Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Columbia Spectator has a couple of good pieces on the El Haj controversy today. First, The Trouble With Tenure, by Chris Kulawik, which discusses both El Haj and Joseph Massad:

...Such abstraction in a discipline as evidentially and methodologically oriented as archeology is inherently counterintuitive. I too am not an archeologist, but with just a rudimentary knowledge of the field, it appears that one of two things must be true: either Abu El-Haj stumbled upon one of the greatest findings of the young millennium, or she practices faulty scholarship. Consensus and common sense seems to lean toward the latter. Still, a greater, far more contentious fight looms. Assistant professor Joseph Massad, noted anti-Israel polemicist, lumbers toward tenure and a place in Columbia’s 20-year plan.

Massad, some will argue to great effect, has yet to produce a piece of scholarship not loaded with anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric. Much of his scholarly work, equally at home on an op-ed page as his classroom, must be read to be believed. Once charged with classroom intimidation and violations of academic freedom, Massad has emerged as the poster boy for an increasingly political and activist Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures. To many, myself included, the thought of Joseph Massad as a facet of Columbia life for the next several decades is a frightening and wholly untenable proposition. There is no place within the academic establishment for thinly-veiled demagoguery. Individual departments or tenure committees must recognize this and act accordingly. To abandon their responsibilities is to commit a great disservice to the University...

And here's a report on the presentation last night by Alan F. Segal: Prof Contests Abu El-Haj’s Claims:

...In his lecture, titled “What Biblical Archaeology Tells Us About the First Temple Period,” Segal focused on the role of archaeology in proving certain aspects of the Bible to be true, including the existence of a Jewish state in Israel in ancient times.

“The problem is that everyone wants someone like her for the diversity of the college, and I agree, she looks great on paper. But then you read the book and you say, ‘No, this isn’t the right person,’” said Segal, who stated he does not believe that Abu El-Haj, a Fulbright Scholar and Palestinian-American, should be granted tenure...

...According to Segal, someone within the University requested that he provide a list of expert archaeologists—who “preferably” were not Jewish—to comment on Abu El-Haj’s tenure. Segal said he could not provide the list and that religion “has nothing to do with what you say as a professional.” Barnard Communications did not respond to a request for comment by press time...

The Spectator seems to be taking a refreshing line here. Perhaps Columbia students are finally saying "no mas" to making their campus a political battleground at the cost of the value of their degrees.

And don't miss Emmet Trueman's piece just below this one: Nadia Abu El Haj - The Thesis is Not Like the Book.

And finally, do click through to this excellent essay that expands on a bit of archaeology I noted in my piece Arabs in Gaza Have Destroyed Jewish Antiquities. Well done.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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