Middle East Section (MES) of the American Anthropological Association Statement on Palestine

MES Statement on Palestine, updated 5.21.21

We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people against ongoing settler colonialism and condemn Zionist violence against them, including forced evictions and retaliatory violence by Israeli state forces against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and within the state of Israel. We condemn the recent forced evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem–part of a now decades long campaign of ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem– and Israeli violence perpetrated against families trying to defend their homes.

In October 2014, nearly 1200 anthropologists signed “Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions” to support the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. On November 20, 2015, a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions was endorsed by a vote of 1040-136 at the American Anthropological Association business meeting. It was subsequently forwarded to the full membership for an electronic ballot and narrowly missed adoption by a razor-thin margin of 39 votes (2,423 against and 2,384 for).

Seven years later, on April 27, 2021, Human Rights Watch issued a landmark report, characterizing the Israeli state’s systemic discrimination and violence as inflicting “deprivations… so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” A similar conclusion was reached by the Israeli Human Rights organization B’tselem in January 2021. Palestinian activists have long made this argument. It reflects how foregone the reality of the Israeli Apartheid system is that mainstream international human rights organizations now find themselves forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation on the ground, despite tremendous political pressure from the state of Israel and its supporters.

We reject the “two-sides” narrative that ignores the differences between one of the most heavily militarized states in the world and a Palestinian population resisting their oppressors. This is a state which continues to displace, dispossess, and murder those living under its illegal occupation, based in ongoing settler colonialism, and a system of ethnic, religious, and racial apartheid. Palestinian resistance to this violent system of occupation and apartheid is a legal right.

As members of a U.S. professional organization that continues to grapple with systemic racism and inequality in our field and our practices, we condemn settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and racial capitalism that connect the United States and Israel. We stand with those working to dismantle these systems of oppression, and we amplify their calls for justice, equality, and human dignity.

Israel’s policies of closure, land confiscation, house demolitions and dispossession of Palestinians, unlawful arrest, injury and killing of Palestinian civilians have continued unabated since AAA last took up this issue. We call on our colleagues in their classrooms, universities, and beyond to:

  1. Reject the “two-sides” narrative that erases power hierarchies.
  2. Recognize the framework of apartheid as applicable to describe Israel’s systematic repression of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and within Israel’s 1948 boundaries.
  3. Recognize that Israel’s violent repression often constitutes crimes against humanity.
  4. Reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which has been used by Israel’s supporters to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel.[1]

Sincerely,
MES Executive Board

Endorsed by the Following AAA Sections:

Association of Black Anthropologists Executive Board

Association of Latina/o & Latinx Anthropologists Executive Board

Society for Cultural Anthropology Executive Board

Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Executive Board

Society for the Anthropology of North America Executive Board

Anthropology and the Environment Executive Board

Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology Executive Board

The Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Executive Board

American Ethnological Society Executive Board

Society for the Anthropology of Europe Executive Board

Society for Medical Anthropology Executive Board

Editorial Collective at American Anthropologist

Endorsed by the Following Anthropology Departments:

Anthropology Department of American University

[1] An alternative is presented by the Independent Jewish Voice of Canada that defines antisemitism AND does not suppress criticism of Israel: https://www.ijvcanada.org/jerusalem-declaration/

Anthropologists Call on the Biden Administration to Cease the Separation of Im/migrant Families and the Detention of Children

Within the first three months of 2021, 33,000 unaccompanied children arrived at the United States-Mexico border. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded by opening large-scale facilities, ranging from 1000 to 4500 beds, to house them. Yet most of these children did not travel alone; they were rendered “unaccompanied” by Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy enacted by the Trump administration that instructs US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to refuse entry to adults from a country where a communicable disease is present. Unlike adults, children from noncontiguous countries cannot be deported immediately.

Instead, minors are being detained in converted convention centers, stadiums, and military bases until they are reunited with family in the U.S., enter federal foster care, or are deported. These unlicensed influx and intake sites expose children and youth to severe physical and psychological trauma. Moreover, they reflect the broader criminalization of im/migrant populations in the United States, contributing to political frameworks that undermine the rights of children and families and leave them vulnerable to abuse and surveillance by state actors.

SANA joins the Anthropologist Action Network for Immigrants and Refugees (AANIR) to urge the Biden administration to cease separating im/migrant families through the use of Title 42 and to ease the myriad restrictions constraining individuals’ right to seek asylum., including the detention of children.

Title 42 is not an aberration; rather, it builds upon earlier policies of both the Obama and Trump administrations that have restricted asylum, including the “Remain in Mexico” program and the illegal asylum metering system at the US-Mexico border. Here, we draw on our expertise as anthropologists to historicize family separation and to argue for immediate action to defend the human rights of im/migrants and refugees. We specifically call for the end of administrative policies that render children unaccompanied and the abolition of the detention of migrant children in all forms.

Historicizing child-family separation

Title 42 is merely one among myriad ways in which immigration policy is separating children from their families– be it raids, stalled family reunification, visa quotas, or deportation. States have long employed this practice as a social, economic, and political strategy. Examples include the forced separation of Native American children in so-called “Indian schools”; the use of children in chattel slavery and subsequent fracturing of enslaved families; and the ways that Nazi concentration camps, Japanese internment camps, and the Argentine military during the dirty war—all used child separation and/or the threat of separation as tools of intimidation and repression. Additionally we can point to the ongoing hyperpolicing and mass incarceration of African Americans that separates families and displaces Black youth into the foster system. These examples serve as a reminder that child-family separation has long been used as a technique of political statecraft.

Forced family separation has both immediate and long-term effects. Anthropological research in general, and Indigenous scholarship in particular, understands trauma not merely as an individual response to an event, but also as a rupture of the social fabric. The consequences of this rupture are at once individual, social, collective, and enduring, necessitating an approach to violence against children that accounts for its function as a form of social violence that is explicitly transmitted across generations. For example, we see the reverberations of chattel slavery in contemporary experiences of trauma and disparate health outcomes of African American women. We are just beginning to understand and rectify the consequences of the Trump-era zero-tolerance policies that forcibly separated 5500 children from their families. However, historical precedent indicates that the implications of this action will be extensive and long-lasting. Notably the Pomona Fairplex influx facility for unaccompanied children is the very site where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. Without a sharp course correction, the Biden administration is in danger of repeating harmful policies of removing young people from their families and networks of care, augmenting the trauma they experience.

Consequences of child detention and separation

The most recent iteration of child-family separation instigated by Title 42 poses serious consequences for the young people currently housed in HHS facilities. Experts concur that even brief detention and separation from parents can cause psychological trauma and induce long-term mental health risks for children and youth. Medical anthropologists have identified how experiences of prolonged detention negatively impact migrants’ mental and physical health and further contribute to increased vulnerability to COVID-19. These impacts are particularly dire for children. Research underscores that care practices (or lack thereof) in large-scale institutions can cause severe harm: Children who have been detained describe constant surveillance, limited communication with family, lack of fresh air and green space, prohibition against physical touch, and disturbingly, overmedication. They are also victims of sexual assault,  physical abuse, verbal abuse, and medical neglect. At the same time, children struggle to cope with the uncertainty of family reunification, procedural opacity, ongoing legal proceedings, and the possibility of deportation. Children’s case files, including mental health records, behavioral notes, and communications presumed to be confidential, can and have been used against children in immigration court.

Recognition of the inadequacy of institutional care for child development and wellbeing has precipitated a shift away from institutional-based care for non-migrant children. Indeed, the federal government has codified that children in the domestic child welfare system should be placed in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs, prioritizing family and small group care. Yet, federal facilities for migrant children continue to grow in size. Detention centers writ large have come under heavy scrutiny from academics, politicians, and journalists. Meanwhile, privately contracted facilities like the Homestead Temporary Influx Facility in Florida—previously run by Caliburn, a Department of Defense contractor — have also been shown to be potentially harmful for the physical and developmental health and wellbeing of children and youth. Despite the dangers they pose, these facilities operate on a profit motive and benefit from government contracts. The continued development of large-scale detention facilities, in spite of clear evidence of the dangers they pose, is emblematic of what researchers have termed the “immigration industrial complex” whereby public and private power converge to expand systems of detention and surveillance. Detention centers are generally placed out of view with difficult accessibility, making it difficult to ensure accountability and augmenting the need for a critical anthropological presence in and around facilities.

Despite constraints on the immediate deportation of children and youth from noncontiguous countries, hundreds of thousands of removal orders and voluntary departures effectuated on young people have increased deportations dramatically since 2013 and expanded the effects of coercive confinement and expulsion across time and space. Experiences of return may exacerbate vulnerabilities in countries of birth and have emotional, social, and material impacts. Not only may the often incomprehensible legal processes that lead to deportation be disorienting, but arrival is likewise distressing. Removal to unfamiliar deportation sites can generate anxiety that is compounded by the feeling that mobility and out-of-placeness itself may intensify difficulties securing adequate places to stay, being in contact with loved ones, and avoiding violent victimization. Moreover, for many people who are returned, physical and social distance from family in the United States is extended, amplifying the effects of separation over time, both within and outside of U.S. territory.

Call to Action

We call upon the Administration to rectify the situation at the United States’ southern border by implementing a three-part approach that is monitored by independent experts and follows best practices in each:

  1. Uphold and defend the basic human rights of asylum-seeking families at the border without ever separating adults from children, especially when they are under U.S. custody. This includes adhering to international refugee conventions and protocols and related international law protecting the rights of children and migrants and regarding racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination. This also includes ending internationally-condemned CBP practices such as abusive screening using “hieleras” or iceboxes, destruction of migrant water supplies, and illegal turning away or refoulement of asylum-seekers.
  2. End administrative policies that produce unaccompanied child migration. Specifically, we call for a repeal of Title 42 which continues to separate children from their families, stopping the illegal asylum metering at U.S.-Mexico border checkpoints, and halting any remaining use of “Safe Country Agreements” to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Canada.
  3. Quickly reunify all detained children with family members and close all detention facilities (private and nonprofit) for unaccompanied children, including facilities run by Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. The Biden administration must follow best practices in the placement and care of young migrants, including the placement of children in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs, prioritizing family and small group care. Children should live in family-based settings where the federal government provides legal representation and culturally- and linguistically-appropriate services, including mental health and educational support.

The Biden administration must acknowledge the historical, political, economic, and ecological factors forcing a new generation of young people to leave Central America, and the United States’ role in this history of displacement. Instead of policies that further militarize migration management across the Americas, the Administration must address the multifaceted causes of migration in ways that center the voices, experiences, and challenges of displaced and vulnerable communities in Central America, Mexico, and the US.

This statement was prepared in collaboration with the Anthropologist Action Network for Immigrants and Refugees and is endorsed by the Society for the Anthropology of North America, the Council on Anthropology and Education, and the Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group. An abbreviated version was issued by the American Anthropological Association.

Spring Forward

Dear SANA members,

I hope everyone is having a good Spring and weathering the end of the academic year. Before summer activities begin, I want to remind all of you to VOTE in the AAA elections, including for the SANA Board.  Elections are open until May 31st. Also, please consider submitting a session or a volunteered paper for the annual meetings in November. The meetings will be hybrid, so if you cannot travel, you can still participate!  We are hoping for a robust SANA presence this year.

I want to thank all those who tuned in to the SANA BEATS programs throughout the month of April. The programs were lively, engaging and showcased cutting edge research and activism that is the hallmark of our section. A huge shout-out goes to the program organizing committee, Ana Croegaert (leader), Ryan Logan, Elizabeth Hanna Rubio, and Kanan Mehta. Ana also created the SANA BEATS playlist which gave the program a unique flavor! Thank you also to Ruth Gomberg Muñoz  for the program design and all-around support! Thank you also to all the panelists and workshop leaders. If you were not able to tune in, you will have the opportunity in the near future to listen to selected recordings of the programs.

Finally, I am thrilled to promote the newly launched Home/Field website associated with our Journal of North American Anthropology. JANA editors Megan Raschig and David Flood and their team have created this new site for dialogues, author engagements and audio-visual essays (https://www.homefieldanthro.org/). The next issue of JANA will be out soon as well!

Stay safe, stay strong!

Alaka Wali
President

A Heartbreaking Loss

It is with deep sorrow that I write to inform SANA members of the passing of Professor Leith Mullings.  Leith made her transition on December 13th after a brief illness.  Many will speak and write of Leith’s considerable accomplishments and groundbreaking work in the days and weeks ahead.  We will all find ways to honor her.  Here, I just want to speak personally about her generosity and compassion from which I and so many others benefitted.  Once she committed to a person or a cause, she never wavered in her support. Leith introduced me to anthropology in North America and the deep richness of experience that working at home can bring.  She was not only a great theoretical mind on intersecting forms of stratification and the centrality of race in the United States of America, but also a committed activist working for transformative social change.  I know many of you will feel as I do that SANA would not be SANA without her contributions to our field and our homeland.  The Board is developing ways to honor Leith and all ideas are welcome.  We will keep everyone posted as plans for wider memorials are formed.

Alaka Wali
President of SANA

See below for two call for papers – one from JANA & the other from SANA AnthroNews

JANA Call for Papers & Launch of the Website Home/Field

SANA AnthroNews Call for Papers

The Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA) invites submissions for our section column in Anthropology News, the magazine of the American Anthropological Association.

We seek short (1400 words) essays discussing North American-focused ethnographic research in vivid, sensory, accessible prose that will be appealing to both academic and non-academic readers. All topics are welcome, especially those engaging with social inequality and struggle, and that attend to current disciplinary conversations on “unsettling” Anthropology.

Contact editors Ana Croegaert (anacroegaert@gmail.com) and Elisa Lanari (lanari@mmg.mpg.de) for more information, to make a pitch, or to submit your work.

A Statement from SANA

We at SANA condemn the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and countless others by racist police or their deputies. BLACK LIVES MATTER, and we find inspiration in the collective outrage against these incidents and in public protests for justice. As anthropologists working in North America, many of us have documented the systematic ways in which policing has been used to deliberately harm and oppress Black and other communities of color.

We further condemn in the strongest possible terms the structural racism that has contributed to the devaluation of Black, Latinx, and Native American lives in North America, resulting in their disproportionate mortality from diseases including COVID-19.

We join our fellow anthropological sections, as well as our community leaders, in challenging the foundational anti-Black nature of police agencies. We demand the dissolution of ICE and other institutions that perpetuate racist laws and practices. We support the efforts of organizations such as the Movement for Black Lives, Campaign Zero and Color of Change and others to end police brutality and empower communities to take control of their own safety and well-being. We further demand that governments at every level invest sustained effort and resources to redress 500 years of subjugation of Black, Latinx, and Native people across the North American continent.

We unequivocally support the efforts of community organizers as they mobilize to effect social change. We further pledge to put our research, resources, and scholarship in service to community-led movements for racial justice.

SANA Statement on U.S. Immigration Practices

The Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA) condemns in the strongest possible terms recent actions taken against migrants by the current administration. In particular, we call for a permanent moratorium on the practice of separating children from parents on the U.S.-Mexico border, and we demand that children and their families be reunited and released from U.S. detention facilities into the U.S. interior. We further demand that the administration end criminalization of migrants, recognize asylum claims based on threats of gender-based and organized violence, and, in general, treat asylum seekers and all migrants with dignity, care, and respect. Moreover, we call on the administration to acknowledge and address long-standing U.S. policies that have contributed to the erosion of safety and stability in migrants’ home societies across Latin America and the world. As a society with members who have expertise on human mobility across the North American continent, as well as on state-sponsored violence against migrants and others who are socially and legally devalued, we emphatically reject the racist, xenophobic, and patriarchal ideologies and policies advanced by this administration and others before it. ​​

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