ERIC Number: EJ785392
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Reference Count: N/A
Who Got to Decide on Nadia Abu El-Haj's Tenure?
Rabinowitz, Dan; Shamir, Ronen
Academe, v94 n1 p45-46 Jan-Feb 2008
The tension surrounding Barnard College's determination of whether to grant tenure to anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj was resolved this fall. Barnard reached a positive decision. The affair, however, leaves a number of important issues open. At the center of this controversy stands Abu El-Haj's first book, "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society." Published in 2001, it explores the relationship between archaeology and Zionist nation building. In this article, the authors discuss the relationship of context to content, about issues like who and where. The who has to do with the ethnic identity of the scholar under public scrutiny; the where has to do with the prevailing mood in the United States of America. In Abu El-Haj's case, the scholar is of Arab descent. Her sin is to probe into a social scientific domain--the history, historiography, and anthropology of Israel--that is normally defined by Jewish Israeli scholars whose tendency has always been to position Palestinians as objects of inquiry. Abu El-Haj's work thus perpetrates the faux pas of inverting the "proper" way of studying Israel-Palestine. Her violation of the norms is particularly pertinent when it comes to the scientific gaze of anthropology, a predominantly Western discipline that created and objectified a pristine effigy of the exotic native as seen by westerners, an approach that literary theorist Edward Said called Orientalizing. Abu El-Haj belongs to a new generation of scholars--many of them Palestinians--who, inspired by Said's legacy, insist on reversing the Orientalizing gaze and turning Israel and Israelis into objects of inquiry.
Descriptors: Historiography, Ethnicity, Jews, Tenure, Archaeology, Anthropology, Intellectual History, Foreign Countries, Politics of Education, Inquiry, Power Structure, Attitudes
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Israel; Palestine