Learning Places: The Afterlives of Area Studies
Under globalization, the project of area studies and its relationship to the fields of cultural, ethnic, and gender studies has grown more complex and more in need of the rigorous reexamination that this volume and its distinguished contributors undertake. In the aftermath of World War II, area studies were created in large part to supply information on potential enemies of the United States. The essays in Learning Places argue, however, that the post–Cold War era has seen these programs largely degenerate into little more than public relations firms for the areas they research.
A tremendous amount of money flows—particularly within the sphere of East Asian studies, the contributors claim—from foreign agencies and governments to U.S. universities to underwrite courses on their histories and societies. In the process, this volume argues, such funds have gone beyond support to the wholesale subsidization of students in graduate programs, threatening the very integrity of research agendas. Native authority has been elevated to a position of primacy; Asian-born academics are presumed to be definitive commentators in Asian studies, for example. Area studies, the contributors believe, has outlived the original reason for its construction. The essays in this volume examine particular topics such as the development of cultural studies and hyphenated studies (such as African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American) in the context of the failure of area studies, the corporatization of the contemporary university, the prehistory of postcolonial discourse, and the problematic impact of unformulated political goals on international activism.
Learning Places points to the necessity, the difficulty, and the possibility in higher education of breaking free from an entrenched Cold War narrative and making the study of a specific area part of the agenda of education generally. The book will appeal to all whose research has a local component, as well as to those interested in the future course of higher education generally.
Contributors. Paul A. Bové, Rey Chow, Bruce Cummings, James A. Fujii, Harry Harootunian, Masao Miyoshi, Tetsuo Najita, Richard H. Okada, Benita Parry, Moss Roberts, Bernard S. Silberman, Stefan Tanaka, Rob Wilson, Sylvia Yanagisako, Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto
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