Friday, August 13, 2010

FTM in Arizona

Kendra at Les Belles Dames sans Merci writes:
I saw a CFP recently for the Feminist Theory and Music 11: Looking Backward and Forward conference. FTM is an annual conference bringing together scholars from many areas to share their research and ideas. I’d love to go. However, the 2011 meeting is being held at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. This is a major problem. Arizona’s recent racist and unconstitutional laws on immigration and the treatment of its citizens make it impossible for me to support any events held in the state, as well as any groups that sponsor those events... [snip]

FTM 11 , I urge you to reconsider holding your next conference in a city where a significant portion of attendees risk discrimination and, as the General says, second-class treatment. Feminist theory has long grappled with race, class, status, and justice. Would you really discount all of that work to hold a meeting in Arizona?

I agree. I've never participated in FTM nor was I planning to this year so it's not like my opinion really matters, but I nevertheless encourage you to go read the entirety of Kendra's post. I'm not actually very knee-jerk on this subject; I generally find attempts to get scholarly organizations engaged in politics to be naive at best, and often very misguided. (Michael Bérubé has blogged more eloquently about this than I, but I can't find the particular link at the moment.) When it comes to conferences, there is at least some economic teeth to the political bite. I wish, for instance, that the American Historical Association had not gone ahead with holding their annual meeting at a hotel owned by an anti-gay activist. But generally, I think boycotts of geographic areas are the wrong approach. The issues are sometimes chosen rather arbitrarily (it would be hard to find a city or state not guilty of a some sin!), and even when quite valid, I usually think engagement works better.

However--and it's a big "however"--the case in Arizona is different. This isn't about using the mighty weight of the FTM Local Arrangements Committee to show Arizona who's boss. Rather, it's the very concrete reality that some people who might wish to come to the conference will feel unsafe doing so because of their race/ethnicity or immigration status. That's a fundamental problem that for me trumps other (important) concerns. Perhaps the organizers can find some more elegant solution than simply moving the conference to a different location, but it's an issue that needs to be addressed somehow.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

Thanks for the link! I do think this is an important issue, and I appreciate your making it known to a wider audience.