Alumni Group Seeks to Deny Tenure to Middle Eastern Scholar at Barnard College

Posted on August 18, 2007


Daily news reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education newsfeed.

August 15, 2007

Controversial research on Israel and the Palestinian territories has become the basis of yet another campaign to prevent a professor from winning tenure. A group of Barnard College alumni has drafted an online petition asking their alma mater to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology whose scholarship, they say, is flawed and skewed against Israel.

The group’s criticisms of Ms. Abu El-Haj focus on her book Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which argues that Israeli archaeologists have produced biased research that bolsters the origin myth of the Jewish state.

The petition, which has drawn just over 1,000 signatures, [more].

Please click here to read the remainder of this article.

Note from Rafik Beekun: Please read the comments below the article when you click on the above link. They are quite illuminating. The book which is mentioned in the petition against Dr. Nadia Abu El Haj won the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Annual Book Award for the best book published on the Middle East in 2001.

Copy of the petition being circulated against Nadia Abu El-Haj

As concerned alumni and friends of Barnard and Columbia, we urge you to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj, a professor of anthropology whose claim to scholarly recognition is based on a single, profoundly flawed book. In “Facts on the Ground. Archeological Practice and Territorial Self Fashioning in Israeli Society,” Abu El Haj alleges that archaeologists have “created the fact of an ancient Israelite/Jewish nation,” where none actually existed. She asserts that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a “pure political fabrication.”We are submitting this petition because the use of evidence in “Facts on the Ground” fails to meet the standards of scholarship that are expected of Columbia and Barnard undergraduates…

Bio of Assistant Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj

Telephone: (212)-854-4316

Nadia Abu El-Haj Assistant Professor
Assistant Professor
telephone: (212)-854-4316

Prof. Abu El-Haj joined the Anthropology Department in fall, 2002. Previously, she held fellowships at Harvard University’s Academy for International and Area Studies, the University of Pennsylvania Mellon Program, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. She is, in addition, a former Fulbright Fellow and a recipient of awards from the SSRC-McArthur Grant in International Peace and Security, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the National Endowment for the Humanities among others. Professor Abu El-Haj has lectured widely at the New York Academy of Sciences, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics (LSE), and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. Prior to her arrival at Barnard College and Columbia University she served on the faculty of the Anthropology Department at the University of Chicago.

In 2001 she published Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago University Press), now in its second printing. In 2002 this book won the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Annual Book Award for the best book published on the Middle East that year (an honor it shared with Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled’s Being Israeli: the Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship).

Professor Abu El-Haj’s work examines the relationship between scientific knowledge and the making of social imaginations and political orders. Her first book examined the practice of archaeology—a historical science—and sought to specify the ways in which it generated facts and to understand how those facts circulated in wider social worlds, helping to fashion the cultural understandings, political possibilities and “common-sense” assumptions. Abu El-Haj’s more recent scholarship explores the field of genetic anthropology by analyzing, first, projects that seek to reconstruct the origins and migrations of specific populations and second, the participation of for-profit corporations that offer genetic ancestry testing. The intersection of race, diaspora, and kinship figures prominently in this study, where genetic origins emerge as a shared concern among those who may seek redress or recognition.

To counter this petition, please write in a polite and supportive manner to:

President Judith Shapiro
Office of the President
109 Milbank Hall,
Barnard College,
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

or call (212) 854-2021

or e-mail President Judith Shapiro at: