I was hoping to ask for some informal advice and open up a bit of discussion on a topic that I’m sure a lot of us are thinking about in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent ban on migrants and the beginnings of the closure of American borders to Muslims, POC, and other groups.
Many of us are scholars who are not American and a number of upcoming conferences (like the SAA, the RSA, Kalamazoo) will be held in American cities. Given the bans and the increasingly intolerant (and intolerable) positions of the American government, I don’t personally feel comfortable travelling to the United States at this time. I know that I cannot be the only one.
These changes to border policy have already taken effect and will inevitably change the way that conferences and the academy work. For anyone who tries to enter the United States from the precariat, which represents the majority of the academy, they do so without institutional backing. If that scholar is a POC, Muslim, etc., then they open themselves up to unprecedented scrutiny, possible detention, and deportation for simply trying to go to a conference and participate in the professional discourse of which we are all a part.
So my question is… do I cancel my plans to attend the SAA at Atlanta? It is one of my favorite conferences of the year. Every year it is a highlight for me – a breath of fresh air at the end of what is usually a long year of teaching – but can I justify going to the US under the present circumstances? If I can justify going to the US now, then at what point can I no longer justify going? The words of Martin Neimöller have never echoed quite so deeply as they do now.
Honestly, I don’t know the answer and I really hope that you will help me figure this out, because I know others are in the same boat. Please share this widely. I would like to hear from as many scholars as we can on this.