Abstract: As we seek to improve area studies in the university, we should invest much more in its intellectual foundation. This essay is a preliminary outline of some things to consider. The first thing we need to do is to distinguish area-specific forms of knowledge from those area studies institutions that exist today or may come into being. We can strive to think about area-specific knowledge production theoretically and historically at the same time by asking one question to begin with: why did area specific knowledge become a national priority in the 1950s and lose its priority status in the 1990s?
The production of area-specific knowledge about the world currently has no compelling theoretical basis, so that the academic conduct of area studies finds a justification in itself only in its service to the disciplines, professions, business, and national interests; and its rationale for itself lies merely in the desire for more complex knowledge about all the separate territories of human experience and activity. University administrators, legislators, and funding agencies find this rationale ever less compelling, and when faced with competing demands for financial support, they support area studies primarily as a part of the globalization agenda. Its flimsy intellectual edifice leaves area studies at the mercy of the institutions that sustain it, and in the 1990s, these have thrown open the door to winds that are rattling the furniture and shaking the walls of area studies programs. Though well endowed with talent and resources, academic programs that produce area-specific knowledge find it difficult to hold their ground because they have such a weak justification for doing what they do.
The recent institutional history of area studies and globalization make this a good time to formulate a theoretical understanding of territoriality in the production knowledge that puts area-specific scholarship in new light. Like universalism, multi-culturalism, and globalism, critical, constructive research on area-specificity is important for the new intellectual foundation of the university, because in our global environment, we need to undersand our location, to keep our bearings and to comprehend the place that we inhabit. Toward this end, sustained institutional efforts to understand area-specificity in the world of knowledge are essential, and area studies programs thus provide vital centers for the intellectual authority and productivity of the university, in addition to serving the disciplines, professions, a other agendas.
The State of the World
Discussions at the Social Science Research Council about the need to reorganize area studies began several years before I joined the Joint Committee on South Asia of the SSRC and American Council of Learned Societies, in 1991. The immediate ground for debate was financial, but very soon, accounts of the state of the world entered debates about academic investment priorities, disciplines, and area studies. Since then, many analysts have used claims about contemporary world history to support contending positions in the funding wars that rage in academic institutions.
In the nineties, Mellon, MacArthur, and Ford foundations have funded formal discussions of the future of area studies in higher education, graduate training, and academic research; and budget cutting by the Congress has triggered intellectual efforts to protect government funding for international programs, specifically Title VI of the Education Act, which supports National Resource Centers and Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for graduate students. As arguments raged at the SSRC, I became a Title VI center director at Penn, an assistant script-writer for Title VI lobbyists on Capitol Hill, and a member of the Fulbright Senior Scholars advisory board, as the Fulbright Program faced budget cuts at the US Information Agency and a fifty-year evaluation of its education and training programs.1
All these institutions look at area studies from their own perspective. At the University of Pennsylvania, discussions have been dominated by zero-sum budgeting, and in 1994, at a Provost's forum on international studies, a dean said bluntly that if Title VI funding died, so would Penn's area studies programs. Since then, one new Title VI center has come into being with the deans' support and one old center has lost Title VI funding, putting the program deep jeopardy with the deans. Finance rules the roost. Universities are today most responsive market signals from funding agencies and donors, and from constituent demands broadcast by alumnae, students, and legislatures. At the SSRC, debates are more academic and they focus on forming arguments not only for getting funds but also for influencing the foundations, where people who have money to spend want to lead the academy and use their assets to develop national institutions of higher education, research, and training on desirable lines. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Congress can only hear opportunistic political arguments to influence that mythical voter on Main Street, where federal funding for Hindi, Arabic, Korean, and Swahili must make sense to white bread America.
In each of these context of struggle over academic funding, accounts of the current state of the world have come to the fore in arguments about area studies. In each context, too, the target of attack has been the same, that is, existing levels of funding for established area studies programs. Direct federal funding for area studies (which is only a part of all the funding for international education, training, and exchange) totals around $60 million annually, and it is enhanced by old PL-480 allocations for the purchase of library materials. The federal dollars concentrate in the 115 or so National Resource Centers that are supported by Title VI grants, and which are spread around the country and attracting substantial additional funding from other sources as well. For instance, the South Asia program at Penn has an endowment that pays about 70% percent of the value of the Title VI center grant, thanks to the recent performance of the stock market. Graduate students who are supported during their first two years on FLAS funding are supported by other university sources for the rest of their studies. Books from South Asia constitute 12% of the total holdings of the main university library system. Nationally, all the biggest Title VI area studies centers for the study of African, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, and East and Southeast Asia have had similar success in raising funds and accumulating assets over the past fifty years.
Federal allocations that support this accumulation came under new critical scrutiny as the end of the cold war undermined the single most effective lobbyist argument in support of area studies on Capitol Hill. The military need for intelligence had always been the secret weapon for Title VI lobbyists -- and when Ronald Reagan tried to kill the Department of Education, Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, protected international and area studies. Foundations which had never acknowledged the cold war character of area studies nevertheless responded quickly to events in 1989; and so did the SSRC, which for the first time openly stated that world politics does have an influence on the process of knowledge production in the academy.
The end of the cold war and quickening pace of globalization are now widely accepted as epoch markers that set off the 1990s from previous post-WWII decades. At the SSRC, former Vice President Stanley Higgenbotham wrote several essays and many speeches to describe the implications of the end of the cold war, but discussions about the shape of the future have tended to focus more on the implications of globalization, perhaps to avoid the embarrassment of granting such heavy de facto, post hoc significance to the cold war. Globalization has become much more prominent in the American discourse about the world since the fall of the USSR. A lurking assumption appears to be that (US-led) globalization has no opposition, that this one process necessarily dominates the world in which US the academy is working today and will be working for as long as we can imagine into the future.
The historical moment in which we are now living is widely taken to be the start of a new era. How this attaches to millennial fantasies and to old-fashioned fin de siecle patterns of cultural production remains to be seen. Thomas Haskell recently captured our newest cliché about historical epochs by saying, "The bloody contest between capitalism and socialism unexpectedly came to an end in 1989 after a struggle that gripped the world for a century and a half."2 Eric Hobsbawm called 1989 the end of "the age of extremes," saying about the nineties (in the past tense) that now "the citizens of the fin de siecle tapped their way through the global fog that surrounded them, into the third millennium ... certain ... that an era of history had ended." "They knew very little else," Hobsbawn added, referring evidently to his own grasp of recent history.3
Like many legislators and intellectuals, leaders at the SSRC and the Ford Foundation, , took all this to mean that new modes of knowledge production are needed. By 1989, the SSRC and ACLS had sustained about a dozen area studies joint committees for thirty years. These area-specific, multi-disciplinary committees of faculty representing US area studies used about half the SSRC operating budget to generate short-term grant income for conferences and research publications. Annual reports of the SSRC indicate that these committees had an impressive record of productivity and influence on area studies and the disciplines. The new critique came down from the SSRC president, David Featherman, who launched a strong disciplinary objection to area studies in general, saying that disciplinary social science was more universally applicable, globally useful, and thus more worthy of support than area studies after the end of the cold war. He argued against area studies in favor of "hard" social science of the sort that is based primarily in departments of economics, political science, and sociology, which use statistical data, formal models (often mathematical), and positivist, explanatory theory. He proposed reducing the power of the joint committees to allow the central administration to reallocate funds accordingly.
In 1996, the new SSRC president, Ken Prewitt, eliminated all the joint committees and tapped his way toward a new, looser structure of "regional advisory panels." He clearly favored more global forms of social science knowledge over the established configurations of area studies, and he opened up the Councils' options by pulling the plug on the old committees. In 1997, using Ford funding, the SSRC and ACLS held a joint meeting including more than a hundred advisory panel members from all the areas and disciplines represented by the two Councils, for the sole purpose of discussing the condition and future of area studies. The meeting began with a panel that described the current turning point in history from the vantage point of several disciplines and continents; and the emphasis fell upon the process of globalization and the current transformation of Eastern Europe and regions of the former Soviet Union. At the end of the meeting, area studies had survived intense critical scrutiny, not because existing programs were taken to be satisfactory but rather because participants repeatedly substantiated the continuing and future need for area-specific forms of knowledge in the social sciences and humanities.
The institutional outcome was mixed and uncertain -- and that is the current condition of area studies in the university. On Capitol Hill, Title VI, and all the Fulbright programs survived, though they are living under sharper financial pressure and political scrutiny. The SSRC built a loose, temporary structure of regional advisory panels and centralized financial decision-making which had been dispersed among joint committees. The main task at present is to internationalize collaborations within area studies in order to break it out of its old formation within the national territoriality of the US academy, in recognition of the increasing trend of internationalization within the scholarly community.4 The Ford Foundation has made similarly ambiguous moves, offering support for area studies and dismantling its budgetary identity in a more centralized administration -- more "streamlined" or "lean" in nineties corporate parlance. The announcement in The Chronicle of Higher Education is this:
The Ford Foundation, which has $9.2 billion in assets and
awarded $350 million in grants during 1996, has abolished its
regional directorships and consolidated its former eight programs
into three. The three new programs include Peace and Social Justice,
Asset Building and Community Development, and Education, Media,
Arts and Culture. Ford president Susan V. Berresford, who was
appointed in 1996, was instrumental in enacting the changes.
Berresford believes that the foundation should devote more of
its resources to supporting area studies programs and funding
research into global issues.5
Globalization Swamps Area Studies
Political scientists have paid the most attention to David Featherman's argument to their discipline's relation to area studies, perhaps because the cold war had implicated their field most intensely, so that the new globalization presents more radical adjustments and potential dividends. Debates in PS: Political Science & Politics have focused particularly on the Middle East as an area for area studies6 and on the role of theory in comparative politics.7 Christopher Shea catches the tone of these debate when he used the headline, "Political scientists clash over value of area studies: theorists say that a focus on individual regions leads to work that is mushy."8
More generally in social science, however, an old opposition flared up between social scientists who support and oppose area studies. In the past, it had simmered at the boundaries of disciplines over questions of inter-disciplinary collaboration.9 Some attention fell upon the question of area-specificity itself,10 but in the new context of the 1990s, the opposition to area studies heated up and produced a novel outcome. Hard disciplinarians like Robert Bates began to argue that area studies did produce descriptive work whose diverse empirical data needed to be incorporated by universal theories in disciplinary methodologies; toward this end, he promoted rational choice theory in political science. On the other hand, cultural specialists like Arjun Appadurai argued that new transnational processes drew from and transformed patterns of life in every region of the world, so that we need to be understand areas in their specific particularity in order to comprehend the world; toward this end, he promotes an amalgam of anthropology, history, and cultural studies that is now prominent at the University of Chicago.11
Area studies thus entered the age of globalization. By 1992, three positions had come into being at the SSRC. Advocates of universal disciplinary knowledge opposed area-specific, inter-disciplinary knowledge and their interaction produced a new intellectual space for the formation of global knowledge that combines the universality of social science with the area-specificity of the humanities. This new form was dubbed "context-sensitive social science" at the SSRC -- global in reach, local in touch -- a place for the hard and soft social sciences to meet and to argue about area studies. Softer, more descriptive social sciences, especially history and anthropology, are most involved in area studies and in collaborations with the humanities and cultural studies; and they have been the most receptive to global formations of knowledge, which are now applied widely in world history and transnational cultural studies.
Scholars of universalizing social science continue to define theory and method in the disciplines, and they can now collaborate with (or at least tolerate) others who pursue those mushy, area-specific forms of inter-disciplinary knowledge, simply by agreeing that there is an emerging formation of global social science that includes a cultural studies agenda. This seems to be the framework within which Ford and SSRC propose to reconfigure area studies.
The new kind of knowledge has global reach without being imperialistic or domineering. It is international in its embrace and participation; and includes all the multi-cultural voices of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and such. It combines the universal powers of empirical, deductive sciences with the critical powers and descriptive, interpretive subtlety of cultural studies. Global in its vision, arguments, and relevance, it is local in its data, application, and humanity. It keeps the classical humanities -- language and literature -- at one remove, however, because after all, it is defined in the form of a social science.
This global knowledge is not area studies and its attitude to area-specificity is utilitarian. It defines a domain outside area studies, encompassing area-specific knowledge, giving it new meaning and utility, so that area studies can participate in the global agenda. But global and globalization studies do not derive their theory from ideas about expansive or interactive sets of area-specific knowledge. They are new renditions of universalizing, Western science -- to anticipate my argument that they conceal an area-specific set of universal aspirations.
There remains, therefore, a disjuncture between area studies and global studies. Area-focused disciplinarians in history and anthropology (including folklore), for instance, can remain committed to area studies for itself, as they were in the old days, before 1989; but now their attention to global forms of knowledge -- to world history, global issues, or transnational processes -- ushers area studies in itself into this newly context-sensitized environment of social science, where disciplinarians who are actually hostile to area specific as an end in itself can accept area studies as a means to higher scientific ends.
This is a kind of environment in which Robert Bates and Arjun Appadurai can both participate because of a shared interest and involvement in globalization. Political scientist Ian Lustick has a Ford-funded workshop at Penn on "Problematics of Identities and States" that is good substantiation of the new science; and it is also a model for new SSRC collaborative research networks. Ian himself is a formalist and he becoming more attracted to mathematical models of ethnic identity; but his workshop provides a welcome home for all kinds of area-specific scholars; and Ian's own research draws on a number of disciplines that pertain to the study of the Middle East, though he does not want to be known as a Middle East area specialist.
Globalization and global studies agenda now dominate conversations about area studies in the university, and collectively, colleges and universities will need to reproduce all the forms of knowledge that mingle in globalized area studies, including language and cultural studies, though each university does not need to provide the entire bundle. Universities confront this challenge amidst a diverse set of financial considerations, which include market demand for each type of knowledge, and in hard money terms, professional schools, sciences, and undergraduate education most preoccupy the universities that must sustain area studies.
For professional schools and sciences, area studies at best describe sites for the application of their own practical brand of universal knowledge. Some regions of the world do have salience for the conduct of some sciences -- for instance, geology -- and there are many international scientific collaborations, some of which are funded alongside area studies in the Fulbright programs. Environmental scientists spend a lot of time in many world areas but they are not concerned with area-specific knowledge such as pertain to education and training in language and culture. We have scientists on the Fulbright senior scholars program advisory because work overseas is often useful for US scientists -- and humanizing science was part of the Senator's plan -- but we do not yet have people from business schools at Fulbright, though some business schools do receive support in their international efforts from the Department of Education. Penn's international studies Title VI program was located in the Wharton school, and the Lauder Program at Wharton represents one business school's use of area studies for training international business executives.
Compared to the social science and humanities disciplines that participate in area studies, professions and sciences command vast financial resources, which they control in a way that is actually hostile to the funding of area studies in and for itself; area-specific knowledge merely provides background knowledge and some useful tools for the pursuit of universal, practical disciplines. Professional schools do not need area-specific knowledge of the same kind that we need in the social sciences and the humanities; and they will not pay for its production. They might be willing to train students in language and area knowledge for their specific professional purposes, but nothing beyond that.
Similarly, social scientists who are context sensitive work in departments which are not; and they may want to incorporate area knowledge, produced by years of language training and work in the field by people for whom area-specific knowledge is the work of their lives. But social sciences want to use area knowledge more than to have it. In budget competitions, they will join the sciences and professions in their support of universal knowledge with global reach.
New needs for area studies knowledge are also coming from undergraduates who want ethnic studies, heritage studies, study abroad, comparative literature, women's studies, cultural studies and other new forms of international knowledge. All area studies programs benefit to some extent from this new demand on campus and they are seeking support from appropriate interest groups that are represented in their institution. For instance, Asian studies programs look for funding for new faculty from the Asian-American and Asian community in America, as African studies programs look for support from schools of medicine, nursing, and public health that are involved in research and training programs in Africa. Many undergraduates who seek heritage courses in Latin American or Indian studies are also pre-professionals who will work in a foreign country or two during the course of careers in the global economy. These are natural constituents for the institution of area studies within globalization.
Perhaps the most important shift represented by the globalization of area studies is the reduced role of the national state in its organization, finance, and ideology. The global agenda provides many new opportunities for area studies to serve the social sciences, business schools, public policy institutes, medical schools, NGOs, United Nations organizations, private enterprise, and governments. Universities are thus developing new support systems for area studies that cross the boundaries among schools and allow practitioners of all the disciplines to expand their powers to operate anywhere in the world. This has been happening for ten years, and many major area studies programs operate today inside multi-school institutes like those at Berkeley, Michigan, and Wisconsin, whose directors report to the Provost. Thus the centralization of area studies has been moving ahead at universities even longer than at the SSRC and Ford Foundation.
Globalization and the New Globalism
The current institutional trend indicates that area-studies will develop to the extent that it makes a case for itself in the constellation of interests that converge on globalization. Global interests will not support area studies on their own account, because they are best opportunistic in their appreciation of area-specific knowledge and they will look to buy it anywhere as they weigh the cost of investing in its production. For agents and scholars of globalization, moreover, territoriality is odious; knowledge attached in and for itself to any specific territory is archaic and limited, low-tech and low-brow. Constraints on the flow of ideas and information constitute obstacles for globalism, and old fashioned area studies, like old fashioned states, obstruct the movement of knowledge across their borders.
The new globalism is trans-national, perhaps even post-national; and it associates the boundaries of the state and of knowledge with confinement and limitation. The 1997 World Development Report tells states how to manage their little bits of the world economy, but beyond that, they seem to be unnecessary; and in globalization circles, the idea that a national state could be a moral guardian of national interests, identities, and well-being is a thing of the past. A new world elite critique of the national state has joined an old chorus of leftist scholars who have attacked the power of national states for decades, now ranging from the Subaltern Studies collective to theorists of post-development. A left critique that stripped away the state to liberate the little people in their localities has left them open to globalization; and Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities might appear to be saying that national states and identities are the legacy of a by-gone age when print capital fed the national imaginaire.
In global discourse, a musty odor accompanies area studies. Area-specific forms of knowledge seem archaic constraints on intellectual mobility and global exchange: they belong in a world where nationalists carved boundaries of national territory and images of themselves into the institutions that produce knowledge of the world.
This kind of argument -- that there is an opposition between globalism, the national state, and area studies -- conceals the territoriality of globalization and the historical position of area studies within it. A new home for area studies in a world of globalization will begin to emerge as we better understand the long historic interaction of area-specific knowledge with globalization.
Area studies programs in the US came into being to serve the globalization of America at mid-century, when the allocation of federal funds sought to increase American knowledge of world areas to improve the global conduct of US policy. National interests propelled area studies and globalization; they all supported one another. This "national" included government, business, foundations, and universities, which all began to globalize their understanding of America's world more strenuously after December 6, 1941. Global America had previously centered on Europe, though it also included East Asia and Latin America, and to a much lesser extent, territories of British and French imperialism in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. After 1945, a new global US view of the world spawned area studies.
But area-specific knowledge of the world did not begin with the cold war and The Bomb. It came along with modernity and it constituted not only nationality but also imperialism. From the eighteenth century enlightenment, imperial territorialism elevated scientific, universal knowledge to encompass and comprehend all the narrow, traditional, partisan, and idiosyncratic forms of knowledge that preceded and contested modernity. Modern nationalism combined scientific, imperial knowledge with a populist hyper-enchantment of tradition to create a distinctively new kind of national claim to territories all over the world; and after World War Two, the earth was covered with national states for the first time. Divided among regions of culture, history, and political economy, this new world of national states provided a reality ground for the conceptualization and organization of area-specific knowledge. Knowing all the regions of the world became the key to globalization, which embraced national territories of culture and power that were the subject of area studies.
A big shift in the nation-state system would necessarily destabilize area studies, and so it did, after 1989. But this shift in the political ground continued the process of globalization, which had been the big force at work in 1950 as much as it became in 1990. Globalization can be said to begin in 1492, and its pace has been faster at various times in the past than it is today -- perhaps most dramatically in the decades after 1880 -- so it is the recognition of globalization as being a major force in world history, not the fact of globalization, which is new today.
Globalization is a geographical expression of a distinctively European, universal ambition, which embraces area knowledge for global ends and rejects area studies which confound a comprehensive comprehension of the world. It cannot provide a stable intellectual or institutional home for area studies scholarship.
Real Life in Global Territory
America is isolationist and expansive, imperial and parochial. US public support for its worldwide war machine coexists with a small-town fetishism for an intensely local, face-to-face, peaceful, family-style, "we don't even lock the doors" kind of social order that US media call "the American way." Much the same could be said for the hometown cultures of British and French imperialism in the nineteenth century, when modern globalization got underway. Territoriality and globalization use one another, and imperial territorialism includes and even fosters its own opposition, at home and abroad. Questions about perspective, intention, experience, and participation in globalization emerged after World War Two, as they Americans entered the world of old empires, and area studies inherited all the complexities of global territory.
The term, "globalization,"
defies precise definition, [but it] conveys a sense that international
forces, whether technological, economic, or cultural, are driving
more and more developments in the world around us, and thus it
seems to crystallize the hope of some that we will finally
achieve a global society and the fears of many that their
lives and jobs will be threatened by forces beyond the control
even of national governments.12
Globalization is an impersonal, objective process, unfolding out there in the world; but it is also a personal project for proponents of an integrated world economy and culture. Proponents of globalization as a project are also the leading experts on the process of globalization and the leading advocates of the globalization paradigm for the social sciences. People who are most adamant about the revolutionary implications of globalization for the production of knowledge are most prominent at central points in the expansion of global economic and cultural power, most of all in the US.
American images of a radically changing world in which Americans will take the lead have been popular for at least a century. Woodrow Wilson was of course a major figure. All along, however, expansionists have fought with isolationists, and dreams of the radically different future have had to face commitments to a conservative past. These conflicting cultural positions have characterized an objectively expanding American political economy, and we can seen them also in the cultural history of European imperial powers.
Specific opportunities and anxieties arise in the centers of globalizing power. Wide open opportunities beget anxiety about chaos and barbarism, which in turn justify national investments in global military and political power. Robert Kaplan's famous 1994 article in The Atlantic Monthly raised a specter of anarchy in globalization, and Steve Kobrin's forthcoming paper in the Journal of International Affairs, argues that we need "some sort of authority at the center" of the new world system. He further says (p.27) that
Effective economic governance in the postmodern integrated
world economy will require a marked strengthening of international
institutions such as the World Trade Organization. They may well
acquire taxation and enforcement powers if territorial jurisdiction
is no longer effective.
Where is the center of the world system? Clearly it is somewhere in the urban economic capitals of the most advanced capitalist countries. But imagine the reaction on Main Street, USA, to the idea that the WTO would have local tax authority! Area-specific knowledge takes that reaction seriously, not merely as resistance to globalization, but as part of the process of globalization itself, which generates difference according to the experience of people in each specific site.
Area studies scholarship has articulated diversity and territoriality in the changing world of globalization, and the SSRC solution to the reorganization problem has been to internationalize social sciences and humanities, to extract area studies from its American moorings. Devising institutions to generate knowledge of the world that is multi-centered is more in tune with a world that has traveled through a bi-polar period and is now struggling to see the world in more complex, subtle terms.
Instead of global homogeneity -- or a global version of the American melting pot, which is something of the impression we get from literature on transnational culture -- what appears now in the world is a vast patchwork of territories that became both more regionally integrated and dmore ifferentiated from one another during the long history of globalization, since the fifteenth century. Europe, Africa, and China assumed their modern identity as world regions during the process of globalization, and because of it.
Old conventional wisdom holds that the long history of globalization has been driven by European expansion. Between 1917 and 1989, bipolar images of a "world of extremes" kept that conventional wisdom in place by generating an image of a globe torn between two opposing European options, communism and capitalism. A more complex landscape of cultural difference and historical differentiation is now coming into view, because bi-polarity is dead and people from all world regions now participate in many global discourses, which run the gamut from eco-feminism and human rights law to arms control and structural adjustment. Non-European contributions to modernity and the world economy are becoming more apparent.
In this new landscape of world history, some regions and groups are clearly more powerful than others. Some people and regions have more to gain from globalization. In much of the world, globalization is fearsome and hated. In general, it is seen as being distinctly American, and much of its guiding ideology and imagery today is made in the USA.13
Area studies represents an academic articulation of globalization and territoriality outside America. Area studies institutions in the US began with the official intention of furthering US power in each world area, but they have moved well beyond that old project with the expansion of world academic networks and with the arrival in the US of scholars from every part of the world who now form the cutting edge of area studies. World area studies are now domesticated inside the US by the global participation of scholars who take their own native regions of cultural difference and experience very seriously. At the same time, many American scholars have become partially expatriated by their constant travels and studies in other countries, which they feel seriously, as foreigners, to be home.
In world territories of knowledge and experience, the boundaries of difference are widely understood as being permanent and necessary. The regional languages and literature's of the world are not dying out. Despite the influence of Hollywood, there are many times more films produced in Indian languages than in English, and they circulate throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, as well as in the US. Most of the world does not speak or read any global language. Three quarters of the world population speak non-European languages and most global intellectuals are at least bilingual, because no one global language is enough, and never will be. National states produce the world's currencies, protect private property, sustain capital accumulation, and regulate financial markets. The World Bank's World Development Report, 1997 says that national states are essential for the world economy. Many forces that drive these states operate primarily inside their borders. The well-stamped passport is the sign of a global citizen, who at every stop feels the scrutiny of a serious state.
Global intellectuals move among world regions of cultures and states. Globalizing disciplines represent their common language. Area studies embrace the fact that most global citizens live in territories where the local language is not global and will never be. Globalization has always sustained regional difference and particularism, as it does on Main Street, USA.
Institutions Sometimes Fail
Area studies programs came into being in the universities in response to national funding initiatives ... and today, they are spinning their wheels as universities follow the same logic of operations as during the spread of Title VI centers. Their logic centers on the flow of external funding for area studies. In the 1950s, a new set of funds were directed at the universities to give them a new interest in foreign languages and in strategic world areas. Social scientists who were most involved in foreign area studies -- historians, political scientists, sociologists, geographers, and anthropologists -- took advantage of this funding to link their departments up with the language and humanities programs that also benefited from area studies funding.
In the context of the 1950s, this produced an alliance between modernization theory and classical orientalism. The social sciences of modernization, development, state building, and cold war competition thus became allies for scholars of classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic who developed new modern language programs, strategically adding Japanese, Hindi, Tamil, Turkish, Vietnamese, Malay and the like according to the institutional profile of each institution. In Asian and Middle East studies, the classical languages retained their supremacy, however, and today, for instance, we have four full professors who specialize in Sanskrit at Penn, while all our modern South Asian language teaching is supported by untenurable faculty. By contrast to centers in South Asian, East Asian, and Middle East studies, centers in Latin American Studies grew up around the interests inherited from a very old US engagement with its colonial territory to the south and from European language studies in Spanish and Portuguese. African studies and Southeast Asian studies arose almost from scratch from the 1950s.
African studies was by far the most radical innovation, closely followed by Southeast Asian studies, because these new area studies fields had so little to build on within existing faculties when they were founded. They were least encumbered by alliances among old faculty interests in the classical and European languages, philology, orientalism, and literary studies.
Troubles over the relationship between area studies and the disciplines have arisen recently only in part from a national funding crisis (which has undermined many twentieth century institutions, including welfare systems and states around the world), but also, significantly, because the funding base for area studies must now move away from its dependence on external funding. Such funding will continue to benefit area studies, but all external funding agencies insist on more and more local institutional support, and universities do not conceptualize their own priorities within a collective of universities that must together produce a certain totality of knowledge. This collective conceptualization of universities in the nation lay behind federal funding; and it is gone. Now it would be up to the universities to reformulate some kind of collective image of themselves, so that each would contribute rationally to the national (or global?) process of knowledge production. Knowing their own place in the world of knowledge would be essential for this purpose.
Faced with shaky outside funding and seeking support locally in competition with the professions, sciences, and social sciences, area studies programs have demonstrated a gross intellectual inadequacy, which has further weakened their capacity to generate political support. The old institutions of area studies emerged from a set of opportunistic alliances cobbled together across disciplines and departments. These have been very productive -- and they still are -- but their intellectual output was has not been reinvested in the reproduction of intellectual capital for area studies. Arguments in favor of area-specific forms of knowledge have essentially remained opportunistic, tied to the rationale for the flow of funding from government and foundations. Thus when area studies were immediately challenged by the social sciences at the end of the cold war, the social sciences won, hands down, because area studies had no theory of itself for its self-protection, no intellectual mastery of its own fate.
Global forms of knowledge and their advocates will not generate the funding for area studies unless the necessity for area-specific knowledge is clearly and widely understood. But instead of building its own intellectual foundations in the university, the intellectual benefits of area studies have gone into the disciplines, including language teaching .
As area studies specialists have worked for local funding, for tenure, and for promotions in their disciplinary departments, they have also joined inter-disciplinary programs in ethnohistory, comparative literature, women's studies, Afro-American studies, ethnic studies, and transnational cultural studies, which do not define themselves by area, but by the intersection of disciplines. One of the critical arguments for area studies program -- that they provide a productive space for inter-disciplinary collaboration -- has been usurped by other inter-disciplinary programs. The institutions of area studies -- and the process and logic of area-specific knowledge production -- have not been intellectually reinvented or theoretically reinvested with the creative energies of scholars who were trained in area studies programs.
Some scholars have maintained their institutional and personal interest in their own particular area studies territory. African Studies in particular has paid attention to its own legacy of productivity. But the volume on Africa and the Disciplines, published strategically in 1993, has no analogue for other world areas; it expresses a specifically African studies intelligence and interest. It does not seek to provide a theory or intellectual rationale for area-specific knowledge or for area studies in general.
There is no theory of area studies or of area-specific knowledge, only a set of institutional, personal, and fragmented disciplinary, market, and professional interests that converge chaotically on questions of funding. The organizations that should have taken the lead in forming a broad theoretical basis for area studies -- the associations: ASA, AAS, LASA, and MESA -- have done nothing except tout the importance of their own world area, which in the case of African studies has included exceptional efforts to theorize connections across world areas -- most particularly with Latin America, but also, to a lesser extent, Asia.14 But this kind of cross-area work has for the most part been a project within the disciplines of history and anthropology or an effort to increase the vitality of one area studies project by drawing upon its relations with others.
Scholars working within their own disciplines and across disciplines, and to some extent, across areas, area studies scholars have transformed the substance of area-specific knowledge very substantially in the last twenty years. But divided by discipline and by their separately institutionalized area studies interests, they have not bothered even to describe, let alone to theorize, area-specific knowledge as such. When their funding is threatened, institutional interests retreat into a competitive defense of their own area studies program, drawing upon the competitive strength of their faculties and departments. A broadly based theory for area studies that would make sense of the historical development of area-specific forms of knowledge would require a kind of collaboration that does not yet exist.
The University of Chicago has appointed
scholars specializing in cultural and regional studies, mainly
concerning Asia, to create a new cadre. In an age of changing
national boundaries and cultures, it has initiated a new process
of constituting the disciplines. This initiative will bring together
40 scholars to form a gender-studies center. The texts are being
broadened to include the history of films and medical culture.
The university's globalization project inspires rethinking of
area studies by focusing on the relationship between regional
and national cultures.
Peter Hall and Sidney Tarrow, "Globalization and Area Studies: When is too wide too narrow?, SSRC working paper, nd (1997), p.1.
See Anthony King, Editor, Culture, Globalization, and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1997.
See the Confronting Historical Paradigms volume and Fred Cooper's development conferences, and Frederick Cooper, "Conflict and Connections: Rethinking Colonial African History," American Historical Review, December 1994, 99, 5, 1516-1545