The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has recently formed a task force that will examine implications of the conflict between Israel and Palestine for the anthropological community: including forming potential stances that the organization could take on issues that might impede upon scholarly inquiry surrounding the conflict.
Members of the task force, appointed by current AAA president Monica Heller, could profess no public opinion about the political nature of the conflict. They were each required to have a subject matter background pertinent to analyzing the conflict at hand.[i]
The AAA website notes that the task force members will investigate “the uses of anthropological research to support or challenge claims of territory and historicity; restrictions placed by government policy or practice on anthropologists’ academic freedom; or commissioning anthropological research whose methods and/or aims may be inconsistent with the AAA statement of professional responsibilities.”[ii] Beyond studying what effects the conflict has on anthropological research and scholarship, the task force will also make recommendations on whether or not the AAA should take a stance on issues unveiled by the report.
In describing the task force goals, the AAA website also notes that it is possible that no stance will be taken on problems raised in the findings—but that any position the organization takes must be substantiated by “neutral overviews” of the argument in favor of a particular stance.
An article about the task force posted earlier this year on the Anthropology News website—operated by the AAA—noted that anthropologists, “have an opportunity here to develop modes of mutually respectful exchange on controversial anthropological topics that will serve us well now and in the future.”[iii]
Although the task force will meet in person during the Annual Meeting in December to discuss these concerns, their findings will not be available in a complete written report until October 2015.