[Reader-list] clamp down on post-colonial studies

Ravi S. Vasudevan raviv at sarai.net
Mon Nov 3 10:28:40 IST 2003

>> >
>> >From Michael Bednar
>> >Department of History
>> >The University of Texas at Austin
>> >
>> >Congress Moves to Regulate Postcolonial Studies (fwd)
>> >Oct. 20, 2003
>> >
>> >Friends,
>> >
>> >As many of you who know me well will soon realize, I have become a
>> >political activist for the first time in my life. I am not here to
>> >but to inform you on current legislation that is being debated in the
>> >House of Representatives. The legislation in question, H.R. 3077, will
>> >rewrite the Title VI legislation that has provided FLAS money to many
>> >us and that also funds the various area-studies centers in our
>> >universities.
>> >
>> >In particular, the legislation proposes the creation of an "advisory
>> >board" that may severely impact universities by dictating the
>> >taught, course materials assigned in class, and the faculty who are
>> >in institutions that accept Title VI funding. It gets worse. The U.S.
>> >House of Representative's Subcommittee on Select Education Hearing on
>> >"International Programs in Higher Education and Questions about Bias"
>> >June 19, 2003
>> >(http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/108th/sed/titlevi61903/ wl61903.htm)
>> >begins with an opening statement by Representative Phil Gringrey that
>> >includes the following passage: "we are here today to learn more about
>> >number of programs that are authorized and funded under Title VI,
>> >are some of the oldest programs of support to higher education. These
>> >programs reflect the priority placed by the federal government on
>> >diplomacy, national security, and trade competitiveness. International
>> >studies and education have become an increasingly important and
>> >topic of conversation and consideration in higher education...
>> >with mounting global tensions, some programs under the Higher
>> >Act that support foreign language and area studies centers have
>> >attracted national attention and concern due to the perception of
>> >teachings and policies."
>> >
>> >Testimony provided by Dr. Stanley Kurtz (available from the link
>> >portrays areas studies centers as hotbeds of unpatriotic
>> >anti-Americanism. Dr. Kurtz focuses, in particular, on post-colonial
>> >theory and the work of Edward Said's Orientalism in which "Said
>> >professors who support American foreign policy with the 19th century
>> >European intellectuals who propped up racist colonial empires. The
>> >premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to
>> >put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of
>> >American power." (quoted from Kurtz's statement found at
>> >http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/108th/sed/titlevi61903/kurtz.htm
>> >Kurtz asserts that the rampant presence of post-colonial theory in
>> >academic circles, with its bias against America and the West, has
>> >produced a corps of professors who refuse to instruct or support (with
>> >FLAS grants) students interested in pursuing careers in the foreign
>> >service and/or intelligence agencies. Kurtz comments that: "We know
>> >transmissions from the September 11 highjackers [sic] went
>> >for want of Arabic speakers in our intelligence agencies. Given that,
>> >given the ongoing lack of foreign language expertise in our defense
>> >intelligence agencies, the directors of the Title VI African studies
>> >centers who voted unanimously, just after September 11, to reaffirm
>> >boycott of the NSEP [National Security Education Program], have all
>> >to undermine America's national security, and its foreign policy. And
>> >has every other Title VI-funded scholar in Latin American-, African-,
>> >Middle Eastern Studies who has upheld the
>> >long-standing boycott of the NSEP."
>> >
>> >The answer, Kurtz proposes, is to create an oversight board that will
>> >Title VI funding to students training for careers in national
>> >defense and intelligence agencies, and the Foreign Service. How
>> >was Dr. Kurtz's presentation? The committee not only believed
>> >Dr.Kurtz claimed, they even implemented most of his suggestions,
>> >the "advisory board."
>> >
>> >An amended House Resolution, H.R. 3077, proposes to create an
>> >International Education Advisory Board, with appointed members from
>> >homeland security, the Department of Defense, and the National
>> >Agency, "to increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and
>> >recommendations to Congress on international education issues for
>> >education." (Quoted from the Sept. 19, 2003 press release of
>> >John Boehner, committee
>> >chairman,http://edworkforce.house.gov/press/press108/09sep/ 
>> hr3077psub091703.
>> >htm)
>> >
>> >The full resolution of H.R. 3077 can be found at
>> >http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.3077:
>> >
>> >H.R. 3077 was amended in subcommittee and this amended resolution
>> >elaborates on the composition and role of the International Education
>> >Advisory Board (see especially pages 16-24). The amended H.R. 3077 can
>> >found at:
>> >http://edworkforce.house.gov/markups/108th/sed/hr3077/917main.htm .
>> >on the link that says "Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute" which
>> >download an Adobe Acrobat pdf file. This amended H.R. 3077 has been
>> >to the full committee, which met on Thursday, September 25 at 11:00 AM
>> >discuss the resolution before sending it to the House of
>> >
>> >Just in case you think that I have lost my marbles or that I am
>> >over-reacting, the Higher Education and National Affairs newsletter,
>> >published by the American Council on Education, and available
>> >athttp://www.acenet.edu/hena/ includes the following comments on H.R.
>> >(page 1, continued on page 4):
>> >"House Republicans intend for H.R. 3077 to build on existing
>> >international and foreign language studies Title VI programs, adding
>> >many in the higher education community believe is unnecessary federal
>> >oversight through a new International Education Advisory Board."
>> >international education programs were the focus of a House
>> >hearing in June, during which one witness testified to a strong
>> >"anti-American" bias in many college and university international
>> >departments which he claimed could possibly undermine American foreign
>> >policy. ACE presented opposing testimony (see
>> >http://www.acenet.edu/washington/international/Hartle.Testimony.pdf .
>>As a
>> >subcommittee press release asserted, this advisory body would be
>> >in consultation with homeland security agencies in order to "increase
>> >accountability by providing advice, counsel, and
>> >recommendations to Congress on international education issues for
>> >education." Higher education leaders oppose this board on the grounds
>> >the powers it is granted are so broad that they put institutions in
>> >of losing control over their own curricula, hiring practices, and
>> >aspects of their international programs."
>> >
>> >In short, it seems that the House of Representatives is about to
>> >regulate the courses and content that we, as future professors, will
>> >in colleges and universities. The possibility that someone in homeland
>> >security will instruct college professors (with Ph.D.s) on the proper,
>> >patriotic, "American-friendly" textbooks that may be used in class
>> >and outrages me. This morning, this was news to me. If this is new to
>> >and if you feel as equally scared and angered that the government may
>> >censure your future academic career, then I urge you to: 1) distribute
>> >this message to other professors and students in area studies; and
>> >2) write a handwritten letter (in ink) to your local
>> >congressmen and to John A. Boehner, Chairman of the Full Committee on
>> >Education and the Workforce at the following
>> >address:
>> >
>> >John A. Boehner
>> >1011 Longworth H.O.B.
>> >Washington, DC 20515
>> >
>> >Please refrain from emails and typewritten or computer printouts as
>> >are often ignored in Congress as being mass-produced by
>> >special-interest groups. Write in ink, in legible penmanship, and let
>> >voice be heard.
>> >
>> >Best,
>> >Michael Bednar
>> >Department of History
>> >The University of Texas at Austin
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Ravi Vasudevan
The Sarai Programme: City/Media/Public Domain

Senior Fellow
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
Delhi 110054

Tel: 2394-2199 x330
Fax: 2394-3450 

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