Saturday, April 20, 2013

Scholars, Spies, and Global Studies (OSS, Area Studies, and Academia)


Nice article from last summer about the relationship between the OSS and Academia.  I suppose we will never see such a combination or partnership again.  Today former CIA and former SOF personnel do not produce quite the same books and monographs. Instead we get "No Easy Day" (Matt Boisinette), "Kill Bin Laden" (Dalton Fury), "Imperial Hubris" (Anonymous - Michael Scheuer)  Excerpt:

"The first great center of area studies in the United States was not located in any university, but in Washington," McGeorge Bundy, onetime dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and then president of the Ford Foundation, observed in 1964. The OSS, he said, was "a remarkable institution, half cops-and-robbers and half faculty meeting." 
OSS alums played the major role in establishing regional centers in major universities after the war. Their wartime reports were frequently the basis for monographs that would establish reputations, secure jobs, and become the springboard for further professional success. John K. Fairbank returned to Harvard from his time in China to set up the largest postwar program in East Asian studies. W. Norman Brown, head of the India desk, went on to found the first department of South Asian studies in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, hiring many of the academics who had worked with him in Washington. Geroid T. Robinson went from his role as head of the Russia desk to become the first head of the Russian Institute at Columbia University.
V/R
Dave 

August 13, 2012
Scholars, Spies, and Global Studies
By Nicholas B. Dirks
No one doubts that globalization is one of the most important trends of our day. Nor does anyone question that it affects what we study, how we teach, and whom we seek to reach. Beyond that, however, there is little consensus.

As American universities expand their global footprint with branch campuses in Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere, many faculty are concerned about oppressive governance, human-rights violations, and lack of academic freedom abroad. Meanwhile administrators grapple with how these new ventures—and globalization in general—will change teaching and research in the United States. As higher education seeks new audiences, will it be able to maintain the significance and character of the liberal arts, which have played such a crucial role in the educational mission of the American university?
Similarly educators increasingly agree that all undergraduates ought to pursue some study abroad. But should it involve language study and full cultural immersion? Or short-term travel and networking through internships and other kinds of programs?

The lack of clarity is especially troubling in my own field of area studies, where a growing number of scholars have abandoned older practices in favor of new forms of global study.
But what does "global" really mean?

At a time when the relationship between the United States and the world is changing rapidly, we can no longer afford not to answer that question. We can no longer accept having fewer regional specialists than we once did in the social and policy sciences—not to mention in the humanities and global languages. It is time for us to engage directly the challenges we face introducing students to the complexities and overweening importance of global affairs.

It took a world war to propel Americans to make a serious commitment to global study. At the dawn of the World War II, the United States was the only allied great power without a formal and central institution to collect global "intelligence," and universities were notoriously deficient in studying parts of the world outside Europe and North America. When Franklin D. Roosevelt recruited William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan in 1941 to be his first coordinator of information, Donovan established the Research and Analysis Branch in Washington, D.C., and started hiring top academics. The fledgling office was reborn as a key unit of the Office of Strategic Services, itself established a few months after Pearl Harbor. As the United States joined the Allied war effort, Donovan hired several senior, and a great many younger, academics, principally from the Ivy League, to coordinate the collection, sorting, and analysis of material relevant to the war.

Although academics were initially recruited by discipline (like history, anthropology, geography, economics, politics), Donovan's "dean" of the OSS, the Harvard historian William L. Langer, soon recognized the need for area-specific interdisciplinary teams. That represented a major departure, as interdisciplinary research was still largely undeveloped in universities in the years before the war. Langer established divisions for Europe, Africa, the Soviet Union, Asia, and Latin America, while recruiting academics to advise him about the role of European empires; meanwhile, the OSS began posting agents around the world in offices from Algiers to Aden and Kandy to Kunming.

Scholars have debated the effects of the knowledge the OSS acquired on the actual conduct of the war, not to mention the political character and academic value of the work. Only a few, however, have recognized the agency's most enduring influence—on the nature and conduct of research and teaching in the postwar university, most of all on the new field of area studies.

"The first great center of area studies in the United States was not located in any university, but in Washington," McGeorge Bundy, onetime dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and then president of the Ford Foundation, observed in 1964. The OSS, he said, was "a remarkable institution, half cops-and-robbers and half faculty meeting."

OSS alums played the major role in establishing regional centers in major universities after the war. Their wartime reports were frequently the basis for monographs that would establish reputations, secure jobs, and become the springboard for further professional success. John K. Fairbank returned to Harvard from his time in China to set up the largest postwar program in East Asian studies. W. Norman Brown, head of the India desk, went on to found the first department of South Asian studies in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, hiring many of the academics who had worked with him in Washington. Geroid T. Robinson went from his role as head of the Russia desk to become the first head of the Russian Institute at Columbia University.
(Continued at the link below)


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