[URBANTH-L]AAA and the strike

Pei Wu phwu at cryptio.net
Fri Oct 22 00:37:17 EDT 2004

Hi everyone:

Thank you all for the great thoughts so far!

Some reflections:

1.  Whether AAA is hypocritical or not, don't we still have to decide what 
to do, given AAA's position *as* a professional organization?  That 
positioning could be powerful.

I think those committed to a more just world need to make that effort to 
use what already is present and not step away from every space that has 
been "tainted" by hypocrisy-- why does the right-wing have so much swing 
over the functions and meanings of the concepts of family values, nation, 
religion, patriotism, etc.?  Can those concepts be practiced in more 
ethical ways, and why aren't more people working harder at contesting 
those meanings?  (hm, went off on a little tangent there...)

2.  I too am a grad student who refuses to advance her career if that 
career is alienated from those in struggle for health care benefits and 
fair labor practices. This isn't about "justice" writ large in the sky. 
This is about survival, lives in struggle;  that's right, I also refuse to 
cross picket lines.  If our personal and professional lives do not shift 
in response to people struggling for survival, *what* kind of lives are we 

Whose voices and concerns do we prioritize in our lives and careers, and 
why?  And given anthropology's complex history with colonization, these 
are very important questions to reflect upon, no?

3. I understand that breaking the contract with the Hilton cannot be used 
as a financial leverage toward ending the lockout.  But we're talking 
about the political impact of such an action; breaking the contract may 
give the workers greater moral capital toward ending the lockout, and 
inspire other professional and academic organizations to (re)think their 
relationship with those in struggle as well, which I would welcome quite 

...also, I'm luckier than most; i can possibly convince my roundtable to 
move to another space near the Hilton (I'm a local).  I know others don't 
have this possibility, and if the lockout doesn't end soon, we're only 
going to get a few choices, one more awful than the other, most of which 
are not likely to make any difference in the labor struggle.  What can we 
do to avoid a situation where every choice is awful?  What other choices 
can we create as anthropologists, academics, professionals, etc.?

4.  So AAA has been financially straitjacketed by the contract.  Does the 
conference bring the Hilton enough business that the threat of boycott in 
future years is enough to end the lockout?

Were there discussions on what options AAA would have toward pressuring 
the Hilton to end the lockout NOW and force them to discuss the workers' 
concerns?  Because that's the fourth option i was looking for on that 
survey, so that we're not left with the other three less-than-appealing 

I would join 4500+ people in a sit-in in the lobby, if Local 2 thought 
that would be helpful-- communication and negotiation with the workers are 
key here to inform any action on our (AAA conference attendees') parts.

We have four weeks.  Anthropology for workers' health benefits and fair 
labor practices!  Proletariats unite, and bourgeois professional 
organizations can stand steadfast at their side as well.  Let's 
interrogate the moralities that keep closing off spaces for alliances and 
actions... from each according to one's capabilities, no?

And though the above sit-in may be a fantasy (it looks so beautiful in my 
mind, it does!), hopefully we on this list can think together on other 
political practices, not just for now, but in future situations as 

In struggle,

Pei-hsuan Wu
Social and Cultural Anthropology
California Institute of Integral Studies

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