This essay considers the phenomenon of the global university, particularly the trend of setting up satellite campuses, or “outposts,” in Asia and the Middle East. It tracks the global university as part of the Western university's international knowledge system and its connection to both colonial legacies and transnational capital. Joining conversations about the university's rabid corporatization, the essay uses the arts, and particularly the theater department, as a case study of how the bifurcation of professional training and scholarship, form and content, theory and practice may be deployed in the service of university transnationalism. Theater's “Edifice Complex” (the rampant infrastructural expansion of theater facilities and MFA-driven ethos since the late 1960s) is comparable to the global university's “Outpost Complex” (the construction of overseas campuses geared toward professional degrees amid billion-dollar architectural projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi). The history of theater's institutional formation points to its complicity or vulnerability to the capitalist regime of the global university. This means that we have to view its disciplinary fissures, both past and present, as a corollary of institutional corporatization, and heed the call for a more sincere alliance between theater and performance studies. The essay is also a call for the arts and humanities in general to confront the market and global logics of knowledge production; it argues that we have to link a critique of epistemic recidivism in disciplinary formations to an institutional critique of university neocolonialism in the corporate ventures and values of the global university.
Eng-Beng Lim; Performing the Global University. Social Text 1 December 2009; 27 (4 (101)): 25–44. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2009-053
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