Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Stateside: A Nation Closing In On Itself

Stateside with Rosalea

A Nation Closing In On Itself

While we’re all being entertained by the Democratic presidential nominations, tyre tracks on Mars, and San Francisco’s rebellious mayor, some deeply disturbing legislation is wending its way through the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 creates a seven-member International Education Advisory Board to monitor area studies programs, but there are no educators, scholars, elected representatives or folks from the State Department on that board. It consists solely of members appointed from the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, as well as from the National Security Agency.

Area studies typically take a multifaceted approach to parts of the world that the US has foreign relations with, such as Latin America and the Middle East. Universities often bring visiting scholars from those regions to teach courses and give public talks, such as one I attended recently given by an Israeli geographer who had given expert evidence in a trial in Israel that was trying to stop a settlement being built on contested land.

Essentially, the International Education Advisory Board is a way of forcing area studies to be more “patriotic” by overseeing what’s being taught and refusing federal funding for studies that don’t toe the line. Significantly, the lack of any elected representative on the board takes it out of the realm of politics, where successive administrations might flavour it differently, and puts it entirely in the hands of the military and security agencies/departments. It is also significant that the State Department, which is where foreign relations meets diplomacy, is not represented on the board.

To quote Michael Bellesiles from the History News Service:

“This congressional effort to reverse the course of area studies programs is deeply ironic. The Central Intelligence Agency founded area studies as a field shortly after World War II by funding prominent centers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Columbia. The CIA worked with the Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations in setting intellectual agendas for area studies during the 1950s and 1960s.The CIA also used area-studies programs to recruit spies while the FBI employed promising young academics such as Henry Kissinger and William F. Buckley to inform on professors and fellow students. Scholars critical of U.S. Cold War policies lost their jobs, while those who reached ‘loyal’ conclusions found favor from public and private funding agencies.

“But the Vietnam War disrupted this supply of supportive scholars. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, area studies scholars worked closely with the government to justify the war in Vietnam. But as many scholars became convinced that government policies damaged national interests, they returned to an earlier judgment that sound scholarship required independence from the government. By the early 1980s, international studies had become sympathetic to the problems of foreign societies, too sympathetic in the view of the current Congress. Especially troubling, as Stanley Kurtz, a critic of area studies, said at the congressional hearings on HR3077, is the refusal of the modern ‘scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power.’ ”

Seems we’ve come full circle, back to learning in the service of might, not in the service of knowledge and mutual understanding.

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Veronika Meduna: The Kaikoura Rebuild

A Scoop Foundation Investigation The South Island’s main transport corridor will be open to traffic again, more than a year after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake mangled bridges and tunnels, twisted rail tracks and buried sections of the road under massive landslides. More>>

Charlotte Graham: Empowering Communities To Act In A Disaster
The year of record-breaking natural disasters means that in the US, as in New Zealand, there’s a conversation happening about how best to run the emergency management sector... More>>

ALSO:

Jan Rivers: The New Zealanders Involved In Brexit

There are a number who have strong connections to New Zealand making significant running on either side of the contested and divisive decision to leave the European Union. More>>

Rawiri Taonui: The Rise, Fall And Future Of The Independent Māori Parties

Earlier this month the Māori Party and Mana Movement reflected on the shock loss of their last parliamentary seat in this year’s election. It is timely to consider their future. More>>

Don Rennie: Is It Time To Take ACC Back To First Principles?

The word “investing” has played a major part in the operations of the ACC since 1998... More>>

Using Scoop Professionally? Introducing ScoopPro

ScoopPro is a new offering aimed at ensuring professional users get the most out of Scoop and support us to continue improving it so that Scoop continues to exist as a public service for all New Zealanders. More>>

ALSO: