A New Fact on the Ground: Nadia Abu El-Haj Wins Tenure at Barnard College

November 02, 2007

Barnard College just announced that Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist whose tenure bid has been the subject of withering online debate for weeks, has been promoted to the rank of associate professor.

A Barnard statement released this afternoon says that Ms. Abu El-Haj has passed a “highly rigorous review” to receive tenure at the college. “The process will be procedurally complete after the decision has been presented to the boards of trustees at both Barnard and Columbia,” the statement says, “but it is expected that Professor Abu El-Haj will earn the rank of associate professor.”

Ms. Abu El-Haj, who has remained silent throughout her tenure review, came under intense fire for her book Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society.

Ask Ms. Abu El-Haj’s publisher, and the book is an anthropological study of “an Israel where science and politics are mutually constituted.” Ask her online critics, and it is a piece of postmodernist propaganda that “asserts that the ancient Israelite kingdoms are a ‘pure political fabrication.’”

Ms. Abu El-Haj’s tenure bid became the subject of two warring petitions. The first, “Deny Nadia Abu El-Haj Tenure,” was posted by Paula R. Stern, an alumna of Barnard who lives in Israel. The second, “Grant Nadia Abu El-Haj Tenure,” came from academics who supported her.

The final tally of signatures: “Deny,” 2,592; “Grant,” 2,057. —John Gravois