Complacency, Kinds of

Jonathan Bellman

Taking Bob Judd’s challenge from the comments to Phil’s Sept. 19 “Exile” blog, I sent the following to my Representative.

“I am writing to alert you to the case of the musicologist Dr. Nalini Ghuman, who (like too many other scholars) is being prevented from reentering the United States by the Department of Homeland Security, WHICH WILL GIVE NO CAUSE FOR THIS ACTION. Her husband is in the United States, her job (Professor at Mills College in Oakland, CA) is in the United States, and she has been prevented from reentering for over a year, with no explanation.

“We, as American citizens, have a right to know why an American-trained scholar with an American job is forbidden to resume her position here. I implore you to investigate the exclusion of foreign scholars by Homeland Security, who is acting in a frighteningly irrational manner. In the words of Bard College President Leon Botstein, “What is at stake is America’s pre-eminence as a place of scholarship.” That our own government should behave this way is unconscionable.

My Representative is Marilyn Musgrave, whose website acknowledged my query immediately with a polite letter that included the assurance: “I am currently reviewing the issues you raised in your correspondence.” We’ll see, I suppose. Some of us may know something of her voting record.

Now, let’s review. My view is that we want two things: 1) information, and 2) Nalini Ghuman and similarly encumbered scholars to be allowed back in the country. Is that not true? Homeland Security may have some information about her nefarious activities that would shock us. If so, IT IS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO SHARE IT. If not, she should be readmitted to the United States immediately, with an apology. The fact is, it is their business to know things, and—as I said before—she may have a secret life of which we’re unaware, involving Welsh triple-strung harps and crwth playing, or something worse. If she is a hate-monger and destabilizing force for American democracy, we have a right to know.  If not, let her the hell back in here, and try not to embarrass thinking American citizens any further with this kind of capricious and needlessly cruel behavior.

Now: the American Musicological Society, of which both Phil and I are dues-paying members, is affiliated with the American Council of Learned Societies. Perhaps Bob will be willing to keep us informed of his contacts with them, joint initiatives on this matter, lobbying efforts in DC and so on. I don’t think it’s fair to imply that when a blog behaves like a blog it’s “a form of complacency,” when it is not clear that our Learned Society itself, which is telling its members to write individual letters, is acting and organizing to the full measure of its Learning.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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5 Responses to Complacency, Kinds of

  1. Colin says:

    I know it may be a PIA, but emailed correspondence to members of congress (especially fill-in forms on their websites) is much more likely to be ignored than snail-mail or phone calls. If you and your readers have the time, one of those methods will go a little further (how much exactly is hard to say).

  2. Bob Judd says:

    I take your point, Jonathan, and will prepare a web page outlining exactly what the AMS as an organization has done on this front. (We’ve done a fair bit, but have not publicized what we’ve done very well.)
    I’ll post the URL in this place when things are ready.

  3. Bob Judd says:

    PS Many thanks for writing your representative!! I would just second Colin’s: paper letters and faxes and phone calls are treated more seriously than emails.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Bob–please, on the AMS site, let us know what ACLS is doing for either this specific or the more general problem. If there was ever a time for them to stand up and shout to the media, it would be now, and if they don’t it will be hard to take them seriously in the future.

  5. Bob Judd says:

    Just to advise that I finally found time to do up a detailed time line of AMS involvement in the case. There’s more to do here, but I’m swamped with business for the annual meeting (sorry). I hope to get more info here before too long. .
    Re ACLS: this is a concern of mine. I was on their admin officers executive committee last year and asked them for action, but the general sense was torpid, to my dismay. I will check in with my friends there shortly and see what can be reported. (On the positive side: in April, when the AMS did the letter-writing campaign, I asked the Steve Wheatley, Vice President of the ACLS, to write a letter expressing concern to the Department of State, and he did so, sending me a copy.)

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