Producing cosmopolitan global citizens in the US academy
Fareed Zakaria’s somewhat neoliberal inventory of buildings, malls, and billionaires in the non-western world could well be arbitrary and silly, especially when we consider the problems of illiteracy, poverty, and pollution that plague the growing economies of China and India. But, despite these persistent markers of “third world backwardness,” the remarkable ascent of these two nations – their transformation from developing nations to emerging market economies and nascent superpowers – deserves the full attention of the US academy. Zakaria outlines the contours of China’s and India’s recent economic expansion, which includes growing GDP rates, increasing numbers of young workers, dramatic increase in foreign media investments, companies with global ambitions, and a talented global disapora. Unfortunately, what is equally as notable as the rapid, decade-long rise of China and India, and these nations’ intensifying ties with the United States, is the relative silence in the US academy on what these geopolitical developments mean – for the curriculum, research agendas, public policy, and our service goals of educating a wide swath of US citizens who are incensed about outsourcing, layoﬀs, and globalization’s destructive eﬀects on the environment. The lack of sustained attention aﬀorded to India and China in the US academy,
particularly in journalism/media studies and mass communication curricula, is
unfortunately neither a targeted problem nor merely a matter of western ethnocentrism (although ideas of American exceptionalism certainly play a role in perpetuating ignorance of the world). Instead, the apathy towards the hard-to-miss “Chindia” phenomenon is symptomatic of serious limits to the conceptual thinking that led to the creation of “International Communication” as a specialist and separate area of study. While in the past International Communication has been a useful and productive stimulus for accumulating knowledge of the world, it has become an outdated and ghettoized silo in today’s integrated economy, a fenced-oﬀ repository for generating territorially bound knowledge of all nations and regions excluding the USA, thus reinstating the USA as the normative nation, standing strong in the center while the rest of the world gazes upon its glory. I argue here that the academy must consider a diﬀerent model for how we think about the world, a model that will stimulate students to engage with the densely entangled, not hermetically sealed oﬀ, particularities of globalization and the conditions of global modernity that aﬀect the lives of citizens in the USA, in addition to those living in seemingly distant lands. I outline the challenges that arise from this circumstance, and which particularly
aﬀect journalism/communication as a discipline that must make a shift from international communication’s demarcated epistemology to globalization’s ﬂexible and linked geopolitics, not merely through the upstream registers of conference papers, journal articles, or prestigious books, but more downstream in the curriculum; in the interdisciplinary links that journalism, media, and communication units at universities forge with morphing area studies programs; and in academic involvement with local communities. My accounting here of “symptomatic” experiences and problems reﬂect the limits of my own location as a faculty member and a South Asian studies scholar in a school of journalism embedded in a large, state-funded, midwestern research university. But I would also make an educated guess that the observations I make here are more broadly applicable because most traditional media/communication and journalism units in the USA are housed in large public universities (many in the midwest), with the exception of a few private schools. It is also important to note that my comments here do not reﬂect developments in global communication units, in cultural studies-oriented programs, or in interdisciplinary or ﬁlm studies programs.