The vote by the 5,000-member American Studies Association to support the academic boycott of Israel, reportedly by a 2-1 margin, has evoked many responses, but none so far has identified the irony at the core of the matter. To show that irony, and the deeper problem it illustrates, you need to know that a couple of weeks before the ASA vote, the ASA’s 20-member National Council, which administers the ASA and is elected by the ASA membership, pre-voted in favor of the Israel boycott—and did so unanimously.
Can you imagine twenty serious scholars in any discipline voting unanimously on any controversial issue? I can’t, so I thought it worthwhile to examine the composition of the ASA’s National Council and to peruse its members’ academic profiles, as described on the webpages of their home institutions. This simple exercise reveals a stunning lack of diversity of intellectual interests and perspectives in a sector of American society, the university, that explicitly places a very high premium on “diversity.” The apparent obsession with gender, gay and race studies (or of U.S. imperialism) among the members of ASA’s National Council seems to come at the expense of scholarship on just about everything else.
You don’t have to take my word for it. See for yourself or, if you like, scan through the abridged academic profiles below of 18 of the 20 members of ASA’s National Council. All the information is drawn from the faculty profiles as presented on university webpages; none of the language is mine.