AFS Executive Board Issues Statement on Immigration Executive Order
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Posted by: Tim Lloyd
On February 1, 2017, the AFS Executive Board issued the following statement:
The Executive Board of the American Folklore Society (AFS), a US-based international learned society whose members live, teach, and conduct cultural research in many countries around the world, believes that President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order regarding Muslim immigration to the United States from seven countries strikes at the heart of our mission, our understanding, and our values.
AFS and our field are committed to excellence in folklore scholarship and public education, and to making the work of folklorists freely available in order to foster the larger public understanding of traditional cultural expression in communities throughout the world. The President’s executive order impedes that mission. Faculty members, students, public humanists, and independent scholars from our field depend on the freedom of travel to pursue their work. Already we have received reports of scholars who have been prevented from returning home to the United States from research trips abroad. The executive order will impede international scholars and students who hope to study in the United States—long a haven for such colleagues—as well as American students who plan to study abroad.
The executive order also contradicts what we as folklorists understand about the world’s histories and cultures. Much violence has been committed in the name of "tradition" when tradition has been construed as an instrument of national or religious purification. When international communication among folklorists is prevented, it is too easy for national intellectuals to invent their own mythologies. Our comparative tradition, on the contrary, demonstrates that traditions circulate independently of national boundaries and that every country has diverse and complex, even contradictory traditions. International communication keeps us all honest. The complexity of national communities is erased when all citizens of certain countries are targeted as security risks.
The executive order also conflicts with and jeopardizes our core values of diversity, mutual respect, inclusion, and free inquiry, and our belief that those values should serve as the foundation for all governmental decisions regarding our members, colleagues, and fellow citizens everywhere. In the United States, we respect individuals and judge them by their conduct, not their origins. The countries affected by the executive order are not just religiously diverse. As their recent histories of conflict make clear, they contain individuals with widely different views on the interpretation of Islam, on the best forms of government, on approaches to international relations, and so on. To provide special treatment for Christians, as the executive order appears to do, is not only discriminatory against Muslims in a way that is un-American; it also treats categories as more important than individuals. This is no part of our constitutional tradition.
With other learned societies, colleges and universities, and educational leaders across the nation, we call on the President and the Congress to retract the executive order and to denounce intolerance in all its forms.
(The statements of other US learned societies on the executive order are available at http://www.acls.org/societies/statements/.)