Virginia Tilley (born 1953) is an American political scientist specialising in the comparative study of ethnic and racial conflict. She is Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in the USA.
Tilley holds a BA in Political Science from Antioch College (1985) and an MA from the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown (1988). She completed an MA and PhD in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1997), where she studied comparative politics and theories of ethnic, racial and national identities under Professor M. Crawford Young and international relations theory under Professors Michael Barnett and Emanuel Adler.
After finishing her MA in Arab Studies at Georgetown, she served as Assistant Director of the International Organisation for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) in Washington DC, where she developed a second field in the politics of indigenous peoples. This interest led her to focus her doctoral dissertation on the politics of 'being Indian' or indigeneity in Latin America, published in 2005 as Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation and Power in El Salvador (University of New Mexico Press).
In 1997, Tilley joined the Department of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) where she taught courses on Latin American politics, the politics of development, and Middle East politics, as well as introductory courses on international relations and comparative politics and senior seminars on comparative racial and ethnic conflict. With Professor Kevin Dunne, she developed the International Relations Major and served as Co-coordinator, and for several years led the Development Studies minor. She was appointed as Associate Professor in 2003 but in 2005 took leave to conduct research in South Africa, initially at the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.
In 2006, Tilley formally resigned from HWS to assume a senior post at the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa) (HSRC), where she conducted studies of South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy, with special projects on poverty alleviation and rural development. In 2011, she left South Africa to serve as Director of Governance Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. In 2014, she returned to the United States to assume the position of Chair of Political Science at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (Illinois). In June 2016, she stepped down as chair in order to pursue her research and continues at SIUC as tenured full professor.
Tilley has had a long-standing interest in the rights of indigenous peoples, dating to her service in 1988-91 at EAFORD as Assistant Director for Indigenous Peoples Rights. She became especially interested in the power of ideas to construct images and stereotypes about indigenous peoples in ways that deprive them of rights under settler-colonial governments. She conducted related dissertation research in Guatemala and El Salvador, later published as Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation and Power in El Salvador (chosen as the 2006 featured book of the year by the Congress on Latin American History).
Dating to her first exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mid-1980s, Tilley has adopted a critical position regarding the Middle East peace process and has authored numerous articles and opinion pieces criticizing Israel's occupation policies. In her first book on the topic, The One-State Solution (2005, University of Michigan Press), she argued that Israel's settlements in the West Bank have made a two-state solution obsolete. Her second book, in which she edited a co-authored study commissioned by the South African Government and conducted at the HSRC, found that Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are consistent with colonialism and apartheid as these regimes are codified in international law. Released initially in 2009, this study was later published in 2012 by Pluto Press under the title Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While at SIUC, Tilley has co-authored a third major study of Israeli policies examining whether Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people as a whole are consistent with apartheid. Drawing extensively from the HSRC study, this report drew considerable public controversy.
Tilley has also specialized in the global comparative politics of settler colonialism and indigenous peoples. Her book on Salvadoran indigenous identity, titled Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation and Power in El Salvador, was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2005. She has also published or co-authored a series of policy briefs on economic development strategies in post-apartheid South Africa and on nation-building in Fiji and other small island states in the south Pacific.
ESCWA report controversy
Tilley is co-author, along with Richard Falk, of a controversial report on Israel that was released in March 2017 by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which found that Israel's practices regarding Palestinians are consistent with international legal definitions of an apartheid regime. This report  sought to answer the question of whether Israel (not a UNESCWA member state) has established an apartheid system with regards to its relations with Palestinians inside and outside its borders.
The report was strongly condemned by the United States citing anti-Israel bias, and Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report to Der Stürmer, the anti-Semitic Nazi publication.In light of this reaction, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres distanced himself from the report, stating that the report has been released without authorization, and ordered its removal from the ESCWA website. Although not formally retracted by ESCWA or the UN Secretariat, the report was accordingly taken off the ESCWA website. In a public letter to the UN Secretary General, ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf resigned in protest of this removal and defended the report's scholarly integrity.
Favorable reactions to the report included articles by regular commentators on the conflict, who further offered detailed reviews finding it to be well-researched and important. Report co-authors Tilley and Falk defended the report in an open letter to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and in several international forums.
- Seeing Indians chosen as book of the year by the 2006 Congress of Central American Anthropologists
- 1999 Prize for the best English language article from the Congress on Latin American History, with Prof. Erik Ching.
- — (Spring 2010). "A Palestinian Declaration of Independence: Implications for Peace". Middle East Policy. 17 (1): 52–67. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4967.2010.00425.x.
- — (March–April 2006). "The Secular Solution: Debating Israel-Palestine". New Left Review. 38.
- — (2005). "Mestizaje and the "Ethinicization" of Race in Latin America". In Spickard, Paul R. Race And Nation: Ethnic Systems In The Modern World. Routledge. pp. 53–68. ISBN 978-0-415-95003-9.
- — (August 2002). "New Help or New Hegemony? The Transnational Indigenous Peoples' Movement and 'Being Indian' in El Salvador". Journal of Latin American Studies. 34 (3): 525–554. JSTOR 3875460. doi:10.1017/S0022216X0200651X.
- “The Generation of Ethnic Conflict by the International System.” In Cris Toffolo, ed., Emancipating Cultural Pluralism, SUNY Press, 2002.
— (2002). "The Role of the State in Ethnic Conflict: A Constructivist Reassessment". In Green, Daniel M. Constructivism Comp Politics. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 151–174. ISBN 978-0-7656-0861-1.
- Ching, Erik; Tilley, Virginia Q. (February 1998). "Indians, the Military and the Rebellion of 1932 in El Salvador". Journal of Latin American Studies. 30 (1): 121–156. JSTOR 158450. doi:10.1017/s0022216x97004926.
- — (July 1997). "The terms of the debate: Untangling language about ethnicity and ethnic movements". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 20 (3): 497–522. doi:10.1080/01419870.1997.9993972.
- — (1996). "Post-Confucianism: The Culturalist Approach to Understanding the East Asian NICs". Asian Thought and Society: An International Review. 21 (61): 67–80.
- See under Publications, Without Prejudice Vol. 2, No. 2, at: .
- Tilley, Virginia (2005). Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, And Power in El Salvador. UNM Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-3925-6.
- For example, .
- Virginia Tilley (24 May 2005). The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-11513-6. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- Tilley, Virginia Q. (2012). Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-3236-6. OCLC 795849477.
- ESCWA Launches Report on Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid: see press release at https://www.unescwa.org/news/escwa-launches-report-israeli-practices-towards-palestinian-people-and-question-apartheid
- Times of Israel Staff and Agencies (March 17, 2017). "Head of UN body resigns as her group’s anti-Israel report is withdrawn". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- REUTERS with contributions by Ari Rabinovitch, Michelle Nichols, Tom Perry, Alison Williams, Lisa Shumaker and Frances Kerry. "Israel imposes 'apartheid regime' on Palestinians: U.N. report". www.reuters.com.
- Times of Israel Staff and AFP (March 17, 2017). "UN chief orders report accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’ pulled from web". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- ALJAZEERA (March 17, 2017). "UN official resigns over Israel apartheid report". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- Rima Khalaf, Resignation Letter to the UN Secretary General/ Public Letter
- See, for example, Jonathan Ofir, Apartheid Wears a Veil, 19 March 2017.
- Tilley and Falk, Open Letter to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Our Report on Apartheid in Israel Open Letter to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, The Nation, 25 April 2017.
- See, for example, Richard Falk, Apartheid and the Future of Israel-Palestine
- Unpetrified Opinion, Virginia Tilley's blog