Medieval Academy of America: The Arizona Controversy

There is currently a controversy over next year’s Medieval Academy of America annual meeting, scheduled to be held in Tempe, Arizona, 14-16 April 2011. Because of Arizona’s new legislation targeting immigrants, a law described as an ‘open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status’ (or indeed against anyone not Caucasian or with an accent), and also because of recent legislation limiting ethnic studies in schools, medievalists have begun to carefully consider the implications of holding a large conference in the state.

Over at In The Middle, JJ Cohen has drafted an open letter to the Medieval Academy which can be signed electronically in the comments section. Since Monday there are 129 signatures. See also the extensive comments below the Friday April 21st post – many good suggestions, especially Irina’s and Elizabeth Robertson’s. The question of which is more effective in sending a message – an active presence or a passive absence  – proves to be complex, but the point that by abandoning Arizona we would be giving momentum to a very influential wave of conferences and events boycotting the state seems the most convincing.

I wasn’t planning on going anyways (I attended the 2010 MAA meeting held here at Yale), but I signed the open letter. Hopefully the state will change the law before it’s too late.

Now to do some work on my Norwegian family tree…


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