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Outrageous, If True:

According to the Columbia Spectator, Barnard religion professor Alan Segal was asked by the university to provide a list of archeology experts to comment on the controversial tenure case of Nadia Abu El-Haj's tenure--archeologists who "preferably" were not Jewish. Segal quite properly refused, noting that religion "has nothing to do with what you say as a professional."

El-Haj's "scholarly" work is premised on the idea that Jewish Israeli archeologists invented evidence of ancient Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel to justify Zionist claims to the land. Besides the issue of discrimination, which would be unthinkable in any other context related to any other group, the request to Segal seems like an implicit endorsement of her thesis, that Jewish archeologists cannot be trusted to be objective in their work related to Israel (which makes one wonder why the university would trust El-Haj, of Palestinian Arab origin, to be objective). Thanks to Solomania for the link.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that another possibility is that the powers-that-be don't anticipate granting El-Haj tenure, and they want non-Jewish critics so that they can better make their case that this was an objective decision, not one motivated by politics or pressure. If so, the university is merely (?) pandering to the prejudice that Jewish archeologists won't be objective, which I suppose is a bit lower on the outrageousness scale than actually being prejudiced, but still does not speak well of the requestors.

FURTHER UPDATE: Barnard denies the allegation. Well, sort of. Barnard spokesman Gildersleeve said that "the charge that restrictions were put on that request is absolutely untrue." Segal isn't claiming that he was restricted to non-Jews, just that they were preferable.

Oren (mail):

Jewish archeologists cannot be trusted to be objective in their work related to Israel


I am quite pro-Israel and quite sure that no Jewish professor would knowingly distort their finding to support any particular political agenda, it seems reasonable to want a neutral party to the satisfaction of all the participants.

I don't trust anyone to be objective about their own country/people.
9.24.2007 11:44pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I can see the argument for not asking ISRAELIs to comment, because that's who they are criticizing. I can also see requesting a list of individuals who have not taken a position on particular controversies discuss in her work. But to request "non-Jewish" reviewers doesn't eliminate reviewers who will be biased against her work, and necessarily excludes Jewish reviewers who will review it seriously and objectively.
9.24.2007 11:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I meant "that's who SHE is criticizing" in her book.
9.24.2007 11:51pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
db: Barnard denies Segal's allegation. Hopefully you can see NYT articles.

In general, I think it's a good idea not to have people you violently disagree with on your tenure committee. Probably not a good idea not to have people you violently agree with on your tenure committee either.

He also said that a Barnard official, whom he declined to name, had asked him to suggest people who were not Jewish to comment on Dr. Abu El-Haj's work for the tenure review, and that he had refused.

Elizabeth Gildersleeve, a Barnard spokeswoman, said that a high official of the college had met with Professor Segal on the tenure case and asked him to submit names for letters of reference. But Ms. Gildersleeve said that "the charge that restrictions were put on that request is absolutely untrue."
9.25.2007 12:08am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Whoops: should be "Probably a good idea not to have people you violently agree with..."
9.25.2007 12:09am
Anonperson (mail):
I really don't see what is so outrageous about this. It's always good to avoid conficts of interest, and appearances of conflicts of interest.

Also, you seem to forget that the number one goal of most administrators is to avoid controversy. So, if I were an administrator, I would much prefer that any tenure decision be made in such a way that it would be hard for anyone to criticize. I would prefer that all experts be neither Jewish nor Muslim, and have no perceptible bias one way or the other.
9.25.2007 12:27am
ChrisIowa (mail):
The comments on the work would have to have analysis and reasons behind them to have value, and if there was bias it would be there for all to see.

The work being analyzed, if being evaluated as a professional work, should also be free of bias. If there is bias, who best to uncover it than the other side?
9.25.2007 12:56am
neurodoc:
So, if I were an administrator, I would much prefer that any tenure decision be made in such a way that it would be hard for anyone to criticize. I would prefer that all experts be neither Jewish nor Muslim, and have no perceptible bias one way or the other.
Two questions: 1) Who in the world would not "prefer that any tenure decision be made in such a way that it would be hard for anyone to criticize?; 2) If you think it best that Jews and Muslims be excluded lest they introduce bias, then wouldn't you want to see Christians excluded too, since the Christian narrative incorporates the Jewish one? And might not be problematic, since they have had some bad experiences with Muslims over the past 60 years, which might call into question their credibility?

This Abu El-Haj case deserves close scrutiny and thoughtful discussion, since it implicates so much - what is scholarship and what is partisan political tendention pretending to be scholarship; how tenure decisions are made; how secretive the tenure review process should be, and who should be allowed input to it; etc. The spectral presence of the late and very much unlamented by me Edward Said is very much a part of this, as is Columbia's singular Middle Eastern Language and Civilizations department. I'm glad to see it get its own thread here.
9.25.2007 1:03am
tvk:
Isn't this another iteration of the inherent tension between expertise and bias? I am sympathetic to the idea that, their expertise being equal, it is probably perferable to have someone who was neither Israeli nor Palestinian Arab to evaluate work which steps right into the middle of a political minefield. I take it that Professor Bernstein would not find this "evenhanded" exclusion to be nearly as outrageous. The problem is that a truly neutral observer who has such expertise is probably very hard to come by.
9.25.2007 1:18am
Milhouse (www):
Suppose some white woman based her academic work on the thesis that slavery never happened, and all the records are the result of black sorcerers casting mind-befuddling spells on everyone. And suppose she was up for tenure, and the university asked for people to critically evaluate her work, but preferably these people should not be black. How do you suppose that would go down?
9.25.2007 1:23am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Here's the problem: her work, if true, would tend to undermine what I would call the romantic or hearttugging basis of Israel. Although Jews returning to their historic homeland is a thrilling and touching story, the rightness of having a Jewish state should not and does not depend on Israel's having the exact same boundaries as where Jews lived in Biblical times: [Segal] said he was particularly troubled by her suggestion that ancient Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands
9.25.2007 1:31am
Ilya Somin:
I don't trust anyone to be objective about their own country/people.

Really? So Americans can't be "objective" about scholarship about the US? Or Frenchmen about works on France?
9.25.2007 1:43am
PT Willis:
It makes alot of sense. I don't think it's possible that a Jewish archaeologist can objectively review her work given the nature of it. The vast majority of people that would disagree with this......are probably Jewish.

**awaits reflexive accusations of anti-semitism**
9.25.2007 1:45am
V:
You don't say one word about the amazing academic scandal involving Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz defaming Norman Finkelstein, bringing amazing pressure to bear to deny him tenure, but THIS gets you in an uproar. Motes and beams, David... (I realize you don't agree with Finkelstein, DB, but his scholarship was attested to in writing by some of the most prominent names in the field, and his demonstration of Dershowitz's blatant plagarism and false claims was amply documented in his well-known text. I was, BTW, amazed this was never discussed on VC. I guess if the guy you emotionally prefer is so thoroughly documented as a liar and fraud, it IS best to keep silent, even on something that was discussed nationally in numerous venues.)
9.25.2007 1:48am
PT Willis:
V, don't forget to mention how Dershowitz's was PWNED when Chomsky called him out for lying in the Boston Globe.
9.25.2007 1:54am
PT Willis:
V, don't forget to mention how Dershowitz was PWNED when Chomsky called him out for lying in the Boston Globe.
9.25.2007 1:54am
PT Willis:
I don't trust anyone to be objective about their own country/people.

Really? So Americans can't be "objective" about scholarship about the US? Or Frenchmen about works on France?


Last time I checked Americans and Frenchmen weren't fighting a territorial civil war against each other. I think it's fair to say the any Palestine-Zionist issues are going to be pretty sensitive for most Jews and Muslims.
9.25.2007 2:08am
Anonperson (mail):
neurodoc, as an administrator, the right decision is the one that doesn't cause controversy. The actual "correctness" is irrelevant to me. So, I don't care at all whether or not a Christian scholar would really be biased or not. All I care about is how other people, those that might raise a ruckus, would perceive it.

I'm not saying this is ideal, or noble behavior. I'm just saying that it is well within what I expect out of a typical administrator, and thus not outrageous. If it had been an outright ban, then perhaps it would have been more egregious. But as a preference, it's hard to get worked up about it.
9.25.2007 9:34am
Anonperson (mail):
Who in the world would not "prefer that any tenure decision be made in such a way that it would be hard for anyone to criticize"?


Exactly. So, if one could form a committee that no one could criticize, be it pro-Zionists or anti-Zionists, then one should try to do it, correct? Of course, we can debate about whether or not one can form such a committee that is not open to other angles of criticism, but that is a mostly orthogonal question. And I make no claims as to the nobility of such behaviors. I only believe that it is typical, and therefore not outrageous.
9.25.2007 9:44am
Anonperson (mail):
BTW, I also see Segal's refusal as totally expected (and would do the same in his situation). Each player in this is acting in their own best interests. As an academic, Segal's reputation would suffer if it became known that he acceded to such a request. On the other hand, I also understand why Barnard would have such a preference.
9.25.2007 9:49am
jpe (mail):
El-Haj's "scholarly" work is premised on the idea that Jewish Israeli archeologists invented evidence of ancient Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel to justify Zionist claims to the land.

I'd be genuinely surprised if this were an accurate reading of the text.
9.25.2007 10:10am
T. Gracchus (mail):
Why ask for a professor of religion for references on archeology?
9.25.2007 10:10am
G. Hamid (www):
My guess is that Barnard simply wants to avoid having to deal with a bunch of lawyers like you guys.
9.25.2007 10:19am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
PT, your basic argument boils down to: If you're Jewish, nothing you say that even remotely touches on Israel can be trusted.

Dress it up in bloated, obfuscatory multisyllabic words like your hero Chomsky if you want, but that basic rhetorical structure underlying your allegation shines through. If you believe that race and ethnicity provide a method of gauging an individual's viewpoints under all circumstances, then you are right, you aren't being anti-semitic here, you're being consistent, and merely swinish and primitive, and I hope you will enlighten us as to your race and ethnicity, and gender and sexual orientation, income etc, so we may appropriately discount your viewpoints to reflect your inherent biases.

Of course if only the Jews's opinions on Israel are discounted, and everybody else's opinions on everything must be taken on the merits, then you are indeed being anti-semitic, and swinish and primitive to boot. Either way it's a stupid and repugnant argument, typical Chomskyite tribalism dressed up as post-PhD claptrap.

So keep talking, PT. Eugene is right. The surest way to defeat an idiot's argument is to let the idiot keep talking.
9.25.2007 10:29am
Wahoowa:
To me the argument seems much simpler:

(1) The college realizes the premise of the research is ridiculous.
(2) Just to show how ridiculous it is, you find a non-Jew to discuss evidence of Jewish settlement. The fact that a non-Jew presents archeological evidence puts the lie to the Zionist Jew conspiracy idea.

It's not pandering to the idea of Jewish bias, it's refuting it. Am I missing something?
9.25.2007 10:43am
A Cagle (mail):
I've done a few posts on this at my blog: http://archaeoblog.blogspot.com/search?q=el-Haj

I haven't read the dissertation/book and it's not my primary area of study, so I don't have a whole lot to say about it specifically. The troubling aspect seems to be el-Haj's use of anonymous sources -- in a scholarly work, mind you -- and her dubious knowledge of archaeological methods.
9.25.2007 10:44am
kdonovan:
Her thesis is only 1/2 a step removed from the Holocaust deniers. Dressing obvious lies up in academic mumbo-jumbo doesn't make them true and speaks very poorly of anyone who would even consider granting her tenure. To go through the charade that she has produced scholarship worthy of serious analysis is absurd.
9.25.2007 10:44am
Eli Rabett (www):
My suggestion is this is a good one to stay away from. If you think it is remotely within the realm of possibility that a senior administrator would say "No Jews on the tenure review" of a Palestinian descended Professor, there is a bridge crossing the Hudson River near Columbia that I could sell you for a few bucks. And the administrator would say this to a Jewish Professor in another department? In your dreams.

This is one of those things that "happen" but are NEVER talked about even in the bathroom to the four walls with the door locked. Am I calling Segal a liar. Either that, or someone wanted to throw a rock through the window and fingered him for the loudspeaker.
9.25.2007 12:00pm
neurodoc:
**awaits reflexive accusations of anti-semitism**
Such a charge could not be proven on the basis of the evidence presented, but there is enough here to support "stupid." (In the interests of productive conversation and general civility, I ordinarily avoid ad hominem, but this one was practically begged for this response of mine to it.)
9.25.2007 12:47pm
neurodoc:
You don't say one word about the amazing academic scandal involving Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz defaming Norman Finkelstein, bringing amazing pressure to bear to deny him tenure...

Only that defamation which is false can be legally actionable or morally condemnible, and there was nothing false in Dershowitz's defamation(s) of Finkelstein. If you think otherwise, then please specify which of Dershowitz's utterances on the subject of Finkelstein were both defamatory and false with authority for your charge. It will not do to say no more than "his scholarship was attested to in writing by some of the most prominent names in the field, and his demonstration of Dershowitz's blatant plagarism and false claims was amply documented in his well-known text."

While we probably agree on little if anything else, we do agree that the dispute over tenure for Finkelstein is one that should be discussed further. I would be delighted to see on the VCers take it up, especially the lead conspirator, Eugene Volokh, who has blogged about "academic freedom" (quite different than "freedom of speech," though often conflated) before. DB might do the Finkelstein too, but I fear then productive conversation would be interrupted a great many times by those charging DB with bias. And while DB handles those charges well, it is distracting, especially when it is the same people over and over yelling or otherwise personally abusing him. (And v I am not charging you with "yelling" here or being personally abusive of the VC blogger, since though you and I clearly see the Finkelstein matter very differently, IMNSHO you have said nothing that falls beyond the limits of civil discourse.)
9.25.2007 1:06pm
Judith (www):
"I'd be genuinely surprised if this were an accurate reading of the text."

Actually it is. Her book is based on "post-colonial narrative," not facts. That's the scandal of it.

Therefore it shouldn't matter who critiques the book, only the substance of their critique. And in fact some non-Jewish scholars have savaged the book. Solomonia has the most posts detailing her shoddy scholarship - I collected many of arguments here, with links to him, but these are more closely grouped together.
http://www.keshertalk.com/archives/2007/09/nadiaalhaj2.php
http://www.keshertalk.com/archives/2007/09/nadiaalhaj3.php

"....the rightness of having a Jewish state should not and does not depend on Israel's having the EXACT same boundaries as where Jews lived in Biblical times: [Segal] said he was particularly troubled by her suggestion that ancient Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands...."

The second sentence isn't an example of the first sentence. Al-Haj denies the evidence of archeology altogether. Not only that, at the end of the book she approves of Palestinian destruction of Joseph's Tomb, as a way of asserting their claims. IOW, approving what she (falsely) accuses Israelis of doing in the rest of the book.Look at the links to scholarly critiques - it really is that bad.
9.25.2007 1:13pm
neurodoc:
Anonperson: neurodoc, as an administrator, the right decision is the one that doesn't cause controversy. The actual "correctness" is irrelevant to me...I'm not saying this is ideal, or noble behavior. I'm just saying that it is well within what I expect out of a typical administrator, and thus not outrageous.
I am not sure what to say in response to this. First, I am not sure whether you are identifying yourself as a university administrator who would put avoidance of controvery over getting it right ("correctness"), or just saying that is what university administrators generally do and it isn't outrageous. Then, I don't know where exactly between "not...ideal, or noble" on the one hand and "outrageous" you would place it.

If you are not yourself a university administrator who values avoidance of controversy more than getting it right ("correctness"), then I won't challenge you on this being "well within what I (you) expect out of a typical administrator." Unfortunately, it probably is what might be expected. But I am much closer to the "outrageous" view, then to the much fainter "not ideal or noble" one.
9.25.2007 1:25pm
r78:

Segal quite properly refused, noting that religion "has nothing to do with what you say as a professional."

Oh really.

So if an institution was contemplating granting tenure to, say, a scholar whose work questioned whether Fatima Zahra was a blood descendent of Mohammed, should the institution allow the scholars reviewing the tenure decision to be all Shia?
9.25.2007 1:38pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I confess I haven't read her work. If Nadia Abu is in effect standing in front of the Wailing Wall, claiming that today's Jerusalem is not where biblical Jerusalem was, then she's talking nonsense. I presume she's not talking obvious nonsense, and there are legitimate archaelogical issues in controversy.
9.25.2007 1:46pm
neurodoc:
Anonperson, I have now read your lsubsequent posts which make clearer that you wish to be "non-judgemental" as to university administrators seeking to avoid controversy. I continue to think they should be judged, and not kindly.

T. Gracchus, you ask, "Why ask for a professor of religion for references on archeology?" For starters, you are aware, aren't you, that if for no other reason than we already have an interdisciplinary matter in this since Abu El-Haj is not an archaelogist who has written about archaelogy, but instead an anthropologist who has done so? Beyond that, there is an intimate relationship between Judeo-Christian theology and Holy Land archaelogy, so it is common for those with relevant expertise to be within departments of religion, and the connectedness to the three monotheistic religions, as well as the secular and very partisan politics, is part of the problem when seeking objectivity.

Eli Rabett, you think it not even "remotely within the realm of possibility" that a senior Columbia administrator would have said anything like that and so on that basis you would conclude that Segal must be a liar? Do you also think that troubling allegations about Columbia's Middle Eastern Language and Civilizations department cannot possibly be true since they are too outrageous to be credible no matter what proof might be adduced, even the published utterances of MELAC faculty? If the answer is "yes," then I would ask if you have actually stood on that bridge you are offering to sell, and are you the true owner of said bridge, or are you looking to perpetrate a fraud on the credulous? (And please note, I am probably as serious about this as you were with what you said.)
9.25.2007 1:56pm
neurodoc:
Tommy Tutins, I think it a mistake to presume what you are presuming about Abu El-Haj and her scholarship.
9.25.2007 2:02pm
neurodoc:
r78, if en arguendo we were to grant that Segal's assertion may have been too sweeping and that those who are themselves Shia scholars should not be relied on, at least by themselves, to answer "whether Fatima Zahra was a blood descendent of Mohammed," then could we still agree that the alleged request of Segal by a senior Columbia administrator for the names of non-Jews who might sit on Abu El-Haj's tenure committee was improper at best? Or do do see nothing wrong with such a request under the circumstances?
9.25.2007 2:09pm
r78:

Could we still agree that the alleged request of Segal by a senior Columbia administrator for the names of non-Jews who might sit on Abu El-Haj's tenure committee was improper at best? Or do do see nothing wrong with such a request under the circumstances?

Either I am missing something here or you mistyped. I don't think that there is anything wrong with requesting the identity of the names of people on a committee to see that the committee was fairly constituted.

And, in these circumstances, I think "fairly constituted" translates as someone who doesn't have a dog in the fight. Or, if that is impossible, one should have different viewpoints reflected.
9.25.2007 2:39pm
StraboTheLesser (mail):
I would like tenure based on my thesis that the world is flat. The idea of earth as a globe was invented by Copernicus and the Jews as part of the colonial narrative. Because this is a controversial topic, I ask that I only be reviewed by scholars capable of understanding the post colonial thought process.
9.25.2007 2:40pm
r78:
If you believe that all "academic" disputes are as readily resolved as whether or not the earth is flat, you are beyond counsel.
9.25.2007 3:02pm
Happyshooter:
How is this different than a faculty affirmative action hire?

'You may hire a new associate prof, and we prefer he be black' sounds one heck of a lot like 'Assemble a committee, and we prefer non-jews.'
9.25.2007 3:33pm
Bozoer Rebbe (mail) (www):
The relationship between archeology and religion is complex. Even among Israeli/Jewish archaeologists there are conflicting opinions regarding artifacts verifying the biblical narrative. However, all of them agree that there was Israelite settlement between the Mediterranean and the Jordan in the late bronze and early iron ages.

However, regardless of whatever academic or scientific debate there may be, El-Haj's notions are absurd. The father of modern biblical archeology was Wm Foxwell Albright, certainly not a Jew, and Albright generally regarded the archaeological record as being in accord with the narrative of the Hebrew bible. Two of Albright's students, George Mendenhall, and Kathleen Kenyon, did many digs in the Mideast and though Mendenhall and Kenyon were both politically opposed to the State of Israel, they pretty much shared Albright's generally positive attitude towards the accuracy of the biblical narrative regarding Israelite settlement.
9.25.2007 4:27pm
c.l. ball:
The question of why a religion professor, whose last professional engagement of archeology based on his CV was a co-taught NEH course on Greek work and a conference commentary on archeology and the New Testament in the mid-1980s, was asked about archeologists for an anthropology nomination is relevant. In part, the answer may be that he was the best available source for Barnard's Provost and Dean of Faculty (that's a single position, not two) outside of Barnard's rather small anthro. dept. The Provost will approve or amend external reviews. Since Columbia's anthro. dept would provide a consultative opinion separately, they are not a good source.

Many universities combine their anthropology and archeology dept. -- which is what Columbia proper does -- so having a nominal anthropology prof. study archeology is hardly interdisciplinary in the usual academic sense.

Much of the rancor here is due as well to Columbia's rather convoluted tenure process -- the Barnard dept. make a recommendation to Barnard' T&P committee, which then makes a recommendation to Barnard's president, who then decides whether to forward it to the University Provost, who then assembles an ad hoc faculty committee, which then makes a recommendation the Barnard President andUniversity Provost. In short there are numerous veto points along the way, although Barnard's president need not accept the negative vote of the Barnard T&P committee. Note that the University provost retains a veto.
9.25.2007 4:43pm
Emmet Trueman (mail):

Abu El-Haj argues that the ancient Hebrew kingdoms are nothing more than "a tale best understood as the modern nation's 'origin myth'... transported into the realm of history." p. 104


I am trying to figure out how to identify an archaeologist digging in the region who could be considered objective in the sense of not taking a public stand on this issue. Every European, Israeli, Japanese and American (both north and south) who digs in the region assums that those kingdoms existed. There is a good deal of arguing about questions like, did the first Israelite kingdom arise in the ninth century or the tenth? but a blanket consignment of the whole history of ancient Israel to the realm of myth? No archaeologist would take a claim like that seriously.

There is Hani Nur el-Din, a Palestinian professor of archaeology at Al Quds University who says that he consideres biblical archaeology an effort by Israelis "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context." But he doesn't exactly deny that the kingdoms existed.

Unlike Abu El-Haj, archaeologists are wedded to the evidence. You don't have to be all that knowledgable to spot the evidentiary flaws in this book beginning with heavy reliance on unnamed informants to support statements like : "One archaeologist told me of a right-wing colleague who was constantly labeling Christian sites Jewish." p. 233

And any competant historian could quickly write up a dossier on what is wrong with this book. Beginning with such demonstrably absurd statements as the assertion that Jerusalem in the times of Jesus was not Jewish. "for most of its history, including the Herodian period, Jerusalem was not a Jewish city, but rather one integrated into larger empires and inhabited, primarily, by 'other' communities." pp 175-6

this is not the tenth century. By the Herodian period there is extensive documentation. Jerusalem was a Jeiwsh city with small ex-pat communities of Romans, Greeks and others.

any competant historian or archaeologist could demonstrate what is wrong with this book, not as a matter of opinion, but simply by pointing out the flaws in the use of evidence. In fact, Alan Segal and others have done so. And anyone can read the published evaluations of this book and readily grasp that the book picks odd bits of evidence to support a bizarre thesis in the manner of crank scholarship.

In fact, from the perspective of someone who actually knows a good deal about the history and archaeology of this region, this is one of the better comments on this post:

"Suppose some white woman based her academic work on the thesis that slavery never happened, and all the records are the result of black sorcerers casting mind-befuddling spells on everyone. And suppose she was up for tenure, and the university asked for people to critically evaluate her work, but preferably these people should not be black. How do you suppose that would go down?"
9.25.2007 5:11pm
T. Gracchus (mail):
Thank you for the clarifications neurodoc and ball.
9.25.2007 5:19pm
Emmet Trueman (mail):
Alan Segal, just to clarify, is a Professor of Religion, he not a theologian. He studies the historical development of religion and society in the formative periods of Christianity and Judaism in the way secular historian do. I do not know his religion or his politics. (He has a Jewish name, but whether he is religious I can't tell.) Unlike El Haj, you cannot tell what his politics are by reading his books.

If you read his books and jourrnal articles (warning - they are well-written so this will not be painful, but it will involve a serious time commitment. He has written a lot, unlike El-Haj who, at the age of 45 and despite numerous fellowships and the leisure that personal wealth can purchase has published a single book and a couple of articles derived from the book) but, as I was saying, if you read Segal's ouvre you will discover that he obviously keeps up to date on the archaeological scholarship and uses it in his work. Unlike El-Haj, his work evinces intimate familiarity with archaeological methodology and findings.

In other words, he is an old-fashioned scholar who closely encounters the evidence.
9.25.2007 5:20pm
Emmet Trueman (mail):
Actually, I suspect that the rancor is due to the fact that historians like Segal are truly shocked by the way Abu El Haj abuses, twists, and ignores evidence in her book.

If you google around, you can find the names of the people who were on her tenure committee. Including Art History Keith Moxey, who according to his book, "The Practice of Theory: Poststructuralism, Cultural Politics, and Art History," advocates "that historical arguments will be evaluated according to how well they coincide with our political conviction."
9.25.2007 5:26pm
Anonperson (mail):
Neurodoc, it's not that I seek to be non-judgemental, it's more that I expect administrators to be scoundrels and mostly act in their own self-interest, rather than in the name of principle. If you don't, then you are a lot less cynical than I am.

So some administrator makes a bone-headed move in an (apparently failed) attempt to minimize controversy. What else is new?
9.25.2007 7:03pm
Anonperson (mail):
neurodoc, sorry, I realized now that I was not very clear in a previous post. By "right decision", I don't mean that it is necessarily the moral or ethical one. I'm just saying that in my experience, that is how most administrators think (and what seems to advance their careers).

I am not an administrator, and I don't think I could ever be one, for this reason. I am an academic, however.

BTW, in none of this am I commenting directly on the El-Haj case. I know none of the details. This person (I don't even know if it is a he or a she) could be completely bonkers, for all I know.
9.25.2007 7:10pm
Eli Rabett (www):
neurodoc, you conveniently left out the ORs in what I wrote. Either Segal is a stone liar, OR someone was trying to make trouble OR the administrator who whispered in his ear has an IQ of 5. In any of these cases, this is something to stay away from. You appear to fit in category 2.
9.25.2007 7:13pm
Fat Man (mail):
You people do not understand what is going on here. Chairman Mao said: "better red than expert". Foucault, Derrida and Said proved that so-called scholarship is just propaganda in the service of racism, sexism and class privilege.

Nadia Abu El-Haj's "scholarship" is just as valid as all of that old white-man stuff that is supposedly based on what are called "facts" by the uninitiated. In fact, she is a woman of color and dedicated to the most important revolutionary cause of our time, one that will forever smash the cabal that runs American foreign policy.

Therefor she deserves tenure. Granting her tenure will enhance Barnyard's reputation with all right thinking people, especially those who want to destroy George Bush=Hitler, bring about the Palestinian Peoples Revolution and destroy the Nazi Zionist entity.

Lenin said that the capitalists will sell the revolutionaries the rope that will be used to hang the capitalists.

The key contradiction in liberalism is that it cannot reject the people who wish to destroy it from the outside, because if it does, it is no longer liberal.

If Barnyard rejects Nadia Abu El-Haj, it will loose the academic freedom that protects it from the needs of society. How then will it be able to be a counter hegemonic enclave? Will tenure then insulate the enemies of liberalism from an outraged formerly liberal society?
9.25.2007 10:38pm
Avraham:
This is sad to read. I do wish that more people would read a simple, relatively short book before choosing to mischaracterise it in this manner. Remember, this is a work of anthropology. The subject is not the actual historical record, but the actions of the archaeologists unearthing evidence of that record, and how those actions were shaped by their preconceived notions of the area's history. In that light, statements like "..they pretty much shared Albright's generally positive attitude towards the accuracy of the biblical narrative regarding Israelite settlement" about Kenyon and co. is precisely correct, and in fact backs up al-Haj's thesis. She also does not claim that 'there were no Jewish kingdoms'; but that the unified,homogenous nature of this Judaic agglomeration was something assumed by archaeologists, and may have shaped their actions.
The book has won awards, and is regularly required reading in several courses in anthropology and the history of social science. Find another issue, because this one is a non-starter.
9.26.2007 2:56pm
Eli Rabett (www):
It is probably useful to post a couple of paragraphs from the NY Times article here:

Dr. Abu El-Haj has some opponents at her own college. "There is every reason in the world to want her to have tenure, and only one reason against it — her work," said Alan F. Segal, a professor of religion and Jewish studies at Barnard. "I believe it is not good enough."

He said he was particularly troubled by her suggestion that ancient Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands, and he said that she had either misunderstood or ignored evidence to the contrary. "She completely misunderstands what the biblical tradition is saying," he added. "She is not even close. She is so bizarrely off."

He also said that a Barnard official, whom he declined to name, had asked him to suggest people who were not Jewish to comment on Dr. Abu El-Haj's work for the tenure review, and that he had refused.

Segal does not appear to be a disinterested observer. FWIW
9.27.2007 12:35am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
A quick note about the Barnard tenure process. Barnard professors have to go through pretty much the same review as at other colleges, but if the review is favorable they must also be approved by Columbia. The NY Times recently reported that Barnard has voted to offer tenure to El-Haj and that Columbia is now deciding what to do.

I'm not an expert in anthropology or archaeology, but I note that El-Haj's book (1) is at least five years old; (2) was published by the University of Chicago Press after what I presume was a rigorous review; (3) did not cause a problem when Barnard originally hired her *after* it was published; and (4) did not stir up any significant controversy until a Barnard grad (who also is not an expert in anthropology or archaeology) living in an Israeli settlement in disputed territory started to campaign against El-Haj. I should add that Alan Segal is not an anthropologist or an archaeologist either.

I also note that Barnard's president, Judith Shapiro, is a cultural anthropologist who is far better able to evalute El-Haj's work than just about anyone else who has weighed in on the subject. Additionally, because Shapiro announced months ago that this would be her last year in office, she is not even theoretically vulnerable to pressure from either side to base her part of the decision on anything other than the merits of El-Haj's work. Her opinion means far more to me than those of anyone else who has played any part in this debate. If Shapiro has already decided El-Haj should be awarded tenure, I'll trust her judgment over those of El-Haj's detractors.
9.27.2007 2:19am