The Native American and Indigenous Studies Assocition (NAISA) 2014 Annual Meeting will be held at UT-Austin in May 2014.

NAISA, a group that is only a few years old, recently announced that it is adopting the academic boycotts of Israel called for by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel PACBI and its U.S. offshoot (founded by one of the people behind the American Studies Association boycott), the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

Unlike ASA, NAISA has not even tried to scale back the boycott, and embraced in its resolution the full breadth of the academic boycott:

December 15, 2013

The council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) declares its support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

A broad coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, acting in concert to represent the Palestinian people, formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Their call was taken up in the United States by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. A NAISA member-initiated petition brought this issue to NAISA Council. After extensive deliberation on the merits of the petition, the NAISA Council decided by unanimous vote to encourage members of NAISA and all who support its mission to honor the boycott….

The PACBI and USACBI guildelines are quite sweeping.  You need to read those guidelines (at links above) to understand just how expansive the academic boycott campaign is.  Here is part of the USABI guideline, which makes clear that the boycott applies to academic conferences:

1. Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions. All academic events, whether held in Israel or abroad, and convened or co-sponsored by Israeli academic institutions or their departments and institutes, deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds. These boycottable activities include panels and other activities sponsored or organized by Israeli academic bodies or associations at international conferences outside Israel. Importantly, they also include the convening in Israel of meetings of international bodies and associations….

4. Addresses and talks at international venues by official representatives of Israeli academic institutions such as presidents and rectors.

Again from the USACBI boycott statement (emphasis added):

While an individual’s academic freedom should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual academic, Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the academic in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.). At this level, Israeli academics should not be automatically exempted from due criticism or any lawful form of protest, including boycott; they should be treated like all other offenders in the same category, not better or worse.

With these guidelines in mind, formally adopted by NAISA, it it unfathomable that a U.S. university would host and sponsor a discriminatory conference run by NAISA at which Israeli academic institutions are banned and representatives of Israeli academic institutions would be excluded.

Yet that is what will be happening at the University of Texas – Austin in May 2014, when NAISA holds its annual meeting on campus.  That meeting was scheduled prior to the NAISA academic boycott announcement.

The NAISA annual meeting website indicates that “The Office of the President of the University of Texas, William Powers Jr.” and “The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin,” and “Liberal Arts at Texas A & M University,” are featured Sponsors of the Annual Meeting.

NAIS 2014 Conference Sponsors

While we don’t know how much of a financial contribution these institutions are making, the 2013 NAISA Annual Meeting Sponsorhips prices ran into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The academic boycotts of Israel by NAISA, ASA and the Association for Asian American Studies have been denounced far and wide, including by President Powers at UT-Austin.  I have not received an answer from President Power’s office as to its position on continued sponsorship of the NAISA Annual Meeting in light of NAISA’s recently announced academic boycott of Israel.

This is not just an issue of Texas higher educational institutions lending their names and money to a conference by a group engaging in academic boycotts based on national origin.

Will UT-Austin allow the NAISA to exclude Israeli scholars and institutions from a conference held on campus?  If an Israeli Assistant Dean shows up at the conference, will UT-Austin campus police escort the Israeli from the conference if NAISA so demands?

Would UT-Austin permit any other group to enforce academic boycott rules based on national origin at an on-campus conference?

We need answers to these questions.

Related: List of Universities rejecting academic boycott of Israel and University statements rejecting academic boycott of Israel.


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