Graeber is one of the brightest minds in his field. His books are taught worldwide and the London School of Economics recently asked him to give its annual Malinowski lecture, an offer reserved for the world's most promising young anthropologists.

And he's about to be unemployed.

Graeber is an anarchist whose counterculture writings are nearly as popular as his academic work. He carries an Industrial Workers of the World union card and has been arrested during anti-globalization protests.

So when Yale recently told Graeber not to return next year, it touched off a letter-writing campaign from professors worldwide, some of whom suggested that the Ivy League university is letting politics influence its hiring.

"It's extremely odd that one of the most brilliant anthropologists is being excluded from the department at Yale in such an extraordinary fashion," said Maurice Bloch, a London School of Economics anthropologist and one of many professors to write letters to Yale.

Graeber, who has taught at Yale since 1998, has appealed the decision. University spokesman Tom Conroy said the university is negotiating an informal settlement but would not discuss the reasons behind the contract decision.

Dozens of the 250 non-tenured professors at Yale come up for contract renewal each year, Conroy said, and it's not unusual for them to leave. He said some leave for personal reasons or take tenure-track jobs at other universities. Others, like Graeber, are not renewed.

Graeber, 44, is the son of a seamstress and a print plate stripper and still lives in the same New York City co-op where he grew up. "Socialist housing," he calls it. He wears cargo pants to class and is not shy about his disdain for the tenured Yale faculty who showed him the door.

"I'm both more productive intellectually than they are and I'm having more fun. It must drive them crazy," he said in an interview.

Later, he added: "I'm publishing like crazy. I'm all over the place. I try hard not to rub it in."

Graeber said he got along with his colleagues at first and passed a three-year review before leaving for sabbatical in 2001. While away from New Haven, Graeber joined groups such as the Direct Action Network and Ya Basta and began appearing at anti-war and anti-globalization protests and in newspaper articles.

When he returned to Yale, he said things changed.

"All of a sudden, people weren't speaking to me," he said.

At his six-year review, he said he was given only a short-term renewal because some colleagues expressed concerns.

"It was incredibly petty," Graeber said. "It was stuff like, 'He turns in grades late, comes in late to class.' Really stupid little things."

He said he made more enemies by objecting when some colleagues tried to kick out a graduate student. The student, Christina Moon, was an organizer trying to unionize graduate students and prepare a strike.

This spring, when his contract was up for review again, the department voted not to extend it. Like all employment decisions, it was made behind closed doors. Even Graeber doesn't get to know why.

Andrew Hill, chairman of anthropology at Yale, did not return a call for comment. He told the student-run Yale Daily News that professors should not assume they will be rehired.

Enrique Mayer, a Yale anthropology professor who was in the department's meeting, said he doesn't believe Graeber was fired simply for being an anarchist.

"I have my own opinions, but I'm gagged," Mayer said. "There are people who don't like his politics and people who don't like internal graduate student issues. That's true."

Despite being eccentric - an adjective echoed by several anthropologists and students - Graeber's classes are among the most popular in the department, Mayer said.

"If Yale can't cope with eccentric possibilities, that's rather odd," Bloch said. "It's had many in the past. He doesn't run around naked in the middle of lectures. He doesn't do anything as radical as that."

Moon, a doctoral candidate, is one of dozens of anthropology students who signed a student petition supporting Graeber. She said he is the department's most popular professor but is not liked by the senior faculty.

"He was really challenging the attitudes, the politics and the conservative views of the department," Moon said.

Since Graeber's firing, he has become a cause celebre for student union activists. It's bittersweet, he said, because he disagrees with the union's centralized organization and tried hard not to get political on campus.

"I figured, I'll be an anarchist in New York and a scholar in New Haven," he said.

Peter McLaren, a UCLA professor and outspoken Marxist who is among more than 4,000 names on a general online petition supporting Graeber, said that can be difficult. He said he was similarly fired early in his career.

"It's the professors that get active locally and in their communities, where newspapers stories come out about them. They're the professors very often that are in trouble," he said. "If you keep your ideas to your politics and your books, you're OK."

As negotiations continue between Graeber and Yale, letters keep arriving on campus. A student-run Web site supporting Graeber has collected nine letters signed by several dozen professors.

"It has also led to widespread speculation on the motives that lie behind it," University of Chicago faculty members wrote. "None of this can do anything but a disservice to anthropology at Yale and to the discipline at large."

With his job prospects for next year uncertain, Graeber didn't renew a lease on his apartment. He splits his time between his New York co-op and apartments in New Haven where friends let him sleep.

Though he said he'd like to stay at Yale, he's touching up his resume just in case. But he worries whether his reputation is tainted.

Copyright (c) 2005, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared at: http://www.stamfordadvocate

I just had to keep this going...

Snagged from the Tom Tomorrow political cartoon series through the help of another like minded blogger... Is the shit really hitting the fan?

A Call for Indigenous Rights!

Indigenous peoples in the Americas, and around the world for that matter, continue to suffer the affects of colonialism, globalization, and capitalism that have consumed the globe at alarming rates. Their voices continue to be hushed in the international community, and their needs are left unmet. Indigenous groups from throughout the region have gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina in an attempt to document the current state of the indigenous in the Americas. The BBC reports:
"Representatives at the summit, including the powerful National Indian Confederation of Ecuador, are discussing ways of opening spaces for their participation, fighting discrimination and tackling poverty."
In the Americas, land issues are among the hottest topics.

"Their land has been taken away and they can't manage their resources," said the head of the Organisation of Indigenous Peoples in Argentina, Victor Capitan. "All this has driven indigenous people further into poverty."

They are expected to prepare a final document on the situation of the indigenous peoples in the continent, which will be circulated during the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Argentina at the beginning of November.

Keep checking back for more on indigenous movements in the Latin American region. Watch for current news along with more background info that may shed some light on what is happening in the region and why.

Living by Leviticus

This piece is a reprint from an email that I recently recieved.

On her radio show recently, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22,and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet.
It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. ... End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Law and how to follow them.

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special
University of Virginia

Chavez Protects the Indigenous...

October 13, 2005
In yet another example of why Venezuela's President Chavez remains a compelling figure, he has come to the defense of his nation's indigenous peoples. Chavez is expelling the Florida-based missionary group, New Tribes, from the country. While he may be over-stating the political motivations of the group, it is long past due that missionaries are moved out of indigenous areas of South and Central America. According to the BBC article reporting the news:
"The leftist leader said the missionaries were 'imperialists' and he felt "ashamed" at their presence in indigenous areas of Venezuela."
In fact, New Tribes is one of the largest missionary organizations operating in Latin America, and thus can be seen as responsible for much of the cultural erosion of indigenous peoples in the region. While this is a step in the right direction for indigenous peoples, much more still needs to be done to help protect their rights. Indigenous people have been maltreated since the arrival of the Europeans 500 years ago, and such continues today.


In honor of his death almost 40 years ago, I offer this post to the legend of Che Guevara. The Cuban website, Adelante On-Line, had a nice article about Che, his accomplishments, and what he still means to thousands of people around the world. Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia on October 8, 1968 by U.S. backed Bolivian agents. He was attempting to continue the spread of the Bolivarian Revolution throughout South America. This legacy is largely continued today in both Cuba and Venezuela, and is threatening to grow even larger with changes in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay. We can only hope that Mexico becomes part of this heritage as well. Here are some quotes from the article:
"Physician and combatant extraordinaire, he is a legend for many, a saint in the Bolivian mountains and the paradigm for revolutionary and rebel fighter, whose ideas live on indefatigably after his death."
"The US intelligence services and the Bolivian Army could not imagine in 1967 that the Argentine-Cuban Ernest Guevara de la Serna would come to symbolize critical thinking, struggle and dignity for a great part of humanity."
He truly was one of the last of a now uncommon breed - the revolutionary. Nobody has since put his or her life on the line in defense of the common man like Che Guevara once did. Cheers to Che, and may his spirit live on!