News Topic

Academic Freedom, Advocacy


Indigenous, Political

AHA Topics

Professional Life


Latin America/Caribbean, United States

On February 13, 2006, the American Historical Association (AHA) sent a letter to the Departments of State and Homeland Security expressing concern over the plight of Dr. Waskar Ari, a member of the Aymara indigenous people of Bolivia and an authority on religious beliefs and political activism among indigenous Bolivians, who has been prevented from taking up his post as assistant professor of History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln because he has been placed on a list of individuals under “conspicuous revision”—that is, he is being subjected to extensive background checks due to alleged security concerns.

The AHA is committed to fostering historical research and instruction unencumbered by government restrictions that could infringe on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. While recognizing that there may be individuals who pose a genuine security risk and for whom there are legitimate reasons to delay the granting of an H-1B visa, the association notes that in Dr. Ari’s case that there are no perceptible grounds for such treatment.  Under such circumstances, a fine scholar whose only apparent offense is his indigenous identity could be permanently excluded from U.S. academia.  The AHA appealed to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider the decision to subject Dr. Ari to conspicuous revision, and asked that he be granted the visa requested by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Dr. Ari earned his Ph.D. in history at Georgetown University in the fall of 2004. He has served as a consultant on social and economic issues confronting the Aymara community with various organizations (the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank) in the Washington area, and has also been a visiting assistant professor at Western Michigan University and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas.  Upon completion of his doctoral degree, he was offered the position in History and Ethnic Studies at Nebraska, so that he could begin teaching in the fall of 2005.