Martin Kramer: On Casual Bigotry

Historians in the News

Let me give you a hypothetical: Let's say that, at a major research university, its program in modern European history had aged to the point that it had only one remaining senior scholar in the field. The institution decides that it wants to strengthen its program in modern European history. Its remaining senior Europeanist recommends to his colleagues and administrators that a respected scholar from another institution be hired. When he does that, however, word goes out from hostile quarters:"You know that senior Europeanist is Jewish and he has recommended that we hire a Jew as his colleague in the field. That may be a good reason we should not hire him." Behind such reasoning lie perspiring conspiratorial theories of Jewish domination. Most of us would recognize why that is a bad, not to mention, illegal reaction and would reject it out of hand.

Let me present Martin Kramer:

The program in Middle Eastern Studies at Yale needs to be strengthened with an additional major appointment. Its senior scholar, Abbas Amanat, recommends that the University hire Juan Cole. Kramer reasons that because both Amanat and Cole are Baha'is there is suspicious insider trading going on and that, since both Amanat and Cole are Baha'is, that might be good reason why Cole should not be hired. It is the same conspiratorial thinking – not the sweaty Ku Klux Klan or even the perspiring Kiwanis Club type – but of an aging old boy network that still thinks – just between us insiders – that a candidate might be rejected because of his religious identity. It's smart enough to explain to you that what it really cares about is the quality of the appointment, but just in case you aren't persuaded:"You know they're both Baha'is, don't you?"

It's a casually indulged bigotry. It's not like the raw bigotry of my first department chairman who would tell you straight up front: Catholics, Jews, Negroes, Orientals, and women need not apply. In fact, I don't think that Martin Kramer opposed Juan Cole's appointment at Yale primarily because Cole is a Baha'i. But it is shocking that he reached for that argument and didn't see the bigotry of it. It comes from a man who specializes in passing out advice to Princeton, Columbia, and Yale about who they should and should not hire in Middle Eastern Studies, cheers the results when they follow his recommendations, and knows enough to deny that his own insider trading influenced the result.

Read entire article at Ralph Luker at Cliopatria, HNN Blog

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