Letter to Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

Ursula Rao
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Advokatenweg 36
06114 Halle (Saale)

Dear Managing Director Rao,

On behalf of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its 8,000 members we write to you after learning that Ghassan Hage, who has served as a leading Middle East anthropologist, had his employment terminated by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology due to posts he made on his personal Facebook page and X account. Decisions about promotion, tenure, and termination should be made primarily on the basis of scholarly merit.

As a rule, the AAA does not get involved in the internal matters of universities. However, our Association is also deeply committed to the principles of academic freedom, which is essential for researchers, teachers, and students to advance the purpose of institutions of higher education, including the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, in serving the common good. We adhere to the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Statement on Academic Freedom, which also recognizes that “the common good depends on the free search” for knowledge and its free exposition.

The pattern of recent events in the Middle East and, indeed, around the world indicate a gathering storm that threatens the academic freedom of anthropologists and other academics. Historically, these threats have been most effectively mitigated when scholarly and professional associations like ours have investigated and spoken out against attacks on academic freedom.

We call upon you to reconsider your decision regarding Ghassan Hage. We are also concerned that your decision is a potential threat to the overall Institute faculty’s freedom of academic inquiry and expression and urge you in the strongest possible terms to use the full capacities of your office to preserve, protect, and promote the pursuit of knowledge and the free exchange of ideas.


Whitney Battle Baptiste                                              Ady Arguelles-Sabatier
President, AAA                                                             Executive Director, AAA