- From the Editors
As this issue goes to press, another job season has arrived. Like its recent predecessors, it's a grim one. Education expenditures are always favored targets when government coffers are threatened, and the sloppy stereotype of the pampered professor serves critics whenever colleges and universities protest against systemic underfunding. Lawmakers want to be seen as champions of rigorous education, and citizens want access to affordable and high-quality education, but neither seems to want to invest the financial and social resources required. Few educational institutions have escaped financial cuts, and some have experienced the trauma of wholesale amputations. Entire departments in some schools have been eliminated, while others have been merged or reduced to such a degree that their ability to function is significantly diminished. As class sizes grow and more students enter higher education, the number of tenure-track faculty positions is shrinking, and institutions are finding themselves increasingly dependent on part-time or limited-term appointments with comparatively few benefits or protections.
And as the recent passage of anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic studies legislation in Arizona and other states has demonstrated, those fields of inquiry that are deemed threatening to a particularly narrow view of national identity or that offer thoughtful challenge to jingoist exceptionalism are particularly favored targets. This would, of course, include Native studies and the study of Indigenous literatures.
Yes, things are grim. But they are not hopeless. Though there are [End Page vii] fewer jobs than applicants, positions haven't atrophied completely; in fact, some of the most interesting jobs of recent years have been posted this season, and the quality of applicants doing work in Native studies is extraordinary. Hard economic times bring a more diverse population into classrooms, and those students bring ideas and experiences that challenge complacency and offer opportunities for everyone to learn and speak across difference. And while the ugly exclusivist politics of xenophobia and racism are always poisonous, the fact that these ideas are again being expressed so openly gives us both the opportunity and the duty to more clearly articulate ethically and intellectually rigorous responses to the general public.
There are many ways of offering such responses. Some people are extraordinary organizers and activists, taking their ideas and arguments to the picket line, the sidewalk protest, the spiritual or ceremonial center, the legislative chamber. Others teach in classrooms and living rooms, prisons and nursing homes; some begin at the kitchen table or with the weekend sports team, while others go online. Some do all of the above.
Yet one way of responding to the growing backlash against "area studies" that is given short shrift, even among a surprising number of academics, is in our scholarship itself. Last year's controversy around whether or not the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) should boycott Arizona for its annual conference is a case in point. We are not here taking a position on whether the NAISA leadership should or should not have participated in the boycott—there were compelling arguments on all sides, and a lot of good people took very different positions. What is significant here is the fact that, for some who did attend, there was a surprising gap between the work they did as scholars and the work they did as activists.
One needn't be an activist to be a scholar, nor a scholar to be an activist. But scholarship can be rigorous in its intellectual capacity and still be fully engaged with the ethical regard for equity, inclusivity, and transformative possibility. They need not be mutually exclusive categories. This was driven home when one of us overheard another academic ask a senior scholar if she was going to attend a [End Page viii] planned protest against the anti-immigrant legislation in downtown Tucson. The senior scholar—whose activist credentials are every bit as impressive as her scholarship—responded quite simply, "I'm going to listen to scholars give their papers. That's my protest." For her, the very fact that this scholarly organization existed was meaningful. She saw value in listening to other scholars share their ideas with one another. She understood...