An in-depth look at why American universities continue to favor U.S.-focused social science research despite efforts to make scholarship more cosmopolitan
U.S. research universities have long endeavored to be cosmopolitan places, yet the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology have remained stubbornly parochial. Despite decades of government and philanthropic investment in international scholarship, the most prestigious academic departments still favor research and expertise on the United States. Why? Seeing the World answers this question by examining university research centers that focus on the Middle East and related regional area studies.
Drawing on candid interviews with scores of top scholars and university leaders to understand how international inquiry is perceived and valued inside the academy, Seeing the World explains how intense competition for tenure-line appointments encourages faculty to pursue “American” projects that are most likely to garner professional advancement. At the same time, constrained by tight budgets at home, university leaders eagerly court patrons and clients worldwide but have a hard time getting departmental faculty to join the program. Together these dynamics shape how scholarship about the rest of the world evolves.
At once a work-and-occupations study of scholarly disciplines, an essay on the formal organization of knowledge, and an inquiry into the fate of area studies, Seeing the World is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of knowledge in a global era.
Mitchell L. Stevens is associate professor of education at Stanford University. Cynthia Miller-Idriss is associate professor of education and sociology at American University. Seteney Shami is a program director at the Social Science Research Council and founding director of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences.
Cynthia Miller-Idriss is Professor of Education and Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences and Director of the International Training and Education Program in the School of Education. Professor Miller-Idriss earned her bachelor's degree from Cornell University, and an MA in Sociology, an MPP in Public Policy, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan. Her current research follows two main trajectories, focused on the internationalization of higher education in the U.S., and education and far right wing youth culture in Germany. She recently concluded a Spencer Foundation-funded research project in two schools in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Miller-Idriss' most recent books are The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany (2018, Princeton University Press) and Seeing the World: How US Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era (with Mitchell Stevens and Seteney Shami, 2018, Princeton University Press). She is also co-editor of Middle East Studies for the New Millennium: Infrastructures of Knowledge (New York University Press, 2016, with Seteney Shami) and author of Blood and Culture: Youth, Right-Wing Extremism, and National Belonging in Contemporary Germany (Duke University Press, 2009). Prior to her arrival at American University in 2013, Professor Miller-Idriss taught at NYU for a decade as Assistant and then Associate Professor of International Education, and also taught previously at the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. At American, she teaches courses on extremism and education, culture and identity, globalization and education, social theory, and empirical research methods. Dr. Miller-Idriss is the recipient of two recent international awards for her research, from the Goethe Institute in 2012 and from EXIT-Germany in 2013, and one recent teaching award, from NYU's Steinhardt School undergraduate student government in 2013. In addition to serving as Program Director at ITEP, Professor Miller-Idriss directs AU's Global Education Forum, which hosts events on critical topics in international and comparative education at AU.
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