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CASCA Executive Statement: “Academic freedom, antisemitism, and the dismissal of Ghassan Hage from the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology”

The Executive Committee of the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA) shares the concerns of many sister societies (e.g. DGSKA, EASA, AAA, AAS) regarding the recent letter of dismissal sent by the President of the Max Planck Society to anthropologist Ghassan Hage. We are particularly concerned:

 

  • That Dr. Hage was ostensibly dismissed due to public statements regarding Israel/Palestine. The letter implies that these were anti-semitic or racist, with no evidence for the accusation. We are concerned that it may rely on the IHRA definition of antisemitism, adopted by Germany in 2017. CASCA is on record as having opposed the IHRA definition and guidelines: in a resolution passed in June 2022, CASCA took a position “opposing the endorsement or implementation, in their present form, by governments, public bodies and academic associations in Canada of eleven guidelines concerning antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Association” (https://cascacultureblog.wordpress.com/2022/04/05/resolution-concerning-the-ihra-guidelines-on-antisemitism-resolution-concernant-la-definition-de-lantisemitisme-de-laimh/). While this statement is addressed specifically to Canadian institutions and associations, it explains why we now are concerned about, and indeed oppose, any action which may rely on that definition.

 

  • That this case is one example of ways in which academic freedom is being steadily eroded and compromised in many areas. Dr. Hage has studied the relationship between nationalism, religion, race and ethnicity for decades, and uses his expertise to draw conclusions about both historical and contemporary matters; this is standard anthropological practice. It is also standard practice to address not only academic circles, but also to engage in public debate. Academic institutions must be spaces for both academic and public debate.
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