The Board of Directors of the African Studies Association is aware that some of its members based outside of the US are debating whether to attend our annual conference this November owing to the current policies of the US government. The recent Executive Order 13780, banning citizens of six Muslim majority countries (Yemen, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia) from seeking travel visas to the US for 90 days, reinforces the climate of intolerance reflected in recent actions by the US government.
The Board of Directors of the ASA wants to express its respect for the opinions and decisions of non-US based members who may be planning to boycott the annual ASA conference in Chicago. A well-publicized international boycott will demonstrate solidarity with those affected by detentions and deportation and may sway US public opinion against unfair and unjust practices.
At the same time, we want to affirm our decision to hold our Sixtieth Annual Meeting in Chicago this November and to emphasize the importance of supporting the ASA in the current context. Academic organizations in the United States play an important role advocating against the types of policies we have seen in recent months. The ASA has issued formal advocacy statements, provided advocacy grants to our members, and participated in key events to advocate with members of US Congress against the current policies.
This year’s Annual Meeting is a critical forum for the ASA to mobilize and to address the current political situation in the United States, as well as the growing trend of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee movements throughout the world. Through our normal CFP and our new AfricaNow! sessions, we are encouraging proposals that address some of the pressing concerns of the moment, especially Islamophobia, immigration, the status of refugees, US foreign policy, and the environment. We are planning specific events for advocacy at the conference, as well as sessions to provide expert support for anyone who may be personally impacted by an asylum or deportation case.
We are committed to making all efforts possible to ensure the participation of our international colleagues in this meeting. We are able to provide visa advice, letters of invitation, and updates on the current state of immigration policies for those traveling from outside the US to attend our Annual Meeting. If anyone on the meeting program is not able to attend due to an immigration or visa issue, we will ensure their ability to present their work through another form (Skype, videoconference, etc.).
For those of you who may decide not to attend the ASA’s Annual Meeting this year, we ask that you show your solidarity with the ASA by renewing your 2017 membership and making a donation to the 60th Anniversary Fund to support the ASA’s advocacy work. The ASA needs your support now more than ever and we depend on the revenues from meeting registration and membership for our survival. We want to be clear: this is not a case of “business as usual.” The African Studies Association remains committed, in this our Sixtieth Year, to expanding our numbers, to fostering networks of scholars, activists, and policy makers across the globe, and to promoting the dissemination of knowledge about the continent.
President, African Studies Association
on behalf of the Board of the Directors