This site is a collaborative effort of graduate and undergraduate students affiliated with the Department of Anthropology at Yale University.
Latest news: Anarchist professor drops appeal, will leave Yale (AP, December 7, 2005)
David Graeber, Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department at Yale University, was recently denied renewal of his contract for unexplained reasons. Graeber has an international reputation as a brilliant teacher and scholar, having published two highly regarded books and dozens of articles in a dozen languages and teaching some of the most popular courses offered in the Yale Anthropology Department. As an activist and one of the academy's few openly anarchist academics, his political engagement and personal style are a unique contribution to Yale's intellectual diversity and excellence.
Graeber is widely recognized as a leading anthropologist, social theorist, and scholar of Madagascar and other areas. Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics considers Graeber "the best anthropological theorist of his generation from anywhere in the world" (see Bloch's letter of support). Graeber was recently invited to be a keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists in the United Kingdom and also to deliver the prestigious Malinowski Lecture at the London School of Economics.
In May of 2005, a majority of senior faculty of the Yale Anthropology Department voted not to renew Graeber's contract past the first 2 years of a standard 4-year term as associate professor, despite his having more than fulfilled the requirements (see his own letter to Yale Anthropology faculty, CV, and explanation in Graeber's words) and his enormous popularity among both graduate and undergraduate students. It is extremely rare for an associate professor's contract to be cut short of the standard 4 years, and it is particularly startling considering Graeber's outstanding qualifications. (This was not a question of promotion to a tenured professorship or any other rank, but a renewal of a current position, normally a formality.) In response, on June 10th, Professor Graeber filed an appeal with the University Provost, Andrew Hamilton, requesting University officials to review the case.
The reasons for denying his reappointment remain unclear: the decision was made in secret (following Yale University policy) and those who voted against him were not required to and have not attempted to provide any justification. Despite repeated attempts by graduate and undergraduate students in the department to discuss the issue with senior faculty, no senior faculty member who voted against Professor Graeber has attempted to explain or justify their decision.
The American Association of University Professors recommends: "In the event of a decision not to renew an appointment, the faculty member should be informed of the decision in writing, and, upon request, be advised of the reasons which contributed to that decision. The faculty member should also have the opportunity to request a reconsideration by the decision-making body" (Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments). Professor Graeber has been told, however, that the reasons for non-renewal of his contract cannot be disclosed.
Professor Graeber's case has already drawn overwhelming support both from the Yale community and from around the world. A significant majority of Yale Anthropology graduate students have signed a petition asking their faculty to renew Professor Graeber's contract. Additionally, over 4,400 people so far—from preeminent scholars to activists and readers of Graeber's work around the world—have signed an open petition supporting Professor Graeber. His case has also drawn media attention (see Inside Higher Ed: Early Exit, ZNet: Support Graeber, by Andrej Grubacic, the interview with Graeber at Counterpunch), and numerous scholars and students have written letters of support (for example, see the letters from Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics, faculty of the University of Chicago, anthropologists from the University of Sussex, faculty of the University of Glasgow, Yale students, more letters on menu to the left). Many more letters of support have been sent to the department but have not been sent to us.
If you would like to support David Graeber, you may sign the petition or send a letter to the Yale Anthropology department (see the letters on this site for examples). Be sure to send a copy of your letter to us (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want it to be posted on this site.
Recognizing David Graeber's significant contributions to the Yale community and to the wider scholarly community, we strongly urge Yale University and the Yale University Department of Anthropology to take all steps necessary to ensure that David Graeber continues to remain a member of the faculty of the Yale Department of Anthropology.