Anthropology’s Commitment to Anti-Racism

The Anthropology Department at Yale University rejects systemic racism, structural inequality, and prejudice of all kinds. Together we condemn the deep current of anti-Blackness that runs through United States society and culture and that provides the scaffolding, language, and imagery on which so many other vectors of inequality and exclusion rest. We condemn the recent police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and pledge to speak their names, along with those of so many who have lost their lives to racist acts in this country and beyond. We pledge our support to anti-racism and to the work of dismantling long-standing systems of exclusion and racial inequity. As scholars and teachers of anthropology, we re-commit ourselves to reckoning with our own history and current practice through sustained and serious efforts to reimagine the roles our work can play in the service of anti-racism at Yale, in our professional societies, in the US, and the world.

Anthropology encompasses many cross-cutting fields and subfields, and we have been inspired by and continuously learn from calls to action issued by our colleagues in the field’s many professional associations in the United States and beyond, including the Association for Black Anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Human Biology Association, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Cultural Anthropology, the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, the American Ethnological Society, the Association of Social Anthropologists, and the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology.

As a Department we are taking concrete actions in the following areas:

Teaching, Curriculum, and Student Support. We pledge to develop additional educational opportunities for students–including new and/or reimagined courses–that will address topics of race, racism, structural inequality, and other forms of injustice. We view this as а collaborative effort involving discussions among and action by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The Department has already made plans for an Antiracist Anthropology Reading Group, and groups of faculty, in consultation with students, are forming to examine various parts of the curriculum at all levels and in all subfields. We also pledge to review and expand upon our existing efforts to recruit, train, and mentor students from backgrounds underrepresented in the academy. We strive to foster a departmental climate supporting innovative, daring scholarship–especially that which engages questions of race, anti-Blackness, and all manner of structural inequalities. As an initial step toward better realizing this commitment to inclusivity, the Department is establishing a standing Climate Committee, comprising both faculty and graduate students, to develop concrete and collaborative strategies for improvement.

Building Campus Collaborations. Dismantling structures of power and inequality requires individual and collaborative commitments. We reaffirm the Anthropology Department’s long-standing collaboration with the Department of African American Studies and pledge to continue building on the strengths of our departments’ combined PhD program. We pledge to extend these commitments to our ongoing collaborations with other units, including Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, MacMillan Center Councils and Programs, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and others. As anthropologists, we recognize our special obligation to engage in transformative ways with Native and Indigenous communities, and to promote teaching and research that confronts histories of violence, settler colonialism, and oppression. Faculty in Anthropology will support these efforts by advocating for antiracist teaching, research, and mentoring and by devoting intellectual labor and time to the ongoing work that these commitments entail. 

Beyond the Department and Beyond Anthropology. This statement speaks to our commitments and conversations as an academic department–to our fundamental missions of teaching and research. Beyond this, all of us participate in the life of Yale University, of New Haven and other Connecticut communities, and of communities of many kinds around the world. As a Department, we will look for opportunities to support groups and organizations at Yale, in New Haven, and in Connecticut thаt аrе devoted to addressing problems of systemic racism, structural inequality, and prejudice. As individuals, we will carry this work with us to all of the places in which we live and work.