Decentering Area Studies

Author: R.J Ellis


This paper was first presented at a round-table discussion on the 'Future of Area Studies' held at Woburn House, London on 24 March 2004. This presentation was deliberately provocative and polemical, and more than a trace of these characteristics remain in this more developed version.

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Table of contents

Area Studies: the UK context

Following the Quality Assurance Agency's (QAA) publication of the Area Studies Benchmark (2002), the establish ment of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Subject Centre for LanguagesLinguistics and Area Studies in 2000 and the setting-up of Area Studies in 2004 as one of the main panels for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), ' Area Studies' has established itself as never before as a label commanding a general understanding in UK Higher Education. Where, a decade ago, relatively few Area Studies practitioners in the UK would have identified themselves as such, many now do. 1 [footnote 1] As a consequence, some impetus has developed behind thinking about what kinds of generic teaching and learning issues exist for the wide spectrum of Area Studies programs found in the UK, ranging from Anglophone Area Studies through Modern (Old') European Studies to Lesser Taught Area Studies (an increasingly used, if clumsy label).

And this thinking has born fruit. It is now well-accepted that Area Studies is characteristically a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary endeavor. And Area Studies is increasingly recognising and addressing issues to do with how it structures this defining approach within its teaching/learning practice. How and when does it introduce students to an interdisciplinary approach? How and when does it ground students in its constituent disciplines? How does a multi-disciplinary approach interface with an interdisciplinary approach? And how, whilst such issues of phasing need constant attention, the interdisciplinary endeavour, to succeed, requires both early introduction into the three-year degree curriculum and careful management, for example by introducing certain key portable concepts, ones that can move between disciplines, so serving as (I call them) interdisciplines (such as attention to and analyses of discourse and power, hybridity, transculturation and contact zones, and interculturality).

As a consequence, the Area Studies community (consisting of over twenty Area Studies Associations) has started to gather together increasingly often (for example, in order to establish the UK Council of Area Studies Associations, or UKCASA, in 2004). But in such meetings another generic issue has repeatedly emerged: a sense of beleagueredness concerning Area Studies recruitment, funding cutbacks and course closures. This may at first seem strange, given the emergence in the early twenty-first century of some degree of government urgency concerning the need for the UK to preserve viable bodies of scholars engaged in the study of different areas of the globe. As in the infamous 1990s Angela Carter' anecdote in English, when dons were apocryphally depicted as lamenting the fact' that there were more doctoral students studying Angela Carter than the whole of the eighteenth century, government education ministers during 2003/4 were allegedly heard lamenting the near-total absence of Balkan Studies provision in UK Higher Education. As a consequence, rumours began to abound in 2003/2004 that Area Studies may succeed (or join) Languages as a site of special educational interest, demanding some kind of funding initiative to support its adequate retention (preservation) within the UK. It seems possible that the government is heeding the argument that Area Studies (especially lesser-taught Area Studies), since they are often situated in small departments or sub-sections of departments or schools, are particularly vulnerable to cutbacks in a time of tight budgets, not least because their interdisciplinary predilections are relatively expensive to sustain.

Does this government interest indicate a corner being turned? If it does (and this if' is a big one) then there is a certain irony in this, since it would mean that, just at the moment that Area Studies are gaining some sort of meaningful support, the intellectual foundations embedded in the term Area Studies' are being increasingly confronted by what might be called the transnational (or, even, postnational) turn. The very concept of Area' is becoming increasingly contested, as the idea of roots' is more and more often superseded by attention to routes', in an ever more globalizing world of flows and exchanges, dominated by erosions of clarity concerning the relationship between space and place. As Ulrich Beck reminds us, globalization means above all de nationalization' (Beck, 2000: 14).

Movements and crossings

In this shift of emphasis, focus falls increasingly upon movement and crossings. In American Studies, for example, growing attention is being given to various types of circulation, as in Atlantic Studies', or to movement and migration, as in Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera: the New Mestiza . Thus Borderlands is dedicated To you who walked with me upon my path / to you who brushed past me at crossroads'. Indeed, the book opens with Anzaldúa standing on the edge where earth touches ocean', and explores, celebrates and warns of the dangers of such movement: a border culture in a constant state of transition The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live there those who cross over, pass over or go through the confines of the normal transgressors, aliens' (Anzaldúa, 1986: 3). At stake in these developments are issues of space and spatialization the way space is conceptualized, and acculturated as space. Static understandings of nation state are under stress.

We probably ought to remain wary of the term postnational. Quite plainly, national borders have not yet, by any means, dissolved. Nevertheless, confidence in nation-based definitions is being dislocated and an intellectual reassessment is becoming essential. In American Studies, for example, the transatlantic, the circumatlantic and the cisatlantic on one seaboard and Pacific Rim paradigms on the other offer modes of understanding and theorizing flows which provide crucial ways of rethinking place and its relationship to space. This helps open up the possibility of better identifying globalizing forces that exist not only as part of the most visible top-down' ones fostered by international, multi-national corporate capitalism and its inter-governmental and NGO free market supports (GATT, GATS, etc.), but also other, more intangible, bottom-up ones.

This latter possibility is perfectly apparent in Anthony Giddens' definition of globalization as acting and living (together) over distances, across the apparently separate worlds of national states, regions and continents (Giddens, 1994). This acting and living together obviously involves technology, commodities and markets, but it also can involve information, ecologies, migrations, dissent, resistance. The emphasis falls firmly upon processes . Area Studies, faced with such transnational and globalising pressures, needs to confront, and perhaps deconstruct globalisation. It needs to identify how globalisation is not just a question of the erosion of national or regional borders in processes of inter-governmental or corporate co-option. Globalisation is also a question of resistance to and interrogation of such processes. Perhaps it would be worthwhile seeking to reformulate the term glocalisation, coined by SONY to define the process of corporate thinking globally and acting locally' to develop markets. Perhaps we could think of inverse glocalisation , a question of coordinating and joining up globally more-or-less local resistances the collaborative interaction of local trans-global communities in activities coordinated globally, exercised locally.

Ulrich Beck promotes this idea when discussing his formulation, globalization from below ' a formulation taken up by Elisabeth Gerle when contrasting globalization from below' to globalization from above' (Beck, 2000: 68 and passim; Gerle, 1995: 30 and passim; Gerle, 2000:158-71). Globalization from above' can be roughly equated here with what Ulrich Beck defines as globalism', which represents globalization in terms of economic processes enshrined in the precepts of the free-market (as understood by neo-liberals, first and foremost), producing a world market whose power is superseding political action, whether national or inter national (Beck, 2000: 9ff.). By contrast, globalization from below' subsists in opposition to and alternatives to these economic processes and their consequences.

Gerle's formulation usefully emphasizes the idea that globalization is not just a question of processes of global capital and its movement, but also of patterns of resistance to this alternative processes also routed across borders and contesting their significance. As David Ludden points out, Gerle's formulation, participat[ion] in global discourses', might now well occur from all world regions' (Ludden, 2000: 11). At such a moment, inevitably, all Area Studies' come to need to reassess themselves, their reach, their range of reference and their ability to accommodate the global, even if it is perhaps by now evident that, stubbornly, the concept of the nation state will not implode imminently under globalizing pressures. Gerle's formulation may be perhaps slightly utopian: national pride' that powerful investment Western culture in particular has in the idea of nation', and which, for example, impedes the development of the European Economic Community shows little sign of losing its grip. But it is simply not the case that the sheer power of multinational corporate growth constitutes the whole world story.

So, though any understanding of the world and the increasingly contested place of nation states within it will not remain the same because of a stubborn popular adherence to nationality, perhaps the idea of globalisation from above/below requires some rearticulation. It might be useful to develop a formulation that allows for some greater retention of place, yet recognises that globalisation from without the movements of transnational capital within world corporations, is accompanied by patterns of more or less coordinated response and resistance from within the communal structures crossed by international exchange that is to say, those responding and resisting globalising from within the nation or region by entering into transnational negotiations, alliances, groupings redefining nation, region and, of course, area'. Historically such movements as the Nation of Islam, anti-slavery, temperance, fundamentalism, women's suffrage and evangelical movements can be thought of in these terms, as can more recent manifestations, such as ecological campaigns. Such movements as these cannot buy their way into globalism's processes (the globalisation from without of the billion dollar multinationals), but this does not mean that alternative campaigners must somehow remain trapped within the old parameters of the nation state and nationality. Movements against GATT or anti-war protests have operated in a clearly transnational way, as what might be described as bottom up' reverse glocalisations, initiated from well within the various nations of the world but moving without them. As can be seen, such globalisation from within often (usually) tends to be shifting and provisional (see Ellis 2001). Area Studies is perhaps particularly well situated to explore these sort of tense interchanges from below as well as above, from within as well as without.

Reassessing American Studies

In American Studies this necessary process of reassessment has been under way for some time. American Studies is consequently both internationalizing itself and recognizing its own necessarily trans- national make-up. John Carlos Rowe calls this a process of reconceiving American Studies' as a study of borders. On the one hand it is a comparativist study of many different border zones such as the Pacific Rim and the African and European Atlantics' and on the other a study of the internal social relations of whatever geopolitical units define themselves as nation, state, region, community or group' border studies of the intersections and interactions of the different cultures of the United States' (Rowe, 2002: xi-xv, 52). It is of course also a process of reconceiving something in between these two comparativist approaches and of something beyond them something accommodating Indian American Studies, Russian American Studies, Iraqi American Studies et cetera . And here I need to note two things: firstly, of course, that very different and contingent versions of American Studies emerge; and secondly that my et cetera must plainly also include Mexican American Studies, Cuban American Studies, Brazilian American Studies, El Salvadorean American Studies raising the question of what these hemispheric American American Studies are likely to be, how they are likely to be focussed.

It is worth noticing that much of this reconsideration implicates other Area Studies. An increasing stress on the Atlantic as a site of flows and exchanges cannot pass without impacting upon the various European Area Studies. In the same way American Studies' growing stress on the Pacific Rim impacts obviously upon Australasian Studies, South East Asian Studies, Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies (and vice versa). Less obviously, perhaps, it impacts upon European Studies, since the likely world dominance, in economic terms, of the Pacific Rim for the next several decades fundamentally shifts the economic balance away from the old European West'.

What is opening up, I argue, is a space for different types of understanding of Area and, in tandem with this, an opening up of what constitutes studying an Area. For example: what could constitute a European Studies curriculum that articulated itself not around a stable understanding of the term demonstrably a difficult thing to achieve when the European Union is growing rapidly, and (more trivially, but still symbolically) as Israel wins the Eurovision song contest whilst the Lebanon cannot compete? Perhaps European studies can now be structured around a series of glocal tropes:

  • Atlantean myths and Black Athena ancient and modern
  • Trading powers and colonial endeavors: passages to India: golden triangles; silk roads
  • Arctic climatology: ozone holes; melting ice; fishing fields
  • A history of Israel/Palestine
  • African, Asian and Romany diasporas
  • GATT and GATS
  • Europe's Pacific Rims

This core curriculum is not offered without part of my tongue being firmly in some of my cheek. (Though I hope it is also evident that some thought has gone into listing this decentered core' curriculum, drawing as it does upon geography, politics, history, international relations, cultural and media studies, post-colonial studies, literature). But what I am trying to do is suggest how Area Studies might need to consider how they can (and need to) decenter themselves along a number of axis.

My argument is that, presently, it is quite simple for Area Studies' curricula to become fustian. Isn't it possible, let me suggest, that the widespread recruitment problems being experienced by UK Area Studies programmes could be connected to this? I am mindful here of the way that, where they have been established, MA programmes considering globalisation topics have recruited healthily where Area Studies MAs have increasingly struggled. Perhaps we are in the dangerous and embarrassing position of not catering sufficiently to our students' interests.

So let me suggest something else: though, psephologists tell us, young British adults are voting much less often in Area elections' (as I'll label them) local, regional, national or European is it possible that they would vote in greater numbers in the US presidential election if it were allowed? And would they be wrong to make that choice? Given the existence of the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, GATT and GATS, isn't it at least arguable that the US President's decisions on how to deploy the US military or whether to sign up to the Tokyo agreement is likely to have a more important effect on their lives than any decision taken in Brussels?

A new approach to Area Studies

If there were any merit at all in such wild speculations, then, I argue, a new approach to Area Studies, informed much more fundamentally by contact, hybridity, exchange, flow, migration, process , would become necessary. My twenty-first century Area Study would be not only more frequently comparative, it would be comparativist to its core. The world would need to be its constant other referent, be it in terms of economics, resources, population or culture.

Perhaps, even, some indicative relabelling is called for? Maybe I'm bound at this point to make this suggestion, coming from my own particular academic location: a large University English section. I am an Americanist, and consequently at present I am compelled (like all Americanists) to consider the problems inhering in the term American Studies (to which point I will return). But in my more speculative moments, I have unavoidably reflected upon the much larger problems facing academics in English. English? English what? In what way do these UK academics (thousands of them) teach English'? I've asked some of them, and have been answered, in the patrician terms I have come to know and love over the years, that yes, of course, there were problems in calling English, English, but that these had been thrashed out, oh, back in the seventies and eighties and English had come through all this with a new awareness of its plurality. Or, rather, pluralities.

This of course does not explain at all why English still retains the invisible imperialistic assumptions packaged in the term it still uses to describe itself. Goodness only knows where the Celtic fringes' (delightful term) figure in all this. It's a labelling problem that is particularly severe for English, but it also exists, en France, for French (Français), in Deutschland, for German (Deutsch), and en Italie, for Italian (Italien), etc. In each case these nineteenth century colonial powers have taken for granted that an integral completeness somehow inheres in the study of their language and literature (as one hallmark of civility), that can magically make over an adjective (French something) into a singular noun (French). I am bound to say I read this as an exemplary assumption of an essentialist phallic integrity, a dream of lost cultural potency, a labeling telling us about something of which its practitioners should be ashamed.

By contrast, for all of its neo-imperialist adventures, United States academics do not teach American', they teach (the significantly plural ) American Studies'. The fact that English is an Area Study, too albeit, as taught at present, a culture-bound one (and still, mostly, a high-culture-bound one) remains hidden. English literary culture and its supports and ramifications are, somehow, instead, supposed to make English' sufficient unto itself, and no sense of English as an Area Study need exist. And so for French, Italian, German. No, in thunder,' I have to say, faced with these monolithic presumptions. These studies should not be permitted to set aside so easily the interdisciplinary interconnectedness of social and cultural milieux and their inextricable interweave that (so often silently) informs them: literary, cultural, social, historical, economic, political, geographical. They should not be allowed to draw unreflectively upon discourse's power to effect that which it names (Butler, 1993: 2)

This is not to say that engagement with textualities cannot remain at the core of any reconceived, decentred Area Study. It could; it can: after all, I have been speaking for some time, on one level, of the discursive (textual) production of the nation' within England's, (and France's, and Germany's) educational formations. What I am saying is that it is not, nor can it remain if it ever was an uninterrogated integer.

However, simply rechristening, say, French as French Studies does not bring an end to the affair. Which brings me back to American Studies and problems with this term problems aplenty. Unease with the label American Studies has been endemic. African Americans have always been uneasy with it, especially in the late sixties and seventies, when America became for many Amerika, and by implication (at least) what they were undertaking in their critiques was Amerikan Studies. Just as endemic has been unease in the rest of the Americas with the USA's appropriation of the term, America an unease emerging for a very long time as in José Martí's essay, Our America', as long ago as 1891 and in Felipe Fernandez-Arnesto's twenty-first century insistence upon viewing America as a hemisphere and the USA as part of the Americas (Martí, 1891; Fernandez-Arnesto, 2003). An alternative, relatively conservative relabelling is US American Studies, or, more militantly and ingeniously, USAmerican Studies' (Schueller, 1998). To dramatise this cluster of dilemmas, Houston A. Baker chose the label AMERICAN Studies' the capitalisation seeking to convey the in-your-face hegemonic dominance carried in the term American Studies (Baker, 1984). More radical rechristenings include US Border Studies (the Transatlantic, the Pacific Rim; the Americas ) and Comparative American Studies (Rowe, 2002: xi-xv, 52; Lauter, 1990). Perhaps in a way, this plethora of possible alternative labels suggest we are moving into some kind of Post-American Studies' academic landscape, in the sense that the term American Studies now barely works, its grand narrative projects having been laid all too bare. But I fear post-' is now fatally compromised as a suffix (especially given its rough ride in some of the worst excesses of postmodern theorization). It just doesn't, and perhaps now just cannot perform the required cultural work. In a recent issue of Comparative American Studies , Susan Gillman, Kristen Silva Greusz and Rob Wilson react strongly against the use of the term post' in seeking to reformulate the label American Studies' [footnote 2]. (Their preferred term is Worlded American Studies'. See Gillman et. al., 2004: 259ff.) But at least simply formulating only to reject the term Post-American Studies is some recognition of the problem in the name American Studies.

What I do not know is if any comparable reassessment is happening in other Area Studies. Is what is happening in American Studies symptomatic at all? Are there any general problems with the naming of other Area Studies , for example? [footnote 3] I think there has to be. I must immediately note that the label American', applied to U.S. Studies, creates particularly blatant problems of a particular, hemispheric kind, to which, arguably, other Area Studies are less vulnerable. But, nevertheless, each and every naming of an Area' of study implies a centredness and stability that simply cannot now pertain with much coherence.

Yet, having said this, I suspect that what will emerge will be a general reluctance to relabel justifiably so, since relabelling can lead to a cat's cradle of difficulties. For example, when in the 1970s and 1980s there was some debate about the use of the term English', a few brave groups of academics did try to promote the alternative term, British Studies'. But the label just did not appeal to students: applications to such courses were low, and its use died away quite quickly.

Issues of recruitment are of course compelling in these times, when profit and loss columns have become increasingly detailed and important in HE. If retitlings are to occur, these must be judiciously done. And there are some indications that students are interested in the worlded' dimensions of higher education study. I know of two MAs that placed globalisation' in their titles and secured, consequently and immediately, very large intakes.

I suppose also I must admit that I cannot readily think of how such (re-)titlings can carry across into Area Studies and myself half-believe that such (re-)titlings simply will not work out well. I return to the idea, a little lamely, that just undertaking the exercise of thinking about how an individual Area Study could be renamed is worth the intellectual effort, since it would dramatise the sort of issues I am trying to raise. Thinking through how a re-titling might occur could profitably help focus minds upon how an Area Study might be reconceived and reformulated in these global times. And this train of thought might then lead on to thinking about presenting individual degree programs differently and more appealingly, perhaps by focussing upon issues of decentering, pluralisation, movement and the transnational.

Then attention would need to fall upon the way this new focus is presented (if not in an actual degree programme re-titling). Attention to module titles (especially core module titles) might pay off. The title Body Counts', given to a cultural and media studies module at my University, led to huge recruitment quite deservedly, as it was an inspired label. Perhaps, then, inspired module labelling could help Area Studies reposition itself. But such measures would need to be carefully matched by what appears in external publicity particularly in prospectuses and above all on websites (both of which, I have to say, too often seem to assume that saying, in sum, little more than This course studies [name of the area]' will be in itself sufficient to attract students. Maybe we overlook how well-travelled most incoming students are likely to be.

Practical issues in the teaching and learning of Area Studies

There are some practical consequences to this. And here I will, as an example, take what seems to me one key issue the placement of students abroad. Broadly, Area Studies tutors see placement abroad as desirable (and some see it as essential). But the evidence concerning its importance when marketing (for want of a better term) Areas Studies is becoming increasingly mixed. There is little doubt, I think, that students are attracted in principle to the idea of going abroad as part of their studies. Even the students I teach on a Single Honours English degree were interested in significant numbers in going abroad. However it is also plain that cash-strapped students are increasingly interested in earning money to see themselves through University without running up huge debts. Perhaps, again, some lateral thinking is needed. Perhaps we need to rethink how contact with abroad' can be effected. Perhaps we also need to think through exactly what we are trying to achieve by encouraging students to go abroad. Is it, for example, a lot to do with encouraging the students to develop intercultural competencies? Or is it mostly about language acquisition? Or something in between or other?

If it is the latter, how much should this be the case? What level of linguistic attainment is sought? What level can, practically, be attained? How off-putting might this process be? How essential is it? How often, now, do the Areas concerned possess large numbers of second language English speakers often highly mobile ones? What is the implication of the existence of these? Is it important, for example, that in many large Chinese corporations, the rule is that only English is spoken inside their organisations? Or that many European Universities increasingly deliver a significant range of their courses in English?

Answering these questions thoughtfully and thoroughly might lead on to other questions. One question to pose, perhaps, is why abroad at all?' Is it feasible, for example, to draw upon the increasingly large number of diasporas in the UK? Can modules be devised which enable Area Studies students to develop intercultural awareness and advance their studies drawing on these diasporas perhaps by talking to them in English, but perhaps not. At the University of Glasgow, to take an example, Alison Phipps' snappily-titled Teaching Rubbish' course on a German single honours degree draws on the presence of appreciable numbers of German tourists by interviewing them (in German) and then Glaswegians (in Scottish) to determine the cultural differences in the attitude to rubbish of Germans and Scots. The students are first provided with some ethnographic theory and training, and are asked to acquire some intercultural competence, before being so unleashed on the tourists. Can such lateral thinking as this provide a way around the issue of placement and its perceived centrality versus the issue of what students think they can afford? And, if Teaching Rubbish' provides an indication of a viable path to explore, can the necessary ethnographic and intercultural training be rendered more economical by being made available as a generic module across a range of Area Studies courses in an institution. And could such a module's availability be extended to include other types of degree (tourism? business studies? etc.).

And how should such Teaching Rubbish' (or alternatives Hygiene Hiccup' or Apparel Anathema') modules be delivered? Should they be project-based, use group work, employ reflective diaries or logs, etc? Should they emphasise independence, feature independent learning, rely on distance learning supports, incorporate performance'?

And perhaps also the rapid growth in the use of virtual learning portals, webCT work and chat rooms (all, ideally, built into the assessment package) is leading to the possibility for Area Studies to reconsider how they can best deliver their (inevitably) ambitious objectives. The Area Studies community needs to track/monitor such change.

Finally, in this regard, and more than incidentally, how seriously, anyway, do Area Studies take the issue of preparing students for placements? Languages, in their QAA round, saw preparing students for exchanges steadily emerge as a recurrent issue one that was flagged up for attention in the future. Foreseeably, this issue will spill across into future QAA assessment of Area Studies during institutional audits. Perhaps a fundamental reassessment of how exchanges/placements are conceived of and arranged is overdue. Perhaps the emphasis needs to shift onto intercultural skill acquisition?

Conclusion: decentering Area Studies

The consequence of these types of reconsideration, all of them more-or-less decentering Area Studies, is, I believe, that it makes freshly important for all Area Studies practitioners to begin to conceive of themselves holistically, as a community, and not just as working in a set of individual area studies paying little heed to one another. We need, I believe, to draw on each other for ideas and inspiration in order to come up with ways of making Area Studies seem more relevant, more exciting, and more clearly providing a foundation for our students' future lives. Area Studies, particularly in its core provision, perhaps needs to be slightly less transfixed by area-specific content issues, difficult though these issues always are, and become slightly more alert to what goes into the core in terms of intellectual structure, processes and assumptions. What interdisciplinary methods are taught when, and how? How should ethnography figure? How are intercultural awarenesses and skills developed? What are the debates framing these questions and how should they be resolved? Possible forums for thinking of these issues as a community exist, namely the LTSN Subject Centre in Language, Linguistics and Area Studies and UKCASA. Let's make full use of them.


1. Area Studies still perhaps carries rather different connotations for different constituencies. For example, in Modern European (or Old European') Language Departments, Area Studies' generally referred chiefly to History and the Social Sciences (geography, politics, international relations & c.), included in the curriculum as a complements to the main' field of study, the acquisition of fluency in the Language itself. This latter process of Language acquisition was probably reinforced by study of the literature (seen as helping develop language fluency as well as being valued in its own right) and sometimes more recently very often accompanied by media and cultural studies examining popular forms like cinema, journalism, advertising & c. So Area Studies' referred, as it were, to a side-salad to the main business: study of the Language, and, as adjuncts to this, some study of the literature (and the culture). More recently, cultural studies in Modern Language departments have often also embraced the study of material culture, and in this process the sense of some kind of division between Area Studies' and literary and media studies' (where it existed) has begun to erode. At this point, how Modern European Languages define what they do becomes more-or-less identical to how non-anglophone Studies like Japanese, Middle Eastern Studies or Indian Studies conceive of themselves and these Studies have always more-or-less regarded themselves as Areas Studies. This is also (once again, more-or-less) largely how predominantly anglophone Area Studies like US American Studies or Australian Studies have conceived of themselves. Consequently, where, ten years ago, it was improbable that a lecturer in a French department, a lecturer in a Middle Eastern Studies department and a lecturer in an American Studies department would all have agreed together that they were Area Studies practitioners, now (in 2004) they quite probably would. This is not to say that pockets of resistance do not still exist. Within the last two years a lecturer at SOAS denied that SOAS taught Area Studies, except in a few tiny pockets of its activity (most SOAS lecturers do not share this view, I must also add).

2. The whole of volume 2 number 3 of Comparative American Studies is given over to considering some of the dimensions of worlding American Studies, and what the implications are, in ways that constantly, to my mind, raise generic issues for Area Studies more generally.

3. Of course, it is not only within Area Studies that these issues are being debated. See for example, Gibson-Graham and Gibson-Graham (2004). Their analysis emanates primarily from a geographical base (though Katherine Gibson-Graham is based in an area studies research school (Gibson-Graham, 2004: 405).


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