Since I am only familiar with his work on American poetry and cultural studies, I did not realize that Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors, is a member of the Middle East Studies Association. But, then, last week I received an email from him encouraging me, "as a fellow MESA member," to vote against a proposal to remove the word "non-political" from the association's bylaws.
That vote, which closes on March 15, will also determine if the association adds a clause reaffirming its commitment to operate "in accordance with its status as a 501(c)(3) scientific, educational, literary, and charitable organization." Even though the word "non-political" does not appear in the bylaws of most academic associations in the United States, Nelson believes that the "transformation of MESA into a political, rather than academic, organization will have multiple consequences," as he wrote in an email inviting me to sign an open letter recommending against the change.
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