Amid charges of mud-slinging, a group of archaeologists turned to dirt-digging — literally — in their fight against a controversial fellow academic.
On Monday night, Columbia University’s pro-Israel student group played host to the latest installment in a lecture series aimed, at least partially, at rebutting Nadia Abu El-Haj, whose work has been critical of the traditional narratives of Israeli archeology.
Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard since 2002, first gained notice with her 2001 book “Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society,” in which she argued that Israeli archaeologists use their research to validate a national origin myth. The book was praised in some quarters — it won the top award from the Middle East Studies Association — but was slammed by others as poor scholarship motivated by ideology. Columbia is currently deliberating whether Abu El-Haj should be given tenure, and the university has received petitions from her opponents and supporters.
Seems to have been a largely academic, rather than a polemical, affair.