Global Studies

News arrives that the University of Maryland has instituted a new Global Studies Minor. It is good news. Despite our proximity to DC—ten miles from the White House, we proclaim—UMD can feel remarkably not-yet-global. A Global Studies minor is necessary. I celebrate efforts to promote a global outlook.

As I look through the description of the new Global Studies minor, I notice that it addresses Global Conflict, Global Terrorism, and Global Poverty. It is less about engaging with others “out there” and more about managing others “out there.”

I look at the participating University Units: College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, School of Engineering.

What vision of the Global does this minor offer?

Here is what the University says:

Our Strategic Plan charts a course for the University to become the preeminent public institution for students committed to engagement in the global community and to provide an education that gives our students the knowledge and skills to be global citizens and leaders in the global economy. In pursuit of these goals, we are expanding our undergraduate curriculum to address more topics in global studies throughout the University.

I am pleased to announce the new Global Studies Minor Program, which provides opportunities for students to study how evolving global connections affect the well-being of people throughout the world. Students in the Global Studies Minor Program will develop an understanding and appreciation for how and why interactions across national and ethnic borders are shaped by language, culture, politics, economic development, and conflict.

Here is what the tracks offered say: Global Studies is invested in devising appropriate strategies to manage global relations.

Conflict. Terrorism. Poverty.

What an impoverished way to understand the global.

The arts and humanities are conspicuously absent from this vision of the global. A strange conception of the global that does not require or want to engage in questions raised by Arabic Studies, American Studies, Art History, Chinese, Classics, Communication, Comparative Literature, French Language and Literature, History, Jewish Studies, Persian Studies, Philosophy, Women’s Studies.

Conflict. Terrorism. Poverty.

Is it any wonder that students in my African Literature classes frame Africa as a set of statistics? Numbers explain everything. Everything needed to combat poverty, terrorism, and conflict.

Combat. Fight. Wipe Out. Eradicate. Wage War.

A list of metaphors that frame a global afflicted with poverty, terrorism, and conflict.

A series of approaches—the militarism of philanthropy and the philanthropy of militarism. We used to call it the civilizing mission. It is now the managerial mission.

3 thoughts on “Global Studies

  1. Yes, I was really shocked when I read the email about this yesterday. I hope that there will be broadest conversations about the program as it develops.

  2. This is such an important blog post, and I am glad that my friend brought it to my attention. It frightens me how little people think they actually have to understand the culture, history, lifestyles, art, innovation, religion, and other aspects of a people’s culture. There’s this belief that we can go in with our managerial mindset and liberate a people without even having knowledge of their ways of being. It is a shame that the Global Studies program does not solicit the help of the departments you mentioned such as foreign language, history, etc. Is there anywhere we can email or message our complaints?

  3. I am not sure that complaints are the way to go, at least not on an official level. Some poking around showed good models on other campuses (UCLA, George Mason, U Pitt) that are interdisciplinary units (centers and institutes).

    If Global Studies is to be more than a passing fad, it will need some kind of institutional life that crosses schools in a more structural way. I see what is happening now as a first step, even as I am worried by how it is framed.

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