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Nadia Abu Al-haj, Columbia University And Arab Doctrine

Earlier this afternoon, I received an e-package consisting of three articles from The Current, a journal of politics, culture and Jewish affairs at Columbia University, edited by David Feith.  These rather compact essays are judicious and invariably fair.  They represent academic controversy at its best.

At the core of these writings is the case of Nadia Abu Al-Haj who recently recently received tenure in archaeology at Barnard College.  The authors of these articles put this case in the context of Edward Said's legacy that, well, here it is straight-up, "there really are no facts."  Everything is someone's partisan narrative, except, of course, those who have illumined this brilliant truth.

As you can see here, The Current commissioned original pieces from three outside scholars: David Rosen, Professor of Anthropology at Fairleigh Dickinson; James Russell, Chair of Armenian Studies at Harvard; and Jonathan Rosenbaum, President of Gratz College. 

Below are brief previews of the three articles from The Current (plus a note from the editorial board).

In "Searching for 'Facts' on the Ground," Rosen provides a detailed analysis of El-Haj's book and methods, concluding that El-Haj's "Facts on the Ground is a book that turns the gaze of post-colonial discourse to the subject of archeology. Inspired by mythology, it tells a powerful story that never lets facts get in the way."

In "Ideology over Integrity in Academe," Russell discusses the history of anti-Zionism and the damage that politicization has done to the Humanities.  He cites especially the Columbia Armenian Studies program (part of the famed Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department), which has languished due to ideological infighting.  As far as I know, this story has not previously been told. 

And in "Is Truth Attainable?" Rosenbaum assesses how postmodern concepts of truth have affected academic archaeological work, as the so-called Minimalists "have sought to challenge the historicity of virtually the entire biblical narrative despite the conclusions of more than a century of archaeological research.
 And here is the entire issue of The Current.  Learn and enjoy!