The University as Finishing School for the New Imperialists?

“As scholars, we must work harder to illuminate the complex interconnections and complicities between them [that constitute contemporary imperialism], and bring those findings to the broadest possible public. And it is that very complexity that commands us to speak and write clearly and with all the specificity and evidence we can muster. If we do not, then the American [and Canadian] academy, that most sovereign of institutions, will have to admit that it has become nothing more and nothing less than a finishing school for new imperialists.” (Connelly, 2006, p. 33)

Matthew Connelly. (2006). The New Imperialists. In C. Calhoun, F. Cooper, & K. W. Moore (Eds.), Lessons of Empire: Imperial Histories and American Power (pp. 19-33). New York: The New Press.

3 thoughts on “The University as Finishing School for the New Imperialists?

  1. Thanks, Max, I like the ideals reflected by this quote. But I wonder how one is supposed to make all of that happen from within the university, when tenure in their field includes government or corporate sponsorship as a de facto requirement.

    Also, I note that the quote says ‘ has become nothing more than’ making me wonder: for how long, and when, was the university something besides a finishing school for imperialists? And if it ever was so so, how did it so thoroughly lose that identity?

  2. Excellent questions, Chris. The sponsorship issue–if we are speaking of a publicly funded grant (not the corporate sponsorship)–allows for more flexible processes and outcomes than might be apparent at first. In fact many academics in the social sciences and humanities will fight very hard against corporatization, while seeking to enhance the public funding, because they understand the differences in the expectations between the two.

    When was the university something other than a finishing school for imperialists? Again, great question. If we look into this further, the results won’t look too happy for Connelly. I think he is taking a relatively brief intermission–late 1960s to late 1980s–as a defining feature of the role and nature of the university. I wish it were true, but without at least articulating views like he has, we won’t even begin to feel compelled to make that intermission into something that lasts.

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