Modernization Hub

Modernization and Improvement
Peter Green Lecture Series on the Modern Middle East with Zachary Lockman September 29, 2016

Peter Green Lecture Series on the Modern Middle East with Zachary Lockman September 29, 2016


Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for coming
to the Peter Green Lecture Series organized by
Middle East Studies. My name is Beshara Doumani. I’m director of
Middle East studies. And it’s my privilege
today to not introduce Zachary Lockman who
will be giving the Peter Green lecture. And I say that because
we have a tradition in Middle East studies. We dispense with introductions
in order to save time. You’ve all received
the invitation with the bios and
other information that you need about that. You can also go to our brand
new website, which we just revamped to find out more
about this and other events that we’re doing, including
a big kickoff event tomorrow for the Mellon
Sawyer seminar on displacement that we’ve been awarded. It will be called
concepts of displacement. It’ll take place at the Cogut
Center starting 2:00 PM. It will go on until 7:00. I really hope you
can come to that. And we have a bunch of
other things happening soon, including our lecture seminar
with [? Elias ?] [? Muhanna ?] next week and his Digital
Islamic Humanities Conference, which will also
be coming up soon. And Critical Conversation
that we have twice a year as well is coming up next week. So we’re busy. And I hope that you will
find some of these events worth going to. All I say about professor
Zachary Lockman other than he’s an old friend and a
dear friend and a person who has served the field in many
capacities for many years in the kind of
under-appreciated, thankless kind of work that
citizenship often entails. And also he is one
of a group of people in the field who over
the course of his career has mentored a large
number of graduate students that have since shaped
the field and mentored many students of their own. I want to say that this
event is being recorded. And photographs will be taken,
so that should be duly noted. And only say one word about
the book, which just came out and that I’m teaching in
my class this semester. And they’ll be copies outside
for you to purchase and get signed. Field Notes, The Making
of Middle East Studies in the United States,
and that is it’s a great companion book for his
other book, Contending Visions of the Middle East. I suggest very strongly you
read them both together. And it’s part of a
growing set of discussions in this country about the very
kind of specific and unique circumstances of knowledge
production about the Middle East. And yet in many ways,
its similarities to the development of
area studies in general. The title of today’s talk is
Adventures in Field-Building on the History of Area
Studies/Middle East Studies in the United States. I’m very curious to know why
the word adventures was used. Often it seems
more like hell, not a jolly place we just
go out on an adventure. It’s very politicized. And sometimes people play
for keeps in this field. So that might be something
that might come up in a discussion later. So without further ado, please
welcome Zachary Lockman. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much, Beshara. There was a bit of an
introduction, in any case. I appreciate it. And I very much
appreciate being invited to deliver this year’s
Peter Green Lecture on the modern Middle East. Very happily, Brown
University now has a burgeoning Middle
East Studies program. That relatively
recent development enables Brown to join a
number of other universities across the United States
with similar programs. As the title of my
talk today suggests, the main question that
I’ll be addressing is how it came to be that
American universities came to have such programs, centers,
departments, and so on focused on this and other regions of
the world in the first place. More broadly, how was it that
a new set of academic fields embodied in new institutions
and focused on specific regions rather than, as with the
conventional disciplines, on a specific, one or another,
specific theoretical object came into being in
the United States after the Second World War? In other words, where
did Middle East studies and the other areas
studies fields that have become apparently
durable futures of the US academic scene come from? What made their
emergence possible? And what shaped
their trajectories? And I discuss these issues
in my book Field Notes. I’ll begin by saying
a little bit about how I came to write the book. As Beshara mentioned,
some years ago, I published a book
titled Contending Visions of the Middle East. A good part of that book
talked about the linkages between the power that the
United States has exercised in the Middle East and the wider
Muslim world on the one hand since the Second World
War, and on the other, the knowledge produced
about these regions in the United States. And in that context,
I talked some about the emergence
and evolution of Middle East studies
in the United States from the end of the Second
World War to the near present. I focused most
directly on what I called that field’s
politics of knowledge and the transformations which
it underwent over the period since the end of the
Second World War. So that overview
included some discussion of the origins of area studies. But it was really focused
on the development of Middle East
studies and especially its intellectual
trajectory, including its engagements with Orientalism
and with modernization theory in the 1950s and 1960s and the
critiques of those paradigms that made themselves
increasingly felt thereafter. That account was also largely
based on secondary sources and on analyzes of
specific texts, which I argue could be
taken as emblematic of certain
characteristics of much of the scholarly writing
about the Middle East at particular points in time. Now, I would never claim
that Contending Visions was the last word on the subject. And I stand by most
of the big picture that I tried to
draw in that book. But in the years after
it was published, I came to feel that we
actually know rather little about many dimensions
of the history of this field and of the contexts
that gave birth to it and helped shape it. And that realization led
me to head for the archives and do more research
and then write the book that has been published
as Field Notes, which I see as very different in
purpose and scope and focus than
Contending Visions. I spent a lot of time in the
archives of the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and
Ford foundations, the Social Science Research
Council, the American Council of Learned Societies,
among other entities to try to explore the origins
and development of area studies, whose founders,
as I argue in the book, saw it as embodying a
distinct vision of how to produce and disseminate
knowledge about the world. And that vision was
eventually embodied in a new set of
institutions and networks and practices within
American higher education. Within that broader context,
I focus on the history of US Middle East studies. And I’m particularly
interested in reconstructing the elaboration of what I term
this field’s infrastructure, the establishment of new
academic institutions and programs, the
provision of funding for new modes of
research and training, the development of language
training methods, materials and programs, library and
bibliographic resources, and the launching of new
academic organizations and networks, scholarly
journals, and so on. To put it somewhat differently,
my focus in this book is on field-building. In other words, I
try to narrate what I see is neglected dimensions
of the construction and the trajectory of
Middle East studies as an academic field
while situating that history in relation
to the rise of area studies as a whole. I’ll come back a little
later to the specific part of the story that relates to
the relationship of the rise of area studies
to the development of the American
national security state. It’s been certainly
a major issue and deserves further attention. Now in this book,
I don’t actually devote a lot of attention
to what scholars actually produced in terms of books
or articles, conference papers, the intellectual
content of their work, the theoretical paradigms
and methodological pre-suppositions,
explicit or implicit that inform their work. And I made that choice
for several reasons. For one, I’ve already
written about that at considerable length
in Contending Visions and didn’t feel the need
to say much more about it. But more simply, my priorities
in this project lay elsewhere. I was trying to elucidate
what I saw as the broader visions and rationales,
which underpin the development of area studies
as a purportedly new and better mode of understanding the
world outside the United States and by extension of pursuing
research and graduate training in undergraduate education. But I also wanted
to try to understand the specific mechanics and
logistics of field-building, how one actually builds
a new academic field, how these visions get manifested
in institutions and funding streams, and the dilemmas
and anxieties that inform these developments. So I spent a fair
amount of time, for example, exploring
such dimensions of the history of the field
as the behind the scenes discussions and decision-making
of the big foundations, which lead to the grants which funded
the new Middle East studies centers, programs, and
departments in the late 1940s. I discuss the work of the body
set up to promote and lead the development of this field
and the sense of mission that informed and,
I argue, often got in the way of their work. And I look into the projects
and programs and networks and institutions and
organizations spawned in the field-building
process, including the formation in early history
of the Middle East Studies Association. Along the way, I try
to take a closer look at what went on at several of
the university-based Middle East Studies
programs, particularly Princeton, which
in 1947, launched what was described as the first
interdisciplinary Middle East Studies program in
the United States. From a different angle, this
project has been inspired by and has tried to
contribute to the growing body of scholarly
work that’s been done on the funding and
academic institutions, the academic networks,
and the visions that have in important ways
shaped the development of the social sciences and the
humanities in the 20th century United States. I’m thinking here, for example,
of the work that some have called Cold War social science,
a bit problematically I think, as well as the various scholarly
studies of specific disciplines and fields and
academic initiatives. Now, I’d like to lay out a
few of the broader arguments that I try to make
in Field Notes. I’ll begin with the question
of the origins of area studies. In most accounts, including
my own in Contending Visions, it’s the Second World War,
which is usually described as the midwife of area studies. That’s a common metaphor. There is for example,
the often quoted passage from the speech in
1963 by McGeorge Bundy, Harvard wunderkind, national
security advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson,
and a key architect of US military
intervention in Vietnam. In an address at the School
of Advanced International Studies in Washington,
Bundy declared, “It is a curious fact
of academic history that the first great center
of area studies in the United States was not located
in any university but in Washington during
the Second World War in the Office of
Strategic Services. In very large measure,
the area study programs developed in American
universities in the years after the war were manned,
directed, or stimulated by graduates of the OSS,
a remarkable institution, half cops and robbers and
half faculty meeting.” Now the OSS was the country’s
first civilian intelligence agency established by
President Roosevelt in 1942. And it did recruit heavily among
faculty and graduate students knowledgeable about parts of
the world in which the United States was or would soon be
deeply engaged during the war. And Bundy was not
wrong to highlight the importance of
the OSS in helping to spawn areas studies as
a distinctive component of the post-war academic
scene in the United States. And he was quite right to
point out that, into the 1960s at least, many of the key
figures in most of the areas studies fields, including
Middle East studies, had served during
the war in the OSS. However, I would argue that
wartime sites and practices other than the OSS also
contributed to the emergence of area studies. I’ll come back to this in a bit. But beyond that, I think
it’s important to understand that the vision of
organizing the production of and the dissemination
of knowledge along geographic rather
than disciplinary lines actually had important
pre-war roots as well. Key elements of the vision
at the heart of area studies had antecedents stretching
back to the 1920s. And they have to do not with
the Second World War or the Cold War and the arise of
American global empire and the national security
state built to manage it but with developments
in the social sciences and the humanities in the
interwar period and after. This is a key point
because I want to challenge those
who in, what I see as a somewhat
reductionist fashion, treat area studies as
largely or essentially even a byproduct of the Cold War
and the national security state and so ignore what I see as
longer-term developments, which helped shape this new field. So we need to broaden, I think,
our time frame and our frame of reference to make sense of
where area studies come from, to not focus so much on the
Second World War and the Cold War, and certainly to avoid
taking as our starting point some accounts due to the
National Defense Education Act of 1958, which
for the first time provided federal funding
for area studies. Instead, the story as I tell
it goes back much earlier and focuses on the central role
that the great foundations, particularly the Carnegie
Corporation of New York and the
Rockefeller Foundation founded in 1911 and
1913, respectively, played in the imagining and
the launching of area studies. These foundations
powerfully shaped the humanities and the social
sciences in the United States from the end of the
First World War onward. The funding decisions they
made in the interwar period laid the foundations
for and opened the way to many of the developments
in the social sciences that we tend to associate
with the Cold War period, including behavioralism,
modernization theory and an emphasis
on interdisciplinarity as we call it. Now as David Engerman
and Mark [? Sullivay ?] and various others
have argued, we need to be cautious about
too easily attributing post-war developments in the
social sciences to the Cold War. So rather than speaking of
Cold War social sciences and areas studies
within that, it may be better to talk about
the complex trajectory of the social sciences in the
Cold War, which was of course inflected by the exigencies
and contingencies of that era but has important roots,
or so I would argue, in the interwar period
when the Cold War was not even imaginable. And it was shaped by
other factors as well. So area studies with those
origins in the interwar period, and I’ll come to
that in a minute, was launched not by
government funding but by funding from Carnegie and
Rockefeller joined in the 1950s by the even wealthier
Ford Foundation. And it was their
efforts that made areas studies an integral and
durable component of American higher education, again,
manifested new centers, programs, faculty lines,
fellowships, graduate training programs, and much else. In the interwar period, going
back a little bit and beyond, Carnegie and Rockefeller
channeled funding into the humanities
and the social sciences through two intermediary
organizations, whose role is very important,
both established soon after the First World War. One of these was
the American Council of Learned Societies
founded in 1919 to bring together professional
organizations like the American Historical Association, the
Modern Language Association, et cetera. These disciplinary
organizations were themselves the product of
the reorganization along disciplinary lines
of teaching, research, and professional life in
American higher education in the late 19th and
early 20th century. That’s where we get the distinct
disciplinary departments that have continued to characterize
higher education in the United States. Now, the ACLS was funded largely
by the Rockefeller Foundation. And it was run
from its inception largely by people
who, broadly speaking, shared the ethos of the
progressive movement, progressive with a
capital P. They defined the mission of the ACLS as
advancing and modernizing the humanities in
the United States. But they also felt that the
humanities could and should play a role in improving society
by more effectively elucidating and addressing contemporary
problems and issues. Among other things, this
meant using the resources at their disposal to push
the humanities to devote more attention to the modern and
contemporary non-Western world as they conceived of it,
including improved language training. So as a result, from the
late 20s and into the 30s, the ACLS began channeling
foundation funding mainly from Rockefeller into efforts
to promote and modernize research and training on the
non-Western world beginning with Chinese studies
but eventually including a range of
regionally-focused fields, including what was then
called Near Eastern studies. This involved, for example,
organizing summer institutes that brought together
scholars and students for an intensive training on
a specific country or region, generally including
accelerated language training and intensive courses
on history and culture. It also involved some new
post-doctoral research fellowship programs and
support for the development of more effective language
training methods and materials so that what where at
the time generally called oriental languages
would be taught as living rather than dead
languages, and when possible, by native speakers. Right? This was a pretty radical move
in the course of the 1930s. These efforts would
in turn be the basis for the intensive language
training programs established for US military personnel
during the Second World War and for the approach
to language training that would take shape in
the new area studies fields. This period also saw
the first efforts to create interdisciplinary
graduate programs focused on this particular
region, for example, the University of Michigan’s
Program in Oriental Civilizations
established in 1928. And I use the term
interdisciplinary advisedly here because, as I noted, it was
in the same period in the 20s and 30s that key foundation
and academic leaders came to regard the transcendence
of disciplinary boundaries as an important goal and began
funding efforts to achieve it. And this too would
feed into the vision of area studies developed during
and after the Second World War. So we have three elements here,
a focus on geographic regions rather disciplines, a
heightened interest in the world outside the United
States, especially for the so-called post-classical
period, and a desire to foster
interdisciplinarity, which intersect in the interwar
period and underpin the establishment of a number
of new institutions, which can be seen as forerunners
of or even prototypes for post-war area studies. One example would be the
Institute of Pacific Relations that goes back to 1925. Another perhaps more
surprising, given how it would come to be thought
of– another institution that might be seen as a
forerunner of area studies is the Oriental Institute
at the University of Chicago founded, again with Rockefeller
money and a lot of Rockefeller money, in 1919. As Bruce Kuklick has shown,
the Oriental Institute’s founder, the famous Egyptologist
James Henry Breasted envisioned it as, and I quote,
“The means, by which American Oriental studies
would be transformed from what they had been, a
primarily linguistic endeavor identified almost exclusively
with ancient civilizations into a historical
discipline, in which,” and this is a
quote from Breasted himself, “art, archeology,
political science, language, literature, and
sociology, in short, all of the categories
of civilization shall be represented
and correlated.” Now two decades later,
this kind of language and more broadly a vision
of moving beyond philology in its 19th century
form to something new and interdisciplinary
would provide a key rationale for area studies. So I’m making the argument
that area studies does not emerge ex nihilo during or
after the Second World War. It had some complex antecedents. And by 1941, the
ACLS had already devoted a great deal of
energy to what it saw as modernizing the humanities. And it channeled substantial
foundation funding into that effort. And as a result,
fields that could at least in rudimentary form
be thought of as Far Eastern and Latin American
studies, and in an even more rudimentary form
Near Eastern studies, began to grow in size and
develop a certain coherence and institutional density even
before the war with a growing number of students
and trained scholars, increasingly ramified
scholarly networks possessed of experience in collaborative
endeavors, conferences, publications, language
training programs, and so on, and
heightened attention to the modern and
contemporary periods as opposed, again, to
the traditional focus on the classical periods
in each of these fields. So at least some of the
intellectual and institutional infrastructure for what
would become areas studies and models of this new vision
of knowledge production and dissemination were taking
shape well before Pearl Harbor. Now, what about the
Second World War period? I’ve already quoted
McGeorge Bundy’s claim about the OSS being the
birthplace of area studies. I’ve already argued
that that claim ignores some significant
earlier history. At the same time, I
think perhaps there’s been too much focus on the
OSS with all its importance. Because the war also brought
into being other sites and projects and practices
and networks through which the vision of area
studies was forged. For example, there was
an outfit established in 1942 called the
Ethnogeographic Board, whose purpose was to more effectively
translate scholarly knowledges from multiple
disciplines into, quote, “the geographic categories
used by government agencies.” There was also the Army
Specialized Training Program, which at campuses around the
country and on a crash basis, tried to train military
personnel, first and foremost, with using new kinds of language
and area curricula and methods. And that too would
be an experience in which post-war area
studies would draw. These practices and
vision taking shape during the war with
their pre-war antecedents were then rather
quickly translated into a new and apparently
coherent and efficacious conception of how more useful
knowledge about the world might be produced and
eventually into an assemblage of new academic
programs, institutions, and funding flows. And I found it striking
how early in the war this begins to happen. Within a year or
so of Pearl Harbor, foundation officers and
leaders of the various academic organizations were
already beginning to argue that regionally-based
approaches to the production and dissemination of knowledge
were the wave of the future. In this, the Social
Science Research Council played a central role. The Social Science
Research Council had been founded in 1924 to do
for the social sciences more or less what the
ACLS was supposed to do for the humanities,
protect and extend their interests, promote
social science research, and especially on
contemporary social problems. And like the ACLS, the
SSRC was funded mainly by the Rockefeller
Foundation, though it also had strong ties with the
Carnegie Corporation. And throughout, the leaders
of these key intermediary organizations, the
ACLS and the SSRC were in very close
and constant contact with foundation officers. The foundation officers,
who were sometimes themselves academics,
held the purse strings. But they depended
on the SSRC and ACLS to come up with fundable
projects and to implement them. Underpinning this close
working relationship was the fact that
both sets of men, and they were virtually
all men, for the most part came from and belonged
to the same social world. They tended to be from
well-to-do families of white Protestant stock. They were often educated
at Ivy League institutions and sometimes before that
at the same private schools. And they broadly shared a
common outlook on the world and on their mission in it. That outlook might be
characterized broadly as progressive, again
with a capital P, and internationalist
in a Wilsonian sense and propelled by a
particularly American sort of elite technocratic
noblesse oblige. And this is very
efficient working relationship, which
is well-documented in the archives, was
enabled by the fact that these men
shared common values and operated within the same
sociocultural and mental universe. Just as one
manifestation of this I found lots of records that
indicate that key funding decisions, key programmatic
decisions about area studies and about great
many other things were made over lunch at the
Century Club on West 43rd Street in Manhattan just
off Fifth Avenue, which was and remains a private club
where the power elite convened out of earshot and from
which women were barred from membership until 1989. Now early in the Second World
War with foundation support and guidance, the SSRC began
pushing the idea that what now began to be called regional or
area or aerial studies offered a new and highly promising
approach to research, graduate training, and
undergraduate education. Now of course, there was an
instrumental side to this. It was understood
that after the war, the United States would
be a global power. And many of these people
were frustrated Wilsonians. They had been very
disappointed by what happened at the end of
the First World War. And they were determined that
this would not happen again. And Franklin
Roosevelt was also– who was, after all, a
disciple of Woodrow Wilson– was determined it
would not happen again. So the United
States, they agreed, would need as a June 1943
assessment of the prospects of area studies put it,
thousands of Americans who combine thorough, professional,
or technical training with knowledge of the languages,
economics, politics, history, geography, peoples, customs, and
religions of foreign countries. But there was more
to it than that. Academic leaders also
argued that the orientation of knowledge production
and dissemination along regional lines would
benefit the social sciences both by producing
findings with a stronger claim to universality and
by fostering something like what would later come to
be called interdisciplinarity. A member of the SSRC staff
put it this way in 1994, “We have long been aware that
the social disciplines have been provincial in
their failure to check their experiences
against those of cultures not under Western civilization. This kind of checking
is very much needed.” And he added, “A
regional focus may be one way of integrating
the social sciences, effectively encouraging the
interdisciplinary trend so long discussed.” So here we can see the concept
of area studies taking shape at a time when no one
could have foreseen that the post-war era
would be characterized by a decades-long global
struggle between camps led by the United States
and the Soviet Union. Now of course, this
emerging vision did certainly have something
to do with concerns about the role of the United
States in the post-war world and with training, scholars,
and students and others better able to make
sense of it in what many in these circles hoped would
be an era of decolonization. There’s a great
deal of hostility to the British and French
and Dutch colonial empires in the United States. But I don’t think
that should make us– lead us to reduce
area studies to a Cold War form of knowledge
as has been done. Now of course, once
area studies was up and running from
the late 1940s, owing to the very large sums
that Carnegie and Rockefeller and later the Ford Foundation
gave to universities across the United States,
there were certainly scholars who sought to produce
what would later be termed policy-relevant knowledge. And some of the areas
studies, especially those for Russian and
East Asian studies, thrived early on on contracts
for military and intelligence agencies. But it seems to me that
the research pursued by the vast majority of
scholars in these fields was not particularly
shaped by the news– excuse me, by the needs of the state. And eventually,
scholars and students in many of these
same fields would develop radical critiques
of their own fields and what they saw as
the complicity of some of their colleagues
with the state. Now, to make this point
is not to diminish the reality of university
and foundation complicity with the American national
security state during the Cold War and after or
to relieve anyone of political responsibility
for their actions. It’s simply to insist that
we be careful about reducing area studies to a Cold
War form of knowledge. And again, it was
the foundations which turned this concept,
this vision into reality in the form of institutions,
not the US government, which only got into the act, again,
relatively late at a time when these fields
were up and running. Of course, this
new funding stream was very important in
sustaining it, in developing it, in spreading it to other
universities, which probably would have never had area
study centers without Title VI funding. But the bases had been laid. The Ford Foundation
alone spent something like a quarter of
a billion dollars on area and international
studies, very broadly defined, between 1953 and 1968. And again, it was
foundation officials in collaboration with the
SSRC especially, which formulated the vision
underpinning area studies. So it was really someone named
John Gardner, who at the time was a Carnegie Corporation staff
member, later its president, later Lyndon Johnson’s
secretary of health, education, and welfare, who traveled
around the country in 1947 making decisions about
which universities would get area study centers
in which particular fields. The result was,
certainly by the late 50s there was a pretty ramified
network of area study centers already
established, again, before the US gets into– the
US government gets into the act. Now in the process, foundation
and academic leaders grappled with the question of
what area studies should be. And there were some multiple
visions of what that might be, conflicting visions. The ACLS tended to see
areas studies primarily as a way to enhance
language training and give undergraduates
a better understanding of the world, especially
the non-Western world. It had been doing
this for a long time, since the late 1920s. In contrast, the SSRC with
support mainly from Carnegie saw social science research
and graduate training as the top priorities. By the early 1950s,
the SSRC’s vision had emerged as the dominant
one for various reasons. And it was the SSRC, which
really with Ford Foundation funding from the 1950s, oversaw
the development of area studies from that point on. Still defining what
area studies should be and what it should seek to do
remained a fraught question. And this issue generated
a lot of anxiety, which would plague
Middle East studies and the other areas
studies fields for decades. And this is something that key
figures, including scholars and academic entrepreneurs
associated with the SSRC grappled with. They were convinced early on
that, like the disciplines, areas studies needed a theory
and a method of its own, something that would give
it intellectual coherence and shape, guide the research
agenda of the emerging regionally-focused
academic fields. And they struggled mightily to
figure out what that might be. Early on in the
1940s, the late 1940s, their search for
a method led them to look to several current
research projects, which they hoped could serve as
models for the new field, would help them figure out
what area studies could be, would yield a conceptual and
a methodological paradigm for this new mode of
knowledge production. So for example, at the very
first national conference that brought together
leading figures from all of the areas studies
field in November 1947 at Columbia, there was a
lot of excited discussion about the Puerto Rico
social anthropology project. Now this– some of the
anthropologists here may know about this. It’s a classic episode
in the field’s history. This was an in-depth
study of the population of Puerto Rico, especially
its rural majority, which had just been launched
presided over by Julian Steward, one of the period’s
preeminent anthropologists. Actual field work in
Puerto Rico was carried out by several of Steward’s
graduate students at Columbia, the
best known of whom were Sidney Mintz
and Erica Wolf. Now at the time,
this was regarded as a cutting-edge
research project because it tried to look at
Puerto Rico as a whole, again, especially rural
society to gauge the impact of industrialization
on rural communities through labor
studies, oral history, et cetera, rather than a
much more small scale focus that anthropologists
typically engaged with. So the kind of theoretical
and methodological problems which this project,
this research project was grappling with
for Puerto Rico seemed, to the founders
of area studies at the time, very
much the problems that area studies writ
large needed to confront and needed to resolve. So there was hope that
this kind of model, and there were other models
talked about at the time, would blaze a trail for this
new field and formation. It gradually became clear that
neither this project nor others offered suitable models for
regionally-focused research. And generally by
the early 1950s, most of the social
scientists who had played a key role in
elaborating areas studies had largely given up on coming
up with a theory and a method for the new field. They tended
increasingly to operate as if area studies was whatever
they happened to be doing. And that sense of urgency about
finding a coherent paradigm tended to dissipate
for a lot of people. Nonetheless, the
relationship between– or the question of the
proper relationship between area studies
and the disciplines would continue to vex people in
this field for decades to come. And the quest for some coherent
paradigm for areas studies that could guide its research agenda,
we tell people what they should be doing and looking
at in this new field didn’t really come to an end. I suggest it devolved
from being a problem seen as a problem for
the field as a whole to something that the individual
fields needed to take up. And so it would confront and
even haunt the committees that the SSRC began to
establish from the late 1940s to promote and lead the
development of the area studies field. Again, these efforts were funded
first by Carnegie and later by the Ford Foundation, which
became the main patron of area studies from the 1950s into
the 1990s and even beyond. So in my book, I spent
a lot of time and energy to reconstructing the
deliberations and activities of one of those regional
committees, the SSRC’s Committee on the Near and
Middle East established in 1951 and from 1959, jointly
sponsored with the ACLS. And I try to see what we can
learn about Middle East studies and how this field
was actually built, its infrastructure, its
institutions from a close-up look at what this
committee tried to do over its 45-year lifespan,
how it tried to do it and what its members, its
shifting roster of members, many of the leading
scholars in the field thought they were doing and why. Now I realize that
reconstructing the work of an
academic committee probably sounds like the most
boring if not coma-inducing thing that many of
you can imagine. And I will confess, I had some
trouble staying awake poring through the minutes of
this committee’s meetings year after year,
decade after decade. But many of us here
know how– or will know how academic life works. We’ve had to sit through
seemingly endless committee meetings, usually deadly tedious
but occasionally productive. And this is often where
decisions get made are not made with real consequences. Here we can see the
sausage of field-building getting made, so to speak. It was also, in truth, my
own personal experience that led me to devote so much
effort to reconstructing what this committee and its
various incarnations was up to. Because relatively early
in my own academic career in the early 1990s, I served on
the same committee then known as the Joint Committee,
the SSRC-ACLS Joint Committee on the Near and
Middle East, awful title. We didn’t know at the time, but
this was almost the very end of the committee’s lifespan. Because in 1996 in the
name of globalization, the SSRC disbanded all
its regional committees, marking the end
of the whole stage in the history of area studies. So what did we do
in this committee? Well as far as I can
recall, the main thing we did and certainly
the most enjoyable was to award dissertation
research fellowships funded by Ford, of course, to smart
graduate students, which certainly helped
advance the field. We also had many
really excellent meals in interesting places. For some reason,
the SSRC deemed it imperative that we convene
in [? Rabat ?] or [INAUDIBLE] or [INAUDIBLE], as far as I
could tell, mainly to eat. But I also have vivid
memories of witnessing from my perch at the
bottom of the committee’s social hierarchy
the anxiety that beset the senior scholars who
led the committee when it came to fulfilling what they took
to be the committee’s mandate to frame a research agenda
that would move US Middle East studies forward, an
intellectual agenda. They had great
difficulty doing what they felt they’d
been mandated to do, coming up with this
cutting-edge research program. And that led to a
great deal of anxiety and to a sense of
failure and self-doubt. In the course of my archival
research for the book, I was surprised to find
the same anxiety seems to have plagued this committee
virtually from its inception in 1951. So this committee, and I’ll
come back to this in a minute, this committee was tasked
to do a couple of things. Right? It was, from its inception
and before the founding of the Middle East Studies
Association in 1966– this committee is
around from 1921. It was deemed
responsible for providing intellectual leadership
for the field, for coordinating among
the programs and centers, channeling research
money into the field, and developing what I
called its infrastructure. And even after MESA takes on
some of these tasks after 1966, again, it continued
to see the formation– the formulation
and implementation of a coherent
research program that would push the field forward
as one of its main missions. It did, as I said, also award a
number of postdoctoral research fellowships and later on,
graduate research fellowships. And it developed the
infrastructure of the field in various kinds of ways. It was, I think,
much more successful at some of these
missions than at others. The fellowships that it gave
out, postdoctoral and graduate, were important. Again, they gave
funding to people to go off and do their
research, which cumulatively advanced the field. It played an important
role in developing the infrastructure, which
took up much of its attention. For example, it
was this committee which launched the
Inter-university Consortium that, again,
with Ford funding began to offer intensive
training in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish each summer. Maybe some of you
have experienced this. It supported the development
of new teaching methods and materials for Middle
Eastern languages. It subsidized the
translation into English of Hans Wehr’s Dictionary of
Modern Arabic, which many of us know and love. It finalized the Library
of Congress transliteration of Arabic. It funded the first handbook
of anthropological research in the Middle East. And it helped launch CASA, the
Center for Arabic Study Abroad based in Cairo. Last but not least,
it was this committee which oversaw the
founding of MESA in 1966. And it’s no coincidence that
the Princeton Sociologist Morroe Berger, chair of this
committee, ends up as MESA’s first president. So in many ways it
played a critical role in getting Middle East
studies up and running as a nationwide academic field. But then again, what
about that other mission to formulate and implement
a coherent research program for the field, to determine
where the cutting edge was and push it forward? This is a task at which the
committee, from its inception to its disbanding
in 1996, was not very successful at fulfilling. And I suggest that
this lack of success generated a great deal of
anxiety, a widespread sense of inferiority
among even leading scholars in the field, a sense
that Middle East studies was intellectually backward, not up
to speed with the other areas studies fields and
with the disciplines. Let me give you a couple of
quotes from the archives. Here for example, is the
chair of the SSRC Committee on the Near and Middle East
addressing his fellow committee members in September
1953 just two years after the committee was formed. “Have we any more
reason for existence? Have we as a group
shot our bolt, contributed all we can to the
development of Near Eastern research in America
and are content and remain content to carry
on through individual work, teaching, and contacts? If so, let’s disband or
have the SSRC disband us. If not, where do we go now? Frankly, I have a guilt complex. I am unhappy with how little
we have accomplished.” Here he is again one year later. “Frankly, I see no
reason for our existence unless we as a group
endeavor somehow and immediately to inventory
that basic research, which must be done and somehow
run the risk of determining priorities.” I jump ahead to May 1962
in a quote from the minutes of the committee. One member summed up his
impression of the discussion, saying that while the joint
committee had accomplished a great deal in the past in
the services it had performed and projects it had
undertaken, it appeared to him that the joint committee had
no very clear idea of what it might do in the future other
than administer the grants program. A year and a half later,
the committee’s chair thanks the SSRC for
relieving him of his position and declares, “Last
year I felt it difficult to keep
the discussions on a realistic
track and did not, myself, have the imagination
sufficient to combine realism with vision.” February 1968, a
committee member, a leading political
scientist declares, “I am particularly struck by
the dearth of new talent coming into the field while very gifted
graduate students have been entering the various
disciplines of African studies in large numbers
in recent years.” Is that a diss, or what? “The Ford Foundation
would like the SSRC to exert some positive
leadership rather than just passively distributing funds to
individuals who come forward.” Two years later,
a committee member writes that the
working papers that had been presented
to the committee to help it try to formulate a
research agenda were promising, quote, “but it certainly seemed
from the Monday discussion that they are destined to be
placed in the same dead file with several other tangible
suggestions put forward in the past.” A few months later, committee
member tells his colleagues, “It’s time the committee
stop berating itself for its failures.” Et cetera. I can multiply the quotes. And finally in 1980,
in handwritten notes after one of a long
series of meetings about the state of the field,
in which the committee brings together scholars
to try to, again, come up with some coherent
understanding what the field is, what
its needs are, what a research
program should be, the SSRC staffer for the
committee adds his own comment. Quote, “Dilemma,
ineffectiveness of 20 years of work from an area
studies approach in producing quality research.” So what was going on here? So as I see it,
for many decades, many of the committee
members and especially perhaps the political
scientists among them found themselves stuck. They had been appointed to
this committee in large part to fulfill the SSRC’s
mandate that they formulate and implement a
research agenda for the field. Over their shoulders,
as they see it, loom the disciplines,
each of which seemed to be neatly
and happily organized around the investigation
of some coherent object. The political system for
that political scientists, society for the
sociologists, culture for the anthropologists,
and so on. Meanwhile, they’re
convinced that their disciplinary
colleagues were making wondrous progress
in sharp contrast to their own failures. So in the 1950s and 1960s
as they look around, one set of political scientists
is elaborating modernization theory while others are busy
turning their discipline into what they envisioned to
be a proper behavioral science. Into the 1980s, leading
social scientists studying the Middle East
held fast to the belief that somewhere out there
just over the horizon there was a useful
interdisciplinary paradigm for their
own field that could inform a research agenda
they were supposed to develop. Yet somehow that paradigm always
remained elusive, out of sight despite endless
workshops and conferences on the state of
the field designed to convene to achieve that
breakthrough to something like the theory and
method of area studies that the founders of
the field had envisioned three decades earlier. Of course, it never happens. This committee never
fulfilled its mission of developing a coherent, much
less interdisciplinary research agenda for the field rooted
in some clearly defined theoretical paradigm. And in fact by the
1980s, it becomes clear that this quest is not only
unattainable but profoundly misguided. I won’t go into detail. But if we think about what
goes on in the long 1980s, so to speak, Middle
East studies, like many other academic
fields, is profoundly altered by the
transformation sweeping the humanities and, to an
extent, the social sciences as well. The impact of feminist
theory and women’s and then gender studies, the encounter
with post-structuralism, the linguistic or cultural
turn, the rise of fields new to American academia
like post-colonial studies and cultural studies,
changing demographics within the field, all of
these and other developments powerfully changed the
intellectual landscape of the areas studies fields. But they also affected
many of the disciplines as people question
the coherence of what each discipline
traditionally specified as its object and the
boundaries between them. Now if the coherence
of the disciplines is put into question, what
plausible basis is there for insisting that an
area studies field should have a coherent object and
a corresponding methodology? And these questions
magnified the impact of the powerful
critiques of Orientalism and modernization theory
that had been underway, by that point, for at
least a decade and a half. In fact by the 1970s,
it had become clear that the modernization theory
project was an abject failure and that behavioralism
had also not delivered on the promises made for it. Now, many political scientists
responded to these failures by embracing paradigms and
methods derived from economics. The upshot of all this
is a reconfiguration of what had long been
seen as the trouble, the vexed relationship between
disciplines and area studies along with the sprouting of new
visions of interdisciplinarity. But another consequence was the
fading away of the expectation that Middle East studies
or the other areas studies field or area studies
in general could or should or would produce
some theory or method that would specify
its parameters and shape its practice. Now in reality of
course, this had always been mission impossible. The attempt to
formulate and implement a coherent agenda for
the field is sort of like trying to herd cats. So this vision dissipates. And in its place came growing
recognition, de facto at least, that would give Middle East
studies such coherence as it possesses is largely the
fact that those engaged in it, while doing a great
many different things in intellectual
terms, all relate to more or less the
same region of the world and are engaged in a common set
of institutions and networks, department centers,
Middle East Studies Association, academic journals,
fellowship programs, and so on. In other words, recognition that
beyond its common geographic focus, the field has an
essentially institutional and perhaps social rather
than intellectual basis. The eminent China scholar John
K. Fairbank put it nicely, I think, in his memoirs where
he offered this perspective on area studies from the
1940s into the 1980s. “For a time,” he
said, “there was a mystique attached
to areas studies, and assumption that a
combining of disciplines would somehow produce
a super-discipline, a new intellectual grasp. In the end, one had
to agree, area study was not a new discipline
of organized principles. It was only an activity,
something one did.” This recognition, whether
explicit or implicit, has I think, helped
set the stage for the intellectual flourishing
of Middle East studies in the last several decades. And its enabled the field
to at long last free itself of the chronic sense
of intellectual backwardness and exceptionalism and
inferiority and isolation that had once been so widespread
among its senior figures. Over the last several decades,
scholars in this field have produced a lot
of outstanding work that’s both disciplinarily
grounded but also happily interdisciplinary. And many, probably
most, are deeply engaged with intellectual
currents and debates across a range of fields. So in field notes, I try
to explore the visions that shaped area studies
and Middle East studies in particular and
where they came from. And that idea of area
studies, that vision that area studies would
offer, as Fairbank put it, “a new intellectual grasp.” But I’m also trying to see what
that something one did actually meant in practice,
which turned out to be rather different
in those early visions. There’s obviously much more to
say about all of those things and much more to the story
than I can get to here today. But I hope it’s
clear, at least or I argue at least, that the
historical trajectory of US Middle East studies and of
area studies more broadly has been replete with unanticipated
and unintended consequences, with unrealized aspirations
and persistent anxieties. And perhaps that’s the adventure
to which the title eluded. Area studies, as
they’ve developed, are a far cry from what those
who envisioned and shaped them early on imagined they’d become. At the same time for Middle
East studies at least, the net result thus far at
least has been the construction of an apparently
durable academic field that I would argue is
of substantial value to the world of scholarship,
to higher education, and to society. It has, perhaps, most
importantly created and preserved institutional turf
for the study of this region and of its languages,
societies, and histories at universities across the
country and now including, I’m happy to say, at Brown. At the same time as you
also certainly know, Middle East studies is an
embattled, even besieged, field with scholars, students,
teachers, centers, and universities often subjected
to harassment and pressure by well-funded
organizations based outside the academic
world seeking to further their political agendas. I’d hope that we can all
agree that this is nonetheless a scholarly and pedagogical
enterprise worth defending. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So you’ll field
your own questions. Sure. I’ll field my own questions. The floor is open. Have I stunned you into silence? I have a couple questions. Oh, there’s a guy. Yes, please. Thank you for a
really wonderful talk. I’m even more excited
about reading the book than I was before. It’s really an
excellent [INAUDIBLE] of a huge subject [INAUDIBLE]. Yes, I’m very enthusiastic about
reading more and learning more. I just had a question
about the– in the earlier part of the talk, my sense
is that you were trying to, of course,
eliminate ruptures and see more
continuities between the informal periodization of
the study of the Middle East. And so the idea
that area studies has antecedents before
the post-war period makes a lot of sense. But you did suggest that
there is a kind of rupture or there’s at least a distinct
difference between the kind of knowledge production
about the Middle East that took place in
the 19th century and that that came
in the 20th century. And I wonder whether
that too might be kind of– those lines
may be blurred as well. Certainly, in the 19th
century or 18th century and even in the 17th century,
scholars working on the Middle East were philologists. That’s true. But they were– many of them
were profoundly concerned with political
developments in the region. And many of them acted as
diplomats and traveled. And you know, they studied
manuscripts, and so on. But they also taught
their students how to speak in
dialect in case they were employed as emissaries
of mercantile organizations. So I wonder whether we can push
the narrative even further back in time. That’s a very interesting point. It’s not something I’ve
myself done research on. But it’s certainly
plausible as a way to begin to think about it. Again, we all tend to assume
rupture at certain points and think we’ve
reinvented the wheel. Or somebody reinvented
the wheel at some stage. And of course, there
are discontinuities. We don’t want to
make them disappear. There are shifts
and transformations. But we don’t simply want
to dismiss everything that came before the early
or the interwar period, for example, as having
no bearing on what comes afterwards. So this is something
that’s worth investigating. It’s not to say that
the contours of fields, disciplines, the
way things are– knowledge production is
structured and teaching and so on is the same. Because there are
certainly differences. But rgight, they’re histories. Some of the same people who
came out of those earlier worlds then remake them
into something else and tend to forget what
happened afterward. In this light, one of the– I
actually read the manuscript after I’d finished my own work. But Robert Vitalis’s
new book is, I think, very much
worth taking a look at. White World Order, Black
Power Politics, a recent book, which is about the history
of international relations came out within the last two
years, a very interesting book. And he shows by going back
before international relations now declares itself
to have begun to show how this
field and its origins in the late 19th,
early 20th century was about race and empire. But that story got
made to disappear. So again, it’s by way of
agreeing with your point and suggesting there’s
interesting history here that’s worth looking at. One thing I’ve always
been curious about, for example, the main journal
in the United States, of course, there were journals, The
American Oriental Society. People associated with it,
focus on the Bible lands. Largely ancient history but
some on Islamic history as well. But the main journal
that actually from early in the
20th century began focusing on the Muslim world was
the journal, The Muslim World published out of the
Hartford Seminary with a clear missionary
impulse on the one hand. On the other hand, it
was very interested in the contemporary Muslim
world in a know your enemy kind of way. I allude to it very
briefly, but this is something which
is worth looking at more because it was producing
people who had some knowledge. That knowledge didn’t disappear. And we don’t want
to simply relegated to the dustbin of history. We want to understand
it more fully to try to really elucidate the
genealogies of these fields. Please. [INAUDIBLE] You. No, no. Right. No, no. You. Yes. Please. Thank you for your talk. I guess I sort of want
to address the elephant in the room about
Middle East studies in the contemporary climate. And as an alumna of a Middle
East studies department, when graduation was imminent,
basically the jobs that were readily
available to us as Middle East studies graduates
were to work in the government or to work for an oil company. So I was just wondering if
you could speak a little bit to the fact that Middle East
studies as an area studies is greatly and
profoundly influenced by the political climate
today and despite the fact that the origins may
not be with state funding, the impact of the
state and its own interests on academic life in Middle
East studies departments. Thank you. OK. So maybe there are
several pieces to that. So I would certainly agree. I mean, from its inception,
there was a vision that these fields
would train people who could serve– government who
could serve oil companies who could have the tools to do
certain kinds of things, again, policy-relevant or business,
whatever it might be. Even missionaries lasted
into the 40s and 50s. That vision of training people
gets increasingly marginalized, but it’s there. Are you talking about an
undergraduate program? I’m just curious, an
undergraduate program. OK. So yes, there are certainly
government agencies, companies, et cetera who see these
skills as valuable. They have a need for people who
speak certain languages, who can live in certain
places, have experience of living in certain places. That serves their needs. I guess I’m just trying
to be cautious about not extrapolating from that to say
this is what these fields are entirely about. And I suspect that the
faculty you studied with would be a little horrified
to think that that’s basically all they were doing, training
people who could then go to work for, I don’t know,
Aramco or the CIA or the NSA, or whatever it might be. I imagine they thought
of themselves at least, it may be self-delusion, as
endowing you with these skills and knowledges for you to go
off and do whatever you do but not in a narrowly
instrumental kind of sense. So that’s a real dimension. I’m not suggesting
that it can go away. It’s there. Whether it’s still effectively
the rationale– or let me put it differently. It’s not clear to me that
if that was the rationale, the government got
its money’s worth. So in a way, some
of the right wing critics of the
Middle East studies, they have a point in a sense. Now they say that
the point of Title VI should be to produce
people to serve the state. Now I don’t think
that’s the case. The law actually
doesn’t say that. It was put much more
broadly in 1958. And it’s been put much
more broadly ever since. It’s a good thing to have
people who know something about other parts of the world,
who study their languages, whatever they end up doing. It’s good in a
broad social sense even if some percentage
of them may go off to work for the
government or, again, American businesses
in the Middle East or in some other
part of the world. So yeah. I guess I might– Please. –need to clarify a little bit. I guess I’m wondering if
[INAUDIBLE] revitalization of Middle East
studies departments as a result of the political
context in terms of students enrolling in Arabic
classes and more students becoming [INAUDIBLE] because
of the contemporary situation. Yeah, absolutely. So the post-9/11 period
certainly saw a big boom in people studying Arabic. And some of those people were
doing it to, as they saw it, serve their country, going
to work for the government, whatever it might be. So of course, these
fields like all fields are not insulated from
wider kinds of things. It’s also the case that higher
education in the United States is in a bad place in terms of
funding, in terms of expansion. So other kinds of opportunities
are less easily accessible. Hiring by universities
or graduate programs are often contracting
or underfunded as opposed to the 1950s and
1960s and maybe into the 1970s. There’s a period of
retrenchment, cut back, financial pressures, which
also foreclose opportunities for people in lots of fields. And it’s why certain fields
are not doing very well. Undergraduate
enrollments in history, I don’t know about Brown,
but at lots of universities are down a lot. People don’t see it as, in a
time of economic recession, as very useful or practical
as opposed to other fields. So I’m not for a moment
trying to suggest that one can– that these
fields are insulated from things going on in the wider world. And they’re affected by them. And they’re shaped by them. And there are ongoing struggles,
of course, about funding. Title VI hangs on by a thread. And it’s always a question
of whether it will get renewed or not renewed. There are a lot of people
who would like to kill it. And that may have an
effect down the road on, at least in many
universities which have fewer resources, about
whether they can sustain these kinds of programs. They may not be able to. Or they may reconfigure
them in ways that they change the
way they operate. I was trying to talk about the
more intellectual side of this. And it’s a paradox. Because again, in the mid 1990s
with the end of the Cold War and all the language
about globalization, the SSRC again, abolished
its regional committees. Those of you who are
graduate students, you’ve applied for SSRC
funding to the International Dissertation Research
Fellowship where everybody is in the same pool,
where as there used to be separate regional pools. So one can argue about whether
this is good intellectually or bad intellectually. But it’s a shift in the
way these kinds of things are organized, which
again obviously have to do with much wider trends. And nonetheless,
I think if we look at purely the scholarly output,
the intellectual vitality of the field– and I think
across the area studies fields they increasingly
have gotten out of their regional
boxes in many ways and their narrow intellectual
boxes in very good ways over the last decades. And that process
continues to happen. So that’s the dimension
I was talking about. Now this can coincide
with some very dire things on other sides. And again, the larger fact
that we all live with that this is a field which people are
being monitored and surveyed and punished at times for
their having the wrong beliefs, the wrong political opinions. Oh, sorry. Please, go ahead. Thank you very
much for your talk. [INAUDIBLE] Thank you
very much for your talk. I found it really fascinating. And I related to it because
for my own dissertation work I’m going through committee
meeting transcripts. And I know what that’s like. And I thought you
did a great job of making it interesting
for all of us and pulling out the key themes. I had a specific
question about one point you mentioned, a sort
of negative comparison from the committee,
a committee member negatively comparing the state
of the Middle East studies research to African studies. And I think,
specifically it had to do with the quality of
graduate students entering the field or something. But it seemed to me
potentially also connected to kind of other areas
studies, fields struggling with the same problem
of trying to articulate an agenda for the field. And I was wondering
if, first of all, if that sort of negative
comparison was grounded in– was a mere projection. Or was it grounded in
some kind of observation? Were other fields making
more valiant efforts to articulate this
research agenda? Or was it sort of the
same across the board? So I’ve focused on
Middle East studies. There is some work
on other fields. There’s an excellent
book by David Engerman on Russian Soviet studies
in the United States. There is some work
on the history of Latin American studies
and other bits and pieces. So I don’t think
I’m in a position to make a full
comparison across them. I’ve tried to read
as much as possible. I suspect there’s some
similar things that go on in all of them
that they all go through these sort of cycles. And there is the late
1960s, early 1970s kinds of turmoil in many of them. This is why the founders of MESA
were so freaked out early on. At the first three
annual meetings of MESA they forbid any panels that
dealt with what was then called the Arab-Israeli conflict. Because they looked around. And they saw the turmoil
in the Association for Asian Studies about
Vietnam and about China. And they looked at
the African Studies Association, which
was being torn apart and various other things. And they said, we
have to avoid this. We have to suppress this. So I think there are
a lot of parallels, with specificity of course. Because each of
these fields have their own complex
histories, legacies, genealogies that I’m
not in a position to reconstruct but
certainly shaped them and gave them their distinctive
character, their specificities in various kinds of ways. In terms of the– that
particular comment, I mean, it’s a sort of nasty comment
for a senior figure in the field to say. They’re getting all the
good graduate students. That means ours aren’t so good. I don’t think it had any
real basis in reality. It was his impression. He was a very noted figure. There’s a MESA prize named
after him to this day. I won’t go any further. There’s only two people
from those descriptions. I’ll leave it to
your imagination. Don’t quote me. But it does reflect
a certain moment because this is also the
end of the boom years. From the late 1940s
down to the late 1960s, there’s lots and lots of
foundation money and then eventually federal money
being pumped into the field. And then from the late 1960s,
you begin to get retrenchment. The Ford Foundation decides
it has other priorities. It wants to start pumping
money into its projects in other countries and not
into American higher education to study other countries. It’s a particular
twist in the Cold War. Who becomes head of
the Ford Foundation? It’s McGeorge Bundy pushed out
of the Johnson administration. And he becomes head of
the Ford Foundation. So that money
starts diminishing. And they start talking about,
well, we’re cutting back. The federal money, the
Nixon administration tries to get rid of Title VI. And Congress preserves it. But there’s a drop. So it’s a moment
of doom and gloom after this period
of rapid expansion. And I think it’s in that context
that it feeds into this notion that our graduate
students aren’t as good as their
graduate students. But it also speaks
to, again, something larger about the
sense of inferiority and backwardness even,
again, senior scholars– and I suspect this person
was a political scientist. He’s looking what
his colleagues over in the committee for
political behavior, again, who are doing these
other things, which seem like wonderfully
intellectually productive. They will soon turn
out to be dead ends. But at the moment,
one can understand why he could think things
were so bad in his piece of the academic world. Oh, sorry. Thanks. Well, thanks. I feel like you explained
my background to me. As an old person, this
is like my history. And that was fantastic to
hear the whole analysis of it. I feel– I just
recognize so much of it. I come from a low
socioeconomic background where women, girls
weren’t even supposed to go to college let
alone graduate school. And of course, I’m a woman. But I got one of
those fellowships. I went to school because– I
was able to go to school because of the foreign language area
studies, FLAS, Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship. And so I guess I wanted to
ask you a little bit more– I know you make a
very compelling point that area studies
doesn’t come entirely from the national security link. But I want to ask you to say
a little bit more about that. Because again on my
personal experience, I wanted to study Persian. And there were very few
places in the country that even offered it. And then I did go to NYU. And we used– for
Persian studies, in part we used the
Monterey– the Naval Institute at Monterey,
their language books were our language books. I learned how to
say pontoon bridge in Persian, which happily I’ve
never needed to reproduce. But anyway, then McGeorge
Bundy was at NYU. And he was on my
dissertation committee. I just felt like I was
ensconced in all this. And my first academic
position was here at Watson. And the money came directly
from the Washington Institute. Well, it was money that was
looking for a scholar who would study security in
the Persian Gulf, which is why I got hired. But then I was confronted
by exactly what you’re talking about because then
I was in a Political Science department that wanted the
theoretical, methodological coherence that the
SSRC was looking for. And then the gender
thing that continues to be important, again,
when I came here, Brown was under– I don’t even know if
people know that for many years Brown was under a court-ordered
consent decree for the hiring and firing of women. So you can imagine
what a great atmosphere it was for women here. Anyway, so I’m just
thinking about how, just in my own experience, how
ensconced the national security piece of this is. And then as you’ve
already said, post-9/11, the US Army created the
Human Terrain teams. And they were recruiting
Middle East specialists. We had a very talented
alum from here go. And in fact, he was the
first civilian killed there from Brown. So I feel like we’ve
just been grappling. You were talking about
the plaguing tension. And I think this national
security piece of it is really– I could be over
determined by of course my constant exposure to this. But you had said early on you
would say a little bit more about it. And I’d like to give
you a chance to do that. But thank you. Thank you. So again, it’s certainly
been a piece to it. And it’s been a very
vexed relationship. I mean there are certainly
people who have– I mean, you can frame area
studies as, again, a byproduct of or an instrument
to further the Cold War, national security more broadly. Obviously, post-9/11 we have
all sorts of new programs. You can also frame it– and
they’re not mutually exclusive. There are elements of both
which make sense about– and focus on the
place in American higher education and knowledge
production and other things. But certainly we’ve
seen since 9/11, again, all these new government
efforts to recruit knowledge and scholars to
produce knowledge useful for the government. But it’s not necessarily new. There have been various
fellowship programs in the 1980s, in
the 1990s to try to do the same, to
try to tap into that. So some of it certainly goes on. I’m a historian. So maybe I’m less
directly involved in this. Nobody wants to
give me a contract to do things because–
or maybe Beshara for the 18th century
or the 17th century. Probably not at the top of
their list of priorities over at the Pentagon. But of course, in other
fields in political science and other kinds of
things and the effort to recruit anthropologists for
Afghanistan, the Human Terrain Systems you suggested. So all of this, of course,
continues in various ways. I wonder if there’s
not another piece of it though, which I didn’t
go into but I think is worthy of thinking about. There’s the rise over
the last 40 years of a whole new set
of institutions, which took over
some of that role that the universities
used to play. They’re think tanks, which
are these quasi-academic institutions but
designed directly to produce
policy-relevant knowledge and often recruit out of
universities or colleges. And they want people
to produce things that look like scholarship but
are framed rather differently and directly seeking to respond
to certain questions, problems, investigate very contemporary
policy kinds of issues. And this is a whole new sector,
which, it has a long history. Some of it goes back, you could
even argue, a century or so. But it certainly proliferated
since the 1970s, ’80s. And I wonder if that’s not often
where now the government turns both for knowledge
but also personnel, that whole revolving door
kind of thing in a way that the government
might have tapped much more into the universities
in the 1950s and 1960s but came to feel–
and on both sides there was a sort of cultural,
political split around the time of Vietnam, not surprisingly,
where many academics grew much more uneasy about
serving the state in that patriotic Cold War kind
of way, Cold War liberal kind of way that had been
quite common in the 1950s and ’60s in this field
as in other fields. And on the other side,
the sense that academia was off doing its own
thing and hostile. And now we have– now they’re
the think tanks who are there for just that purpose. So that may be also
part of the story. Again, not that
academics– there are not efforts to
recruit academics to tap into knowledge. I’m not sure– it would be
interesting to try to assess how successful that’s been. A lot of anthropologists
were very unhappy about the Human Terrain System. And belatedly, even
the psychologists are unhappy about the fact that
some of their leading figures were involved in
torturing people. I don’t know why
they didn’t quite figure this out at the time
because everybody else did. But now they’re
embarrassed about it. So there are continued
tensions about these questions. Let me ask very quickly,
and then we’ll run it back. So why do you stop the
book in the mid ’80s? I’m sure you get this
question all the time. I’m just wondering
because it relates to almost every question
that’s been asked. There’s a lot that’s
happened since then. You’ve been cautious not to
name some of the think tanks. But you’ve actually
written about them before, such as WINEP, which was one
of the first major attempts to take that dimension
out of academia and put it directly in
the service of the state. And there is a revolving door. Every major Middle East
advisor to presidents in the last few presidents
has come from WINEP and gone back to WINEP,
which is the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy, which is the most quoted think tank
on CNN and so on and so forth, which is an arm of AIPAC. So there, I said it. You don’t have to say it. I’ve said it elsewhere. You’ve said it
elsewhere, exactly. You’ve written about it. So a lot has happened
since the 1980s. Even though you didn’t
put it in the book, maybe you’d like to say
a few words about that. Sure. I was afraid you’d notice. So I guess there are
a couple of things. For one, on the
intellectual side because I was trying
to talk not about so much the politics of
knowledge kind of thing that I talked about
in Contending Visions but about different levels of
visions of knowledge production and institutions,
it didn’t seem to me so important to take the
story down to the present. You know, there’s source
questions as well. And one always has to figure
out some place plausibly to start and stop. So to me it seemed that
from the kinds of things I was looking at, the 1980s
were a reasonable place to stop. Because there again,
the transformations the 1980s broadly defined
are such that it eliminated some of the rationale,
some of the visions that I had been talking
about for the earlier period. And then there are
different things going on. Of course, they are
interesting things. They need to be engaged with. But I had to declare a halt. The other side of
it is that I felt I had talked about some of
that in Contending Visions. And I try not to repeat myself. So I thought that people–
and I appreciate your saying they should be bought as a
matched pair, by all means, and read side by side. But no, I do think of
them as complimentary. So I tried not to do some of
the things that I did there. And there I take the story up
till, in the second edition, it was 2010. I doubt there will
be a third edition. But I tried to take some
of that story up to date, so I felt I could
leave it out of here since this has a different
rationale, focus, purpose. Hey, Professor Lockman. Thank you so much for your talk. I just wanted to
ask you actually something that I thought
about when you mentioned the African studies comment. I wanted to ask– I feel like,
at least in my brief experience or exposure to different Middle
Eastern studies departments, I’ve noticed that there is some
dialogue or scholarship that works between or
brings together, say, Middle Eastern studies
and South Asian studies or Middle Eastern studies
and Central Asian studies. But I feel like, at least
from my anecdotal experience, I’ve rarely seen much work
done between Middle Eastern studies and African studies. And I’m wondering
if that’s something that, based on your knowledge
about the history of the field and where it is now, if you
feel like that’s an accurate assessment and maybe if
that is true, why that is and if there’s something to
be gained from opening that up more. Sure. I’m sure there are
things to be gained. Maybe part of it– and I’m
speaking from ignorance here. I mean, African studies,
it’s always seemed to me, has a problem too. Right? Because it’s defined as
being about a continent. But it’s really about
Africa south of the Sahara. By and large? The Maghreb is sort of
in a complicated position in relation to
African studies often. And that’s why it gets annexed
to Middle East studies. So there are lots of questions
about boundaries here. I think that’s my understanding
of at least how the field works in the United States. So there are tensions there. Of course, the definition
of the Middle East is such or the Middle
East and North Africa or MENA as the political
scientists like to say has always been sort of fraught. And people are
increasingly challenging those kinds of things. Again, my knowledge
on this is limited, but it seems to me people are
doing lots of interesting work about connections in
different kinds of directions. Now, there are still
institutional questions. Can one do those kinds of
things in the framework, either of a MESA or of an
African Studies Association? It may not be quite comfortable. But we don’t have other
containers to do them in. But it seems to me people are
trying to do those things, look at different kinds
of networks, historically and in the present
and the movement of people and
commodities and ideas along different
kinds of ways that cross those kinds of boundaries
and overcome the, again, the initial vision of the
space that Middle East studies or African studies or
South Asian studies were defined to encompass. So intellectually–
I may be wrong. But intellectually, it
seems to me some of that is happening, perhaps
not as fast as it should, perhaps not as
effectively as it should. But at least people
are open to this and talking to each other
in new kinds of ways or so I’d like to believe. Maybe this is an overly
optimistic vision. But of course, there
are lots of lacunae. There are lots of gaps
still to be overcome. I recently read– I don’t
remember the author– Crossing the Bay of Bengal. You know, wonderful book, very
interesting book about a space, which is now largely
gone but looking at India broadly defined and the regions
right to the east to which it was intimately connected. So area studies stuck some
of that region in something called Southeast Asia,
which historically had no real existence and lumped
together places, which are very different from one another. And so you get these
South Asian scholars. Benedict Anderson talks some
about this in his memoirs recently, a very
interesting book. And he talks also about area
studies as he experienced them as a student and then as
a professor over a very long span. But people are, again,
through this kind of work questioning those
things and trying to explore different
ways of slicing up the world that produces
different kinds of knowledge. So I’d like to hope
this will increasingly happen between these fields. I think we’ll need to stop
here because there’s still time to talk to
Professor Lockman and also buy books if you
want, which he’ll happily sign. Thank you very much for coming– Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

2 comments on “Peter Green Lecture Series on the Modern Middle East with Zachary Lockman September 29, 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *