Solomonia, here, reports that apparently Nadia Abu El Haj received her tenure, and sarcastically commented that "we're about to move from a scholar who uses post-colonial theory to delegitimize Jewish nationalism to a scholar-in-residence who uses Jewish genetic theory ".
I wonder about el-Haj who is an anthropologist who insists on taking these precarious forays into fields which require very different expertise and methodology to her own. If she is so very interested in Archeology, wouldn't it have made better sense to study Archeology? If genetics is her suit, shouldn't she have invested her time in that rather demanding discipline? Why go into Anthropology when one's interest clearly gravitates towards some other field?
Universities do not really encourage inter disciplinarity even though they do make some space for special cases which cannot be easily accommodated within any well-defined discipline. So sometimes students choose to join a certain discipline just so they have a "home base" while they manoeuvre to study actually a subject that belongs into another field. All they need to do is use some of the jargon and material which pertain to the dept. It is usually done with the full cooperation and encouragement of the host dept.
I wonder if this is what happened in el-Haj's case. It might explain why, in a department whose main focus is the study of human behaviour, el-Haj could write a dissertation with a strong political agenda which can be summed up in the one sentence from her book: "In other words, the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins is not understood as pure political fabrication." What is means is that Israeli society has been collectively and intentionally indoctrinated with a belief which is a pure political fabrication, and that this society is totally unaware of being duped by what amounts to a conspiracy between the government and the scientists who explore Jewish history in Israel.
But as long as such terms as "society", "origins", "belief" make an appearance, her work can be considered an anthropological study and be granted its rightful place next to other famous anthropological works, such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Clifford Geertz.
Ah, well. Good for el-Haj, if she can make hay out of her bizarre theses, then why not? The academic world needs her, to show they are open-minded about any thesis, no matter how far-fetched and ill-researched. Let her set a precedence for more of the same, such as these claims:
A cure for aids
Mecca-time should replace Greenwich time
Neil Armstrong Proved Mecca - World Center
I daresay the proponents of these ideas have just as much faith in their theories as el-Haj, when she says that there were no Jews in Judea at the time of Jesus, that there was no temple in Jerusalem, and that in fact, there is no such people as Jews at all.
One more thing: Now that el-Haj is a fully tenured professor, whenever her ideas and their respective analyses do not meet the academic standards, she can be challenged without the usual accusation of witch-hunting, or an attempt to 'silence' her revolutionay approach to history. Her writings can now be scrutinized from inside academia. This is the only silver lining to this fiasco of scholarship and intellectual disintegrity..
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Saturday, November 03, 2007