6 April 2019

Dean Tamar Szabó Gendler
Yale University
1 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT  06511

Dear Dean Gendler:

We write as the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association (ASA) to urge you to act swiftly to remedy the untenable conditions leading to the withdrawal of exceptionally distinguished scholars from Yale University’s program in Ethnicity, Race and Migration (ER&M).  

ASA is the largest professional organization in the country devoted to the development and circulation of interdisciplinary research on American culture, history, and politics in a global context. Our roughly 5,000 members are researchers, teachers, students, writers, curators, community organizers, and activists from around the world. We support scholars and scholarship both in the humanities and social sciences committed to original research, critical thinking, and public dialogue. Our members include Yale’s ER&M faculty whose contributions to the field as scholars, leaders, interlocuters, collaborators, and mentors are indispensable. 

The national perspective of the ASA allows us to observe quite definitively that the work of Ned Blackhawk, Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Michael Denning, Inderpal Grewal, Zareena Grewal, Daniel Martinez HoSang, Matthew Frye Jacobson, Grace Kao, Lisa Lowe, Mary Lui, Gary Okihiro, Stephen Pitti, and Ana Ramos-Zayas – that is, of the faculty members who were compelled to withdraw their labor – individually and collectively has been vital to the vibrancy of the field.  Indeed, they have been among the most influential scholars in the study of such world-shaping subjects as the histories, processes, cultures, and ideologies of colonialism and nationalism, settler colonialism and capitalism, both within American studies and well beyond it. We know of no program in the country where scholars have been compelled to the reverberant action taken by our colleagues in the ER&M program. This action is not to be taken lightly. These thirteen scholars are nationally and internationally respected for their critical generosity, integrity, erudition, and administrative acuity. Their withdrawal en masse from the program is an ethical, labor, and intellectual issue. It is crucial that you address them and model a facilitation that would be a crucial transitional point for the field. There are national implications in your action.  

It is worth reiterating the significance of the research and teaching in ER&M as part of broader interdisciplinary currents of American Studies. From environmental devastation that is a result of the collaborative operations of colonialism, settler colonialism, and capitalism; the massively uneven distribution of wealth along the axes of race and ethnicity; the also massive and ever growing numbers of refugees and migrant populations whose movements are precipitated by both environmental destruction and wealth inequality; to the various forms and scales of violence that pervasively organizes all of this, the ER&M program is a crucial site to help us better understand and address the defining characteristics of the present in the U.S. and beyond. 

Given the inarguable brilliance and the impact of their work, it is difficult to understand how and why Yale would allow the program to remain so administratively precarious.  This is especially so given its announced commitment to diversification of student and faculty bodies and to curricular transformation.

That the students, alumni, and faculty at Yale recognize the importance of the work that the program does is evident in the reported vibrancy and growth of the program and in the inspiring actions of its students in recent days.  We believe Yale has the opportunity not only to show its support for its students and faculty by providing necessary resources and governance authority to the program but also to demonstrate its standing as a forward-looking, worldly institution. 

Thank you for your consideration.


President: Roderick A. Ferguson, University of Illinois, Chicago
President Elect: Scott Kurashige, University of Washington, Bothell
Past President: Kandice Chuh, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Executive Director: John F. Stephens
Councilor: Soyica Diggs Colbert, Georgetown University
Councilor: Eng-Beng Lim, Dartmouth College
Councilor: Deborah Vargas, Rutgers University

Posted for ASA Office in Press Releases
Post date: April 6, 2019

Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.