U.S. research universities have long endeavored to be cosmopolitan places, yet the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology have remained stubbornly parochial. Despite decades of government and philanthropic investment in international scholarship, the most prestigious academic departments still favor research and expertise on the United States. Why? Seeing the World answers this question by examining university research centers that focus on the Middle East and related regional area studies. Drawing on candid interviews with scores of top scholars and university leaders to understand how international inquiry is perceived and valued inside the academy, Seeing the World explains how intense competition for tenure-line appointments encourages faculty to pursue “American” projects that are most likely to garner professional advancement. At the same time, constrained by tight budgets at home, university leaders eagerly court patrons and clients worldwide but have a hard time getting departmental faculty to join the program. Together these dynamics shape how scholarship about the rest of the world evolves. At once a work-and-occupations study of scholarly disciplines, an essay on the formal organization of knowledge, and an inquiry into the fate of area studies, Seeing the World is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of knowledge in a global era.
Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss is professor of education and sociology at the American University in Washington, DC, and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and an M.P.P. in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in Sociology and German Area Studies from Cornell University. Her research follows two trajectories, focused on far right youth radicalization and culture, and on the organization and production of knowledge about the world within U.S. universities. Her two most recent books are The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany and Seeing the World: How Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era (with co-authors Mitchell Stevens and Seteney Shami), both published by Princeton University Press. Miller-Idriss also writes and speaks frequently for mainstream audiences on issues of youth radicalization, nationalism, education, and parenting, most recently for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, Times Higher Education, Wisconsin Public Radio, and for policymaking audiences at the U.S. State Department and the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum.