William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Call For American Studies Association To Expand Boycott To United States

Boycotting for fun and profit since 2013

Members of that well known ethics group the American Studies Association met and decided that the principle of social justice (or something) demanded they boycott Israel. So they did.

Not individuals Israelis, you understand, but the State itself; specially, the universities which are located in that State. But not the people in the universities. As the ASA takes pains to emphasize, “This boycott targets institutions” but “not individual scholars, students, or cultural workers”. Strangely, ASA members can also venture to Israel and collaborate with the academics there. Just not the institutions.

Weak boycott, then. Still, a brave political stance to make. If an Israeli institution makes its way to our shores, they’ll be snubbed by the ASA, of course. Though I’m not too clear on how an Israeli institution can make it the distance. Lot of water between here and there. But hey, these guys all have PhDs so they must know what they’re doing.

Now, I hadn’t heard of the ASA before the boycott so I decided to investigate. Turns out they publish American Quarterly which “represents innovative”—uh oh—“interdisciplinary scholarship” with our “hemispheric neighbors.” Diversity: I forgot diversity; it’s in there, I forget where. What kind of articles can that mean?

How about “‘Oh Hell, May, Why Don’t You People Have a Cookbook?’: Camp Humor and Gay Domesticity“. Goal was to “reconsider the role of domestic space in shaping gay male identity”.

The short story (yes) “Us” by Karen Joy Fowler

It takes our breath away to imagine it. We ourselves have never seen, never eaten these things. Many among us are waiting for a world like that, a world beyond the world.

Sometimes, in these new lands, we found others of our kind. This might mean war. Or sex. Or both.

You understand.

I don’t. But then there was “Cockfight Nationalism: Blood Sport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building.” “This essay explores the symbiotic relationship between animal welfare and ideologies of nation building and exceptionalism during a series of struggles over cockfighting in the new US Empire in the early twentieth century.”

And what has to be my favorite, maybe of all time, Greta Gaard’s “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies.

Isn’t there a good German word for that which is beyond parody? Email me. Sic on all that follows.

What critical framework is sufficiently inclusive to describe these uses of milk across nations, genders, races, species, and environments? Because milk is produced by female mammals, a feminist perspective seems to offer a logical foundation for such inquiry.

Using standard feminist methodology, twentieth-century vegan feminists and animal ecofeminists challenged animal suffering in its many manifestations…by developing a feminist theoretical perspective on the intersections of species, gender, race, class, sexuality, and nature.

Motivated by an intellectual and experiential understanding of the mutually reinforcing interconnections among diverse forms of oppression, vegan feminists and ecofeminists positioned their own liberation and well-being as variously raced, classed, gendered, and sexual humans to be fundamentally interconnected to the well-being of other nondominant human and animal species, augmenting Patricia Hill Collins’s definition of intersectionality to include species as well.

You’ll be luckier than I if you read that not while having cookies (Fig Newtons) and milk. I’m switching to whiskey and never going back.

Listen, these kinds of articles are fun when the faculty gets together in their conference rooms to pleasure each other with tales of oppression and woe—right before they seek teaching releases to concentrate on penning works like “Orthodox Transgressions: The Ideology of Cross-Species, Cross-Class, and Interracial Queerness in Lucía Puenzo’s Novel El niño pez (The Fish Child)“—but they’re frightening the children.

I want to be kind, but it’s almost as if the people who write this stuff actually believe it. Innocent civilians wandering into university libraries pulling down copies of American Quarterly won’t understand the concept of academic oneupmanship: they’ll think the articles are meant to be taken seriously. These poor individuals might even act on those beliefs with Gods knows what ill effects on civilization. And what about the students! The scholarship of ASA members is thus a menace.

So not only is the Israeli boycott a fine idea, it should be expanded immediately to include the United States. And not just to the institutions but the people, too. Join me in signing this petition which demands that ASA members have positively no contact with anybody in Israel or the United States. They are not to give formal talks, classes, or seminars. They are most certainly not to lend anybody reading material. They are not to write anything.

Let’s get going. Together we can make a difference!

14 Comments

  1. The last paragraph sums up the solution. Wouldn’t that be lovely. They would live in the world they created! Quiet, alone, ignored: Perfect Silence!

  2. La Longue Carabine

    January 10, 2014 at 8:56 am

    ARTHUR:
    Oh yes, I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was particularly effective.

    VOGON CAPTAIN:
    Yes?

    ARTHUR:
    Oh…. and um, interesting rhythmic devices, too, which seemed to counterpoint the, er…

    FORD:
    Counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the, um…

    ARTHUR:
    Humanity of the er –

    FORD:
    Vogonity.

    ARTHUR:
    What?

    FORD:
    Vogonity.

    ARTHUR:
    Oh. Oh! Vogonity. Sorry. Of the poet’s compassionate soul which contrived through the medium of the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other. And one is left with a profound and vivid insight into… err…

    FORD:
    Into whatever it was …

    FORD:
    …that the poem was about…

    ARTHUR:
    That the poem was about!

    FORD:
    Well done Arthur, that was very good.

    VOGON CAPTAIN:
    So what you’re saying is that I write poetry because underneath my mean, callous, heartless exterior, I really just want to be loved. Is that right?

    FORD:
    Er, well… I mean yes, yes, don’t we all, deep down… you know..?

    VOGON CAPTAIN:
    No, well, you’re completely wrong. I just write poetry to throw my mean, callous, heartless exterior into sharp relief. I’m going to throw you off the ship anyway! Guard! Take the prisoners to number three airlock and throw them out.

  3. Agreed, they should boycott the US also (not just the universities). It is fascinating, however, that they can use so many words and say absolutely nothing. There must be some kind of skill in there that could be useful?

  4. Antisemitism is alway lurking beneath the thin false veneer of civility. That veneer becomes thinner as world and/or national economic distress increase as they are doing now. I have no words to express my anger and outrage at racist, bigoted and disgustingly hypocritical organizations like ASA. Sorry for the rant but being Jewish and knowing that my family lost dozens of members during the Holocaust, this hits close to home

  5. “…other nondominant human and animal species…”

    I was not aware – until now of course – that there were “other human species”. You can learn a lot from run-on, meaningless sentences.

    @Sheri:
    There was once a competition for this sort of nonsense. It should be brought back:

    http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.com/2013/12/american-academics-writing-badly.html

  6. Josh,

    You’ve never heard of THEM? 🙂
    I think they meant Republicans.

  7. Josh: Thanks for the website info. I agree the competition should be brought back!

  8. You fear for the children?

    I really have no fear that a child may pull an issue of AQ, and be inspired to take on any sort of action.

    “Free the cows! Free our sisters!”

  9. Here is some more on the American Studies Association’s Boycott, it is not going well.

    http://www.volokh.com/?cat=45

  10. “Stop saying that. Stop it right now.”

    Gay Communists for Censorship

  11. Briggs,

    Since “Beyond Parody” translates into “Uber Parodie” in German, and Germans typically just concatenate words to make other words, I suppose “Uberparodie” would suffice, wouldn’t it?

  12. Selbartsparodie is the word more often used, translates as “makes a parody of oneself.”

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