A Statement by the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association
April 2011

The early months of 2011 have witnessed protests and insistent calls for change in what are being called the “Arab Spring” revolutions, in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and other Arab countries.  In the face of disaster, there are also the rumblings of organizing among activist networks in Japan against its pro-nuclear power government and TEPCO, one of the world’s largest energy suppliers.  In the United States, we have seen the impassioned protests of workers in several states, in response to legislation that, among other things, drastically weakened the collective bargaining rights of union members.  We have also tragically witnessed assaults on the freedom of speech and the academic freedom of scholars who challenge the logic and ideology of this legislation through the seizing of emails and other forms of communication that reference not simply the situation in these states, but labor relations more generally.  Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s 2010 Presidential address called on American Studies scholars to remind ourselves that we are workers, that the work we do must continuously involve organizing, and to think more expansively about worker solidarity.

In response to these and other recent events, in the United States and throughout the world, the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association has issued the following official statement on Intellectual Freedom in a Time of (Economic) Crisis:

“The American Studies Association condemns all efforts to criminalize freedoms of speech and association. We condemn attempts to intimidate and silence scholars whose work engages them in matters of public concern and policy.  The United States pays its scholars in public and private tax-exempt institutions to consider, among other things, the problems and challenges societies face, to draw lessons from the past, to compare across polities, and to make informed recommendations that will spark open debate. At the end of the day all not-for-profit education is underwritten by, and therefore must be consistently made available to, the people. Recent events around the country mock provisions in the modern world’s most durable constitution, and displace the difficult work of thoughtfulness and remedy to surveillance and punishment. We view the attacks as part of the orchestrated assault on all public sector workers. While the character of the attacks on our colleagues is not surprising, given the US’s decades-long embrace of criminalization as an all-purpose response to social, economic, and other problems, it is long since time to say: Enough. We are workers, and we are the public.”