chapter  21
9 Pages

Models of transnational scholarly “cooperation”: a site of geopolitical struggles?

ByElizabeth Jelin

This chapter deals with transnational flows and networks of knowledge. It departs from analyses of local or national specific settings, and of the university and its place vis-à-vis localized societal demands and expectations, focusing rather on academic influences and exchanges between institutions and scholars located in different places of the world geopolitical scene. Why deal with transnational scholarly flows and networks? The general idea of this

chapter is to propose a shift in the scale on which questions are posed and answered, from the local and national level to the global. Such a shift in scale of analysis is needed to take account of deep and long-lasting historical trends. During the past two centuries, modern state-building in Europe and elsewhere, which followed and fed upon the colonial expansion of Europe, has encompassed a double movement: on the one hand, parochialism and inward-looking institutions that, especially in the more powerful countries, saw themselves as self-contained, autonomous, and “original”; on the other, an ongoing process of unequal exchange and world domination, where each powerful actor or state (including scholars) had to conceive and construct understandings and interpretations of “the other” – the colonized, the “primitive”, the exotic – in order to conquer, dominate, and expand its powers. Within this broad historical framework, current processes of globalization imply significant shifts in rhythms and contents of communication flows. Yet these flows are not neutral or immune to global power relations, which are maintained and at times reinforced. Given this history and the current context, transnational scholarly institutions,

flows, and networks cannot be seen as transactions among equal partners. They are part of the geopolitical world scene. The wording may vary: world system, centerperiphery; West-the rest; North-South; first world-third world; or some other – usually spatial – metaphor. The basic questions remain: What kinds of links have developed and could be developed among these unequal partners? Who defines the transnational agenda? To what extent is “cooperation” shaped by global economic and

political power relationships? Furthermore, how does the “center” look through the gaze of the “periphery”? My argument is based on the history of the international links, flows, and networks

in which Latin American social scientists and social science institutions have been involved during the past half-century, taking into consideration developments and discussions in other parts of the world. The issues to be discussed deal with the existing patterns of exchange, and with the possibilities and opportunities for alternative ways of cooperation. Are there sites of resistance? Are horizontal links possible? Are there counter-hegemonic forms of collaboration in the making? Can there be transnational North-South scholarly alliances that could reshape unequal hierarchical flows? A further introductory note: the debate and discussion about the place of uni-

versities in the USA and more generally in the North usually take as a reference point the scholarly tradition built on the model of the “ivory tower” – of university and research institutions producing apolitical, aseptic, and sterilized knowledge; of institutions protected from political pressures, and where the free pursuit of knowledge is the prevailing mode of operation. Critical thinking and reflection, coupled with the revision of the most extreme positivistic tenets of “science,” show that this never existed, nor could exist, and that when somebody claims that aseptic view, it tends to be a cover-up that hides the logics of politics (including academic politics), where interests and ideological confrontations play a major role.