A letter to the Max Planck Society regarding Prof. Ghassan Hage

Prague, 28 February 2024

Dear Prof. Dr. Patrick Cramer,

The executive board of the Czech Association for Social Anthropology (CASA) would like to express a widespread concern among the members of our association regarding the sudden termination of Prof. Ghassan Hage’s contract at MPI of Social Anthropology in Halle. This decision was particularly surprising as we know that Prof. Hage’s tenure at MPI has so far been fruitful, creative, and highly appreciated by colleagues and students. We considered his presence a significant impetus for the further development of social anthropology in Central Eastern Europe.

The accusations leveled at Prof. Hage in a tabloid right-wing media, which accuses him as an anti-Semite, are outrageous and reprehensible. Anyone familiar with Prof. Hage’s academic work as well as his public interventions knows that his long-standing research interest is precisely to expose forms of racism, nationalism, and the critique of violence that accompanies them. His contributions in this area have had a transformative effect on social theory and the anthropological epistemic community.

We at the CASA firmly believe that academic institutions, and especially a centre that aspires to academic excellent such as MPI, should support and protect academic freedom. The idea of cultivating an environment of rigorous and critical debate suffers enormously when it succumbs to interference by people who have no intention of seeking understanding or deepening our knowledge. We also wish to express our endorsement for the statement issued by the Board of the German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropology on Academic Freedom in Germany. Like many scholars and colleagues from Germany, Israel, and other parts of the world, we strongly believe that we, as academics, should take additional measures to counter violent labeling, false accusations of anti-Semitism or racism, and persecution of dissenting voices. In these times of political polarization, it has become a common practice for dishonest public interventions to follow this pattern.

Participation in the networks, collaborations and events organized by the MPI for Social Anthropology in Halle has benefited many members of our association. Over the years, the Institute has been served as a hub of academic excellence where rigorous science and debate combine with respect for diverse opinions and courage in inquiry. We ask you not to put at risk this cherished character of your institution and urge you to reconsider your decision, revoke the contract termination and allow Prof. Hage to continue his work.

CASA executive board
Adam Horálek, Hedvika Novotná, Alžběta Wolfová, Nikola Balaš, Varvara Borisova, Barbora Stehlíková
Yasar Abu Ghosh, Martin Fotta, Jan Grill