Scholarship in the Shadow of Empire

Article/book #: 11468
Title: Scholarship in the Shadow of Empire
By: Laurie A. Brand  
Date of issue: Saturday, 20 November 2004
Topic(s) addressed:


With all this as background the question that arises is, what should our relationship as scholars be to the state, now the empire?

I dare say that most of us, at least those who are American citizens, have government-sponsored programs to thank for at least some of our initial area or language training and probably some of our subsequent research funding. Yet, even in the late 1970s, when the image of the US in the region was far better than it is today, most American scholars and students I encountered felt it prudent to keep a distance from the US embassy. While some of us were critical of certain aspects of US policy, the decision to maintain this distance proceeded not from a sense of anti-Americanism, which in any case is distinct from criticizing US foreign or domestic policy but from a desire to do our job learn Arabic or conduct our research in as honest and unimpeded a way as possible.

However, in the current atmosphere, the stakes are much higher, the challenges much greater. And, while I have been speaking from an American experience here, certainly all of us, regardless of our country of citizenship or residence should seriously reflect on what our relationship with our respective governments should be. For those of us here in the US, it is imperative that we interrogate the connection between intellectual/professional integrity and citizenship in this empire at war. How broadly or narrowly should we define the concept of the citizen-scholar and, once having made that determination, what are the implications for our professional lives?

Clearly there is no single answer. Each of us must make his/her decision based on what we understand the demands of professional integrity, citizenship, and hopefully as well, morality, to be. For some the answer is to withdraw as far as possible from any interaction with the government; for others, the response is to attempt to seek greater access in order to help shape the policy agenda.

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