(NEW YORK)— Last week, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) removed a panel from their annual meeting program, set to take place next month in Toronto, that focused on biological sex and gender identity in anthropological research. To explain the cancellation, a statement from AAA and CASCA cited both the “scientific integrity” of the program and the allegation that the ideas featured in the panel were advanced in a way that “do harm” to members of the LGBTQ+ community. In a letter of support for AAA, three prominent biological anthropologists said the panel “goes against the most basic empirical underpinnings of our field.”

Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, released the following comments:

“Rescinding a platform for academic speech is a drastic and concerning measure. The AAA has every right to enforce the academic standards of their discipline, but the moment to do so was in the initial vetting process. This cancellation raises significant questions about AAA’s submission policies and review procedures. Further, labeling some ideas as off-limits because of their alleged potential to cause harm can be a tool for censorship, casting a chill on the space for open discourse. While membership organizations in academia must have broad latitude to curate their conferences, reservations about the scientific rigor of the panel, which were raised by association members after its initial acceptance, would have been better addressed at the conference itself.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057