Global Citizenship and the University
Advancing Social Life and Relations in an Interdependent World
Robert A. Rhoads and Katalin Szelényi


Global Citizenship and the University

Chapter 1 Globalization, Citizenship, and the University


Globalization is not a recent phenomenon. The influence of individuals and groups on others has steadily increased throughout human history, reaching a point some five hundred years ago that could reasonably be described as global in nature. As means of transportation advanced over time, so did the power of one society to influence another. This was becoming increasingly evident by the sixteenth century with the rise of the great European powers and their ability to dominate parts of nearly every region of the world. Arguably, the origins of globalization are located in this period, for it marked the rise of the great navies, global shipping and trade industries, extensive transoceanic migration, and, of course, expansive colonization by Europeans.

Increased human interaction as a consequence of globalization added to the strength and intensity of us-versus-them thinking. Othering native inhabitants of distant lands was central to waging the kind of exploitative relationships critical to empire building. Imperialism depended on such an idea, as Edward Said clearly articulated in his book Culture and Imperialism: Throughout the exchange between Europeans and their others that began systematically half a millennium ago, the one idea that has scarcely varied is that there is an us and a them, each quite settled, clear, unassailably selfevident. . . . [T]he division goes back to Greek thought about barbarians, but whoever originated this kind of identity thought, by the nineteenth century it had become the hallmark of imperialist cultures as well as those cultures trying to resist the encroachment of Europe.1

Conceptions of us and them historically have been embedded in cultural differences linked to geography, religion, ethnicity, race, and nationality. In the context of colonialism, views of us and them largely were shaped by xenophobia tied to these differences, with perceptions of race in particular often at the core of such beliefs.2 History is replete with examples of empire building and its impact on a particular people defined as racialized others by citizens of a colonial power. European colonizers brought certain cultural and religious views to North America that ultimately transformed the physical landscape and decimated the indigenous population. Early European settlers, for example, saw the native population as heathens and sought to save them from their savage ways by introducing Christian-based forms of education.3 The French, despite liberal philosophical claims to humanism, colonized Algeria by reducing the native inhabitants to less-than-human status. Colonialism hardly could have succeeded otherwise, for it depended on overseas soldiers and officials to enact cruelties upon the locals. As Frantz Fanon pointed out in The Wretched of the Earth, orders were given to reduce the inhabitants of the annexed country to the level of superior monkeys in order to justify the settlers treatment of them as beasts of burden.4 Violence enacted against the colonized had as its aim the keeping of these enslaved men at arms length.5 The goals were to dehumanize them and erase their traditions, substitute their language with that of the colonizers, and in time destroy their culture.6

There are other examples of us-and-them distinctions being employed for the purposes of subjugation and violence. The widespread enslavement of Africans and their subsequent imprisonment and deportation to the so-called New World was most insidious and depended on race-based distinctions constructed primarily by Europeans deploying advanced technologies in service of their financial interests. There is the example of the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps in Germany, when the us was defined as defenders of the Aryan race and the them, principally defined as Jews (along with gays, Gypsies, prisoners of war, Catholic priests, and Jehovahs Witnesses, among others), were sentenced to death as part of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question. Us-and-them distinctions in the latter instance were quite complex, with religion and ethnicity of course being of central importance. Us-and-them distinctions also have been used as part of the justification for military invasion. In many of these instances, the process of othering inhabitants of a particular geographic region was grounded in conceptions of national identity but was also conflated with matters of race, ethnicity, and religion. For example, under former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, two wars were waged against Iraq with much support from the U.S. general public (at least in the beginning), largely the consequence of the vilification and demonification of Saddam Hussein in particular and Iraqis in general.7 David Harvey noted, for example, that Saddam Hussein was portrayed as an incarnation of evil that had to be combated as if war in the Middle East was an episode in some long-running medieval morality play.8 In this case, race, religion, and nationality all played a role in leading, or rather misleading, a large percentage of the U.S. citizenry to support violence on a massive scale to be waged against Iraq, resulting of course in thousands of deaths among the civilian population.

Although the age of classic imperialism has passed, the mentality of colonialism has not fallen by historys wayside. Beliefs of us as superior and them as inferior prevail to a great extent and are reflected in the way subsequent generations are taught to see themselves and their homeland by comparison to others. Here again, Said is insightful: The wonder of it is that the schooling for such relatively provincial thought and action is still prevalent, unchecked, uncritically accepted, recurringly replicated in the education of generation after generation. We are all taught to venerate our nations and admire our traditions: we are taught to pursue their interests with toughness and disregard for other societies.9

Perhaps what is most striking about contemporary forms of globalization is the ubiquitous nature of how one group is brought to bear on another, largely the consequence of the world, in Fazal Rizvis terms, becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent.10 Fortunately, the outcome of contemporary forms of cultural contactincreased exponentially by mass media, advanced communication systems, and information technologymore often than notis less violent. Surely cultural influence is not entirely dependent on the butt of a rifle.

At their worst, less-violent forms of cultural influence may be seen as forms of imperialismsome have described this sort of influence as the McDonaldization or Americanization of the world, at least when the United States is the source of influence.11 At their best, cultural influences may be more reflective of local opportunism, as when members of a particular society develop new ways of interacting with their environment by borrowing provocative forms from another culture and modifying those forms to suit their local needs and interests. Emphasis on local opportunism stresses a multidirectional view of global influence, which in essence situates globalization as both a differentiating [and] a homogenizing force.12 Such a view is akin to the position adopted by Allan Luke and Carmen Luke, who see hybridity as a social and cultural formation born out of complex and intersecting histories.13 They argued for a more multidirectional understanding of globalization, whereby peripheral countries and cultures are not simply positioned as the passive recipients of Euro-American authored capitalocentrism, but in fact there are two-way, mutually constitutive dynamics of local-global flows of knowledge, power, and capital.14 Luke and Luke posited that local histories are always embedded in the adoption of cultural elements and conditions. In supporting their case, they pointed to Thai popular music and how the countrys musicians borrowed from the West but also incorporated Thai traditional folk music. The result is a cultural form hybrid in nature and yet unique and influential within the youth culture of Thailand.15

Another example of the hybridization of popular music and youth culture comes from China. In Shanghai, rapper Blakk Bubble points to the influence of U.S. popular culture and the ways in which rap is changing the Chinese music scene in urban settings such as Beijing and Shanghai.16 A surface-level interpretation might suggest another case of the Americanization of the world through the increasing power and influence of U.S. media and popular culture. Certainly, there is likely to be some truth to such a position. But this argument is incomplete. For example, if we look further into the emergence of rap in China, we also see local innovation and adaptation; in the words of Luke and Luke, local and regional force and power17 act upon U.S.-based versions of rap music. Thus, in adapting rap to their own localized context, Chinese youth do not rap about gansta life, but in rah-rah or reformed rap the messages are softer, gentler, and, of course, more censored by the government. As a Beijing disc jockey explained, They cant curse, they basically have to say life is great, life is beautiful, nothings wrong. Its not hip-hop.18 So, although the United States and China share rap music as a common cultural form, the cultural distinctiveness of this music genre in the two countries remains evident.

The signs of hybridization are everywhere, from the obvious case of foreign companies and stores transplanted to other regions of the world, where they are refashioned to better fit local preferences (e.g., Toyota in the United States, Starbucks in China), to the more subtle ways in which forms of language, architecture, agricultural practices, beliefs, and so forth emerge in distant places, similar in content and form but modified according to local custom (Toyota had to modify some of its assemblage practices when transplanted to the United States, and Starbucks had to account for preferences for tea when transplanted to China). Hybridity also surfaces at the level of identity. A clear example is the way in which nationality is less and less tied to a particular race or ethnicity, as a consequence of the growing influence of migration and interracial marriage.

Hybridization, then, is another aspect of globalization and in some sense offers resistance to forms of othering, as the elements of culture that once separated one group from another are increasingly diffused and cultural identities more and more reflect a creolized mixture of global influences. Certainly, us-versus-them thinking continues to dominate in contemporary times, but many cultures and identities resist such dualistic terms, simply because cultural diffusion is so widespread that identifying us and them is not always so easy. And although it is fairly clear that the oppressive influence of cultural imperialism and othering is still quite real, nonetheless, when we look at the world today, it is hard to ignore the reality of hybridity and the vast influence of globalization.


Saids work is particularly helpful to the line of thinking we advance in this book. Although his attention to cultural hybridity focused to a great extent on empire building and the lives of the colonizers and the colonized (as revealed in the literature, and mostly fiction at that), his notion of a contrapuntal global analysis has many implications for how we read identities and cultures within an increasingly global world. Most important to this book, we see the need to complicate and challenge us-versus-them thinking, as well as the forms of citizenship that spring forth from such frames of reference. Educational institutions in general and universities in particular, as key sites for perpetuating particular notions of identity, nationalism, and citizenship, must be critically analyzed for the ways in which they foster the othering of a them. We see educational processes associated with the othering of various social groups (including nationalities), while ignoring the hybridity of contemporary life, as a key facet to a complex process that contributes to sustaining global instability. In a very real sense, this is the central mission we take on in this text, as we explore universities around the world and the ways in which more global and hybrid notions of social life and citizenship may be advanced. In essence, we argue that notions of citizenship have lagged behind the cultural realities of a hybridized world.

Our purpose to this point is to paint a portrait of a changing world, a world that is increasingly framed by global connections and transnational penetrations. It is a world in which the technological innovations of the most brilliant minds of our time seem to have outpaced the development of the human side of life. In fact, there continues to be a dominant line of thought that situates science and technology as the only source of insight capable of saving humankind, when in reality we surely have neglected the social imagination and our ability to construct societies and social relations in a manner consistent with promoting world peace. We can destroy the world with weaponry that the best scientific minds have produced, but we cannot seem to build transnational relationships in which such weapons are rendered useless. Martin Luther King, Jr. made a similar point some forty years ago, noting, When we look at modern man we have to face the fact that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. Weve learned to fly the air like birds, weve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we havent learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters.

We believe the technological advances of today have fundamentally changed the nature of social relations and that such changes call for new forms of citizenship. We see citizenship as a form of identity linked to complex rights and responsibilities that increasingly must be understood in terms of the local and the global as well as individualist versus collectivist objectives. Us-and-them tensions of a global world, complexities associated with hybridization, the challenges of cultural imposition, the expansiveness of global capitalism, and the growing transnational political spheres and interpenetrations all suggest the need for new forms of identity, especially new and innovative conceptions of citizenship. If we cannot advance more complex and expansive forms of citizenship, then we might as well abandon the tremendous advances associated with science and technology, for it is quite likely the case that the one thing we certainly will advance is our own doom and that of the planet.19

With the preceding in mind, we are concerned about the ways in which us-versus-them thinking continues to exist to this day, in the face of an increasingly global world. Despite rapid cultural exchange and increased hybridity, local identities are still constructed in significant ways on the basis of an us-versus-them ideological foundation. This can be seen nearly every day as different conflicts break out in various parts of the world; some of these conflicts are nationalistic in nature, others ethnic or religious, and still others a mixture of the three. We see the idea of citizenship, and what constitutes citizenship, as key to understanding todays world and the growing influence of globalization. Furthermore, we believe universities have a central role to play in challenging the foundations of us-versus-them thought and in forging more expansive notions of citizenship. We say this because of the central role universities play in preparing tomorrows leaders and the place they occupy as a social conscience for society. The latter idea is particularly important when one recognizes the fundamental role universities play in the production, management, and application of knowledge, a role Simon Marginson argued is even more critical given todays global connections and global flows of people, ideas, knowledge, and capital.20 Accordingly, universities have an obligation to use their knowledge capacities to advance social life and to better the human condition. Just as we have used our sharpest university minds to advance science and technology, we must do the same in terms of advancing global social relations. Hence, we see the lives of students and faculty as a key context for exploring the possibility of more innovative and expansive conceptions of citizenship.

Although we can say a great many things about todays world, it is certainly clear that increased international integration and global ties are a driving force shaping contemporary lives. What do the changes that globalization brings mean to students and faculty learning and working in the context of the university? How are their experiences similar and different, depending on their location within an ever-changing global landscape that maintains and produces massive economic and political imbalances? How are their lives as citizens, as academic citizens, as global citizens, being reframed by increasing global ties and international integration? Most importantly, in what ways can us-versus-them forms of citizenship be challenged in the context of globalization? These questions are at the heart of this book as we examine faculty and students at four universities around the world: Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) in The Peoples Republic of China; the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States; the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) in Argentina; and Central European University (CEU) in Hungary. We select these four universities to explore academic life and the issue of globalor globally informedcitizenship in part because of the important global cities in which they reside: Guangzhou, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, and Budapest. Furthermore, the geopolitical location of each university and the city in which it exists represents one or more key issues arising from complex relationships spawned by globalization. GDUFS and the city of Guangzhou reflect Chinas growing world engagement and the opening of China in the post-Mao era and help us consider the increasing impact of global capitalism and its far-reaching influence. UCLA and Los Angeles exist in the context of significant international scholarly exchange and massive immigration, respectively, and help us consider the growing impact of cultural globalization and the role of the United States as a source of cultural influence. UBA and Buenos Aires call to mind the growing North-South divide and increasing resistance arising in the South to hegemonic versions of globalization advanced by powerful countries and the intergovernmental institutions they helped to found. CEU and Budapest, by virtue of Hungarys recent incorporation in the European Union, help us consider the ways in which regionalization emerges within the context of globalization, as well as ongoing struggles that universities in peripheral and semiperipheral countries face in light of a world increasingly shaped by the dictates and decision making of central countries. The preceding cases, taken as a whole, help us consider complex and emerging forms of citizenship in light of globalization and the growing power of global capitalism.21

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