October 22, 2004

the AAA’s and the strike

Category: Politics — Biella @ 12:05 am

So so so so so. Days and day pass and I don’t write a word here though I have composed, in my head, about 10 blog entries. Perhaps one of the more interesting things to have developed is that the AAA are pondering canceling their annual meetings to be held in SF in November over a a nasty hotel lock out and strike among hotel workers like room cleaners and bar tenders.

It was great to see the AAA write us a long memo, laying out the complexity of the dilemma’s, which range from our ethical stance to the huge financial loss they may incur. The AAA asked for member votes or opinions (it was unclear what they were using the information for) and I imagine they will come to some decision based in the information (hold the meeting, cancel, move to San Jose or postpone). Among U of C anthropologists, this has generated a lot of conversation on mailing lists and tomorrow our dept is having a public disucssion about it which I look forward to.

Below I am providing two letters, quite different in tone and content over what should be done. One is by Terry Turner, a professor of indigenous Amazonian groups with a heavy Marxist bent, the second the statement from the Society of Medical Anthropology. Terry wrote his letter to Sidney Mintz, another famous old school Marxist anthropoligist who felt some sort of middle ground might be possible. Terry clearly thinks otherwise and I tend to agree with him which is why I was quite dissapointed by the SMA decision, especially since this stike is largely over health care (rates are projected to go from $10 per month to $129. Percantage wise that is about…. a buttload$###$$^% Further their recourse to postmodernism for justification makes me a little sick. It mask the clear difference between our privilege as a professional organization and the situations of workers. Further to claim postmodernism is to make sweeping genreralizations about living in a world where subjectivity is fragmented and everyone deals with all of lifes complexities through a networked medium. Like is so often the case, a postmodern trope leads to political copouts. If it does not breed extreme cynisim, it breeds some screwed up logic of fatalism. Oh wait that is the same thing… And it entirely justifies a politics of selfishness. Ok, I am treading on the terrain of moral righteousness, I am just peeved and tired right now. Anyway take a look!

Dear Sid,

Thanks for your letter on the SF Hotel situation. I can’t agree with
your assessment of the situation, or your ideas for action, for the
following reasons. First and foremost, crossing a picket line is crossing a
picket line, and is unacceptable. The Union is not interested in suspending
the picket for individuals in exchange for other gestures of
support–”support” in this situation means not crossing the line. Just
cancelling one’s personal room reservation at the Hilton and abstaining from
buying drinks and eats at the Hotel, while attending the meetings in the
public rooms of the Hotel anyway, is not a viable alternative. It would
avoid the issue that those rooms would only be available because enough
other AAA members did not cancel their reservations and thus crossed the
picket line in the full sense of defying the union’s appeal for a boycott of
the Hotel.Those abstainers who cross the picket line only to attend sessions
would be taking advantage of a resource made available as a result of the
conduct of those colleagues who refused to honor the strike. They would thus
make themselves accessories to that conduct.

For these reasons,the alternatives seem to me to reduce to 1)cancel
the meetings altogether or 2)San Jos

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