The Curious Case of Professor Miller
The letter dated 18 May 2009 by Stephen G Miller to President Barack Obama and its endorsement by other academics purports to be an objective presentation of facts designed to protect the "historical truth" about Alexander the Great and the Ancient Macedonians from "misappropriation by the government in Skopje". After presenting tendentious historical material which buttresses the central point of his argumentnamely, that Alexander the Macedonian was Greek -?he appeals to President Obama "to help- in whatever ways you deem appropriate- the government in Skopje to understand that it cannot build a national identity at the expenses of historical truth".
In reality, however Professor Miller's letter is nothing more than a blatant political intervention in support of Greece's irrational campaign to coerce the Republic of Macedonia to change its name and to thereby deny the existence of the Macedonian people, identity, language and culture, not only in the Republic of Macedonia, but in Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia as well. He has enlisted the support of other academics in an attempt to lend a semblance of legitimacy to his nefarious political goals.
Read the full document here.
Read some academic reactions to our response to Professor Miller.
16.09.2009 :: Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC)/Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) - Press Release
Toronto, Canada and Melbourne, Australia - The AMHRC and MHRMI wish to report that we have sent our response to all of Professor Miller's co-signatories. We have also sent it to a number of other academics working in this field. One of these other academics was Professor of Ancient History, Daniel Tompkins of Temple University in Philadelphia. He responded as follows (note the sentence explaining that many academics have refused to sign Professor Miller's letter):
To the Committee:
I am in your debt for a letter that is informative, well argued, and interesting! I shall save it and may refer to it.
Of course you may circulate my comments as desired. Some websites have already picked them up, and I send my letter to MINA, incurring some angry letters from people who disagreed. I have to say that these are outweighed in number and quality by the positive responses. Let me say that I'm regularly updating the underlying document as I learn more.
Below is a letter I sent to British classicists that you might want to use, which mentions a debate now underway at the archaeoastronomy blog. It got a very good set of responses from very qualified professionals. Please note the second sentence: this really is a principled position of mine, stated also in the underlying letter. I would not want the underlying letter (at astro.temple.etc) changed, but I leave it to you, knowledgeable of your audience, to decide how much emphasis to give it.
I have followed the evolution of Professor Stephen Miller's letter to President Obama since March. While there is good reason to deplore any nation's appropriation of Alexander the Great for nationalistic purposes, the letter goes beyond that scholarly position to involve the author and co-signers on one side in an ongoing interstate dispute in the Balkans, and it seemed necessary to respond. I have done so:
with additional comments on Alun Salt's Archaeoastronomy website:
At this point in the discussion, let me repeat that the most important mail I?ve received in the past two weeks comes not from professors but victims, or better, grandchildren of victims who were killed or tortured on both sides, equally horribly, in the 1940-1949 period. These sad posts illustrate the long shelf life ot torture. The pain of a tortured relative is transmitted through generations and remains alive today, damaging all efforts at analysis and argumentation. Resolving the problems posed by this set of memories, deeply imbedded north and south of the border, strikes me as a major challenge for all parties. I would like to see the dispute resolved without further pain.
In addition to criticisms -- some of which I've used in revising -- I've received a batch of positive communications since posting my letter, most notably from fine scholars in our field who refused to sign Prof. Miller's letter, but also from some who work on modern Greek history. In many ways, the best antidote to this letter would be a subscription to the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, published by the Modern Greek Studies Association in the USA. The Journal has published a number of serious critiques by Greek, British and American scholars of the extreme nationalist policy Prof. Miller advocates: one of the pities of the exercise is that the author and co-signers show no cognizance of these. (Nor do they show awareness of the impressive studies of ethnic development by scholars in our own field and in modern Greek studies.)
I'm interested in hearing from members of this list, if anyone wants to write.
Very truly yours,
AMHRC and MHRMI Report More Support from the Academic World for their Response to Professor Miller
We just received the following message from the American Anthropologist, Professor Loring Danforth, of Bates College in Lewistone, Maine:
Dear Members of the AMHRC and MHRMI:
Thank you for the copy of your response to Prof. Miller's letter. I think it is excellent. You have written an intelligent and well-supported scholarly summary of the history of the Macedonian Question. You have also presented an accurate account of the present political situation regarding the Macedonian minority in Greece and the dispute over the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. I find Prof. Miller's letter very troubling. I suspect that the people who have signed it may not fully understand the political purposes to which their letter will be put.