On November 19, 2016 on the heels of the election of an administration that promised an extraordinarily divisive approach to a number of issue of concern to us: among them, migration, race, gender, health, climate change, environmental protection, respect for science, and poverty, the Board of the Society for Applied Anthropology published the SfAA Statement on Diversity and Respect, which can be found at the bottom of this posting.
Following on this statement we had already built issues of movement and migration, social justice and long term policy into our scholarly program. We also focused our annual event the Critical Conversations Roundtable (to be held at 12 noon on Tuesday, March 28) with this year’s topic “Sanctuary vs. Sanctions,” and broadened its reach by building in other events during the meetings in Santa Fe.
Our statement of November 19 now looks both prescient and a little naïve. I am not sure we actually expected things to unfold as they have.
I now write to you after a weekend in which federal immigration officials arrested more than 680 people across at least 11 states. A weekend in which the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency moved aggressively to arrest and deport migrants who are here without documentation, actions that appear to be aimed at fulfillment of the campaign promises made by the current administration and anticipated by the Society for Applied Anthropology in our November statement.
While the rhetoric is focused on deporting “criminals,” analyses of the arrests unfolding over the week end show a much broader net has been cast: people who have been here without problems for many years have been caught up in it. Families have been split apart, and individuals without criminal records who have worked and paid taxes to the US have been included. This comes on top of the executive order of January 27 which attempted to bar individuals from seven majority Muslim countries from entry into the US, even if they held valid visas or were permanent residents.
In addition, we hear daily reports of increased incidents of intimidation, and harassment of members of certain minorities in the US.
The impact on individuals, families, and institutions has been great, and in some cases devastating. A number of Universities (including my own) and other employers have deeply criticized the president’s Executive Order and the ICE arrests, and some of these arguments have prevailed with the 9th Circuit Court. However, we hear that the EO is being re-drafted and the future of the ban is still in question. We all have colleagues, students, co-workers, friends and neighbors who are, to say the least, uncertain about their futures in the US.
The Society for Applied Anthropology is an international organization that has always stated as its mission “… to promote the investigation of the principles of human behavior and the application of these principles to contemporary issues and problems.” Wherever our members are, and whatever their career paths might be, members of the Society have over and over dedicated their work to using real data and factual information, against a backdrop of a deep understanding of the importance of diverse backgrounds and points of view in undertaking policy and supporting the richness of human lives and institutions. We have marshaled our skills to address the social, cultural and economic concerns of the citizens of the world whatever their race, nationality, religion, gender or points of view.
Because of our mission we are one of a very few professional organizations that brings together social scientists from all career tracks. Our members include researchers, policy makers, practitioners, bureaucrats, and educators at all levels of education. Our members are employed in government, NGOs, research institutes, development organizations, corporations, and colleges and universities. Many move back and forth among different institutions and careers; others fill several roles simultaneously. And, while we often debate the implications of our work for specific policies, our debates are conversations and our goals are the improvement of the human condition.
As a result we have a unique platform (or set of platforms) from which to speak the truth, provide the data to support it, and the skills to refine data into actionable information. We have unique platform from which to resist alternative facts, and lies, and policies that are unfair, unjust, discriminatory and poorly thought out.
We need to make it very clear that careful research as the basis for application of data and factual information are fundamental to effective and fair policy decisions.
We urge our members to take whatever actions are appropriate to their skills and career paths to continue to promote the core values of the Society and resist those actions that promote injustice, inequality, and bigotry.
We applaud the American Anthropological Associations publication of potential actions and resources to advocate for the programs that are important and against actions that are in contradiction to the closely held values of social scientists, in general, and anthropologists in particular. The link to the AAA website is here:
As a Society for applied social science, we must continue to take a stand that reflects our mission to work on contemporary issues and problems toward the betterment of the human condition.
SfAA Statement on Diversity and Respect
November 19, 2016
We as members of the Board of the Society for Applied Anthropology affirm our ongoing commitment to value human diversity in all its myriad forms and to encourage all of our members to provide safety and basic human rights for everyone.
Anthropological perspective and practice are grounded in respect for all persons, civility, and thoughtful examination of ideas and policies. It is especially critical at times of uncertainty and change.
We recognize a common responsibility to support community members who may feel threatened and to counter hostility toward immigrants and other marginalized groups.
We pledge to continue to exercise and guard academic freedoms to examine and address such issues as perpetuation of inequalities and policies that oppress or degrade.
We urge involvement of everyone in learning and working together to create positive social change, promote humane understandings, and encourage a variety of shared actions to further these goals.