“Symbolic Violence,” Really? Hirschkind vs Starrett

Charles Hirschkind’s essay “A Smear in Disguise: Comments on Starrett, is a succinct and powerful rebuttal to Gregory StarretScreen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.42.32 PMt’s “The Symbolic Violence of Choice,” which recently appeared in Anthropology News.  Hirschkind reveals that Starrett’s attack on the AAA boycott resolution as a form of symbolic violence is a not-so-covert and irrational smear of proponents of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As Hirschind notes, Starrett seeks to discredit the AAA resolution in support of the academic boycott by mocking proponents and ridiculing their political commitments. Furthermore, Hirschkind crucially points out that Starrett’s statements enact the very symbolic violence that he claims is a characteristic of the academic boycott movement among anthropologists.

Hirschkind begins his comments with the following paragraph:

In “The Symbolic Violence of Choice” (Anthropology News, March 2, 2016), Gregory Starrett denounces the Resolution to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions currently being considered by AAA members on numerous grounds. Despite a thin and misleading veneer of impartiality, the essay is unequivocal both in its condemnation of the proposed resolution and its disparaging assessment of those who support it. Having read the piece a number of times now, I find it profoundly confused, a set of rhetorical feints disguised as an analysis. But given the timing of its publication, just before AAA members must decide on the boycott initiative, I feel that a serious response is necessary.

Anyone who has followed the debates in connection with the MLA’s proposed boycott resolution will find Starrett’s “arguments” all too familiar and Hirschkind’s critique of this anti-boycott position remarkably relevant.

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