Politics of International American Studies"
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Irving Louis Horowitz on the responsibilities of American academics abroad:
[O]ne who is staying in the host country with many expenses paid by the Fulbright award should have a sense of modesty, without any presumption of problem-solving in any large-scale sense for other peoples or nations. Politics is a risky business, and when one remembers the modest degree of involvement at home, one should then also take into account the similar, if not greater difficulties involved for scholars of other nations with respect to their own countries. The arrogance of power is matched only by the conceit of those who are in fact powerless.
Hideo Kawabuchi on the 1982 visit to Japan of his US mentor, William Foote Whyte:
His repeated words that the United States needs to learn from Japan surprised the participants of the JHRA [Japan Human Relations Association]. I told him it was he who taught me HR [Human Relations] philosophy; 6,000 Japanese students learned updated theories and practices for the past thirty years under GARIOA [Government Appropriation for Relief in Occupied Areas [the predecessor to Fulbright, funded by the US Army]) and Fulbright exchange student programs. The economic reconstruction of Japan achieved after World War II is mainly due to US assistance and encouragement.
Sigmund Skard on how American studies became international:
If, in the 1980s, the various fields of American studies are as solidly entrenched in the educational system of Norway as anywhere else in Europe, and now almost exclusively taught by Norwegian scholars, this is in no small way due to the Fulbright arrangement.
Shigemitsu Kuriyama on the effects of US academic exchanges:
[V]irtually all [postwar GARIOA and Fulbright grantees] returned to Japan with a deep feeling of On [moral indebtedness] toward the US people. In the decades that have elapsed, some have occupied key government posts, others top business positions, and still others influential education posts. These grant recipients, with few exceptions, have favorably influenced Japanese public opinion toward the United States to an extent disproportionately great to their limited number. For they not only held leading positions, but knew the United States well, and were sentimentally oriented toward friendship with the United States. . . . In the course of my year of study [in the US on a GARIOA grant], I became totally convinced that Japan should ally itself with the United States, and I have remained in this conviction to this date.
from The Fulbright Experience (1987)1
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Some of the oldest, most treasured representations of the United States were crafted by non-Americans, and discussions of topics such as diplomacy, slavery, immigration or the frontier have been consistently cross-cultural. Students are likely to find their first answer to the question, "What is an American?" in Letters from an American Farmer by the European, J. Hector St. John Crèvecoeur. But students and teachers are also apt to move quickly from early travelers' accounts to the observations of US citizens who have dominated publications about the nation since the Mid-nineteenth Century. Although North American authors and publishers account for the great bulk of relevant modern scholarship, even new classics have international debts. For example, Habits of the Heart by Robert Bellah et al. explicitly builds on the insights of the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville. Given this legacy it is only reasonable that people who make understanding the United States their business would turn to the wider world for intellectual trade. This essay like the testimony that precedes it is an examination of some implications of that turn. Since the testimony and classic texts appeal to contradictory principles and possibilities, I will stress both the promise of global American studies and the circumstances and organization of its implementation. I argue that those principles and possibilities ought to be recast in light of experience.2
American studies outside the US was basically institutionalized after World War II. In one way or another nearly all arrangements for individual or university-to-university exchange were made with the support of agencies of -- within, delegated, or funded by -- the US government. This is but one reason that speaking of the politics of international American studies and its status as an export makes some sense. The impulse to internationalize has been evident not only in academic/governmental institutions but also in defenses of them that border on clichés. For example, there are now a host of published reminiscences that boast of embracing "the other," gaining real objectivity, proving the virtues of freedom of expression, and building world peace in "my year abroad." Even if less in print than in backroom lore, there have also been abundant, cliché-ridden attacks on the very same ventures as Pentagon propaganda and cultural imperialism.3
The main protagonists I have in mind are US academic Americanists, their sponsors, and their associates abroad. These are the individuals and groups whose impulses I aim to critique. And I aim to do so as pointedly as one might conventional subjects such as pastoralism or Robber Barons of yore. Generally scholars have not focused such crisp attention on their own turbo-professoriate. Reasons are not hard to find. Self-criticism never comes easily, and by academic standards it is too close to home to count as "real work." Moreover, the precedents of Crèvecoeur and Tocqueville are always on hand to lend the whole business a noble aura. But more immediate personal and political concerns are also evident.
For US scholars teaching or study abroad is generally experienced as a kind of gift, hospitality from foreign hosts. Even if you find those hosts rude, they at least tolerate your presence, and expressions of gratitude will be expected. It is utterly taboo to broadcast the sort of complaining that is routine in expatriate dinner conversation, much less to make it the subject of published analysis. Such analysis also risks rhetorical self-destruction. Experienced internationalists who fault the institutions that brought that experience discount their own qualifications: "Listen to me -- my authority was certified by a defective system." They also risk insulting the intelligence of their audience: "If you believe me, you are hypocrites, frauds, or suckers." So, for US scholars to be polite, claim authority and credit their audience, they have little choice but to celebrate internationalism. Even light-hearted admissions of bumbling (e.g., "I just fell into this Fulbright," or "Gosh, I've done some foolish things over here") are endearing only if you presume that the bumbler's distinction originated in meritocracy, that he or she is not by nature an opportunistic clod. Through such niceties, exchange institutions are beyond question.
For scholars from outside the US this tendency is natural, as well. They, too, have a stake in portraying the exchange system as a highly principled meritocracy. This imperative may be particularly intense in the many parts of the globe where people confuse the United States Information Agency/Service (USIA/USIS, "U-sis" or "Useless" as it is often known in Washington) with more aggressive outfits toting "IA" acronyms, such as CIA or AID. Lauding the integrity of the system, its stance "above politics," may be essential in asserting both scholarly independence and patriotism. Any hint that you got a grant for a conference or for research in the US because of good contacts in the embassy suggests that you may be a lackey for an alien power. Furthermore, if you do not like the system, those embassy staff will be happy to fund someone else. To maintain local, under-staffed curriculum, it may be necessary (simply "good politics") to portray your Fulbright professor from the US as a gift from heaven, even if you think of him or her as a compromise with the devil.4
These are among the reasons I have expected and encountered a good deal of resistance to discussion of the politics of international American studies. The resistance is there for perfectly understandable personal, rhetorical, and political reasons. But following recent reflexive tendencies in academia more generally, I have chosen to persist. Despite the cautions of Irving Horowitz, I will critically engage the convoluted political discourse and practice of internationalizing my field. Of course, I hope that my criticism is not taken as a sign of arrogance, ethnocentrism, or ingratitude. Rather, I hope (in an all too predictably "American" way) that flouting formalities will be taken as a sign of respect. I assume that you can accept or reject my interpretation, whatever you think of me or the apparatus that helped put these words into print. In light of ample experience and stability of existing institutions, we might be secure enough in our "powerlessness" to be critical. I think it is now appropriate to challenge the means and ends of the substantial time and money that have been invested in American studies around the globe.
By "American studies" I mean formal, academic activity for research and instruction about the US. I will use the words "foreign" and "abroad" relative to the US. A model might be the American Fulbrighter assigned to teach American studies abroad or USIS sponsorship of a conference organized by a foreign American studies association or university.5
Applications for and evaluations of such activities often appeal to very particular opportunities, talents, places, and moments, and the contexts of their expression -- published proceedings, Fulbright reports, reminiscences, and face-to-face confidences -- also occasion great variety. There is no self-evident, single, coherently developed rationale, no easy way to see how well the activities measure up to their promise. But three sorts of promise occur often enough to be considered fundamental. They are worth distinguishing, not because they are normally considered competitors, but because I think they ought to be. Most internationalists unselfconsciously move from one justification to another as if they were thoroughly compatible. I distinguish them, then, because I think they are not. Considered separately, each of the three implies a somewhat different version of the politics of exchange, especially how it ought to be practiced and judged more or less effective.6
The first sort of rationale centers on the improvement of scholarship. The goal is to develop human and material resources for the cumulation of knowledge about the world, a world of which the United States is an important part. In the case of American studies, the profane alternative to internationalizing is acceptance of American parochialism.7 The globe simply has a larger pool of talent from which to draw than one citizenry. Foreigners, the argument goes, are better able to identify and challenge covert culture than natives. They often find sources and have linguistic abilities that are unmatched in the US. For example, motives to emigrate to the US are often documented in dialect that migrants long ago forgot but that oversees descendants can readily grasp. Furthermore, only through internationalizing the field will claims that anything is uniquely "American" ever be given a proper test. Exchange invites such comparisons beginning with personal experience of culture shock. If all else fails, time abroad at least encourages the development of individual scholars by offering a dramatic change in scenery.
Given this rationale, just about any means of exchange might suffice. But given its emphases, exchange is likely to be more rewarding to the degree that it is decidedly foreign, flexible, and informal. Cross-cultural communication is supposed to be a naturally beneficial alchemy, "above politics" or other pre-defined interests that might stand between scholars and insights. What is supposed to drive the cumulation of knowledge is not objectives but occasions for surprise. An ideal might be serendipity by which scholars from faraway lands happen to meet, swap jobs, homes and all for a year without any specific agenda. The exchange would be better if between an American and someone from a place distinctly "other," such as a non-Western fiefdom rather than Toronto or Ghent. Strict balance in intellectual trade may be desirable, but insofar as the US is a distinctly potent chunk of the world, especially compared to exotic "others," Americanists need not join in "Others studies" to gain. Nor ought they set out to shape alien versions of American studies, since those others can be presumed to develop it best in their own surprising way. In fact, future scholarly gains may require maintaining such estranged retreats, the intellectual equivalent of wildlife preserves. The promise of better scholarship implies that Americanists benefit by absorbing developments which exchanges automatically, naturally and necessarily facilitate when they are "free."
A second sort of rationale centers on the liberal development of global understanding. Past hostilities are considered the result of misunderstandings bred in cultural isolation. Those who are relatively rich in intellectual resources no less than economic ones have an obligation to share their wealth. The goal, then, is gradually to build the potential for dialogue, empathy, and peace through education across national/cultural divides. If sensitively arranged, international fields like American studies can be prophylactic. They can counter isolation and the misunderstanding and hostility it encourages. Exchanges hasten the emergence of a rich, convergent, cross-cultural consciousness.
This vision implies that exchanges will be more effective to the degree that they are diverse (reaching all sorts of people through all sorts of media), informal, and balanced. Serendipity might still be welcome. Governments, which are after all among the main instruments of nationalist as opposed to global consciousness, should be minimally involved. But at least in the early stages, some governmental involvement may be desirable to achieve a rough balance, virtual representation of potential combatants around the world. National governments should prime the pump and monitor the flow. In this way, global understanding accommodates a slightly more statist view of the evolution of cultures and a more favorable orientation toward planned intervention. Hence, the ideal might be carefully negotiated agreements between national organizations (e.g., the American Studies Associations of the US and Poland) to exchange resources and personnel with government help. It would only make sense to concentrate exchanges among countries where geopolitical misunderstandings are the most marked and perilous.
A third sort of rationale for global American studies centers on propagating correct images of the United States, building abroad a better, more flattering, complex or balanced picture of the nation. This is the most transparently political or imperialist justification for internationalizing the field, but the meaning of "correct" can be revised to serve diverse interests. In the conservative version of this rationale, correct images are distinguished by their positive content. They voice US strategic goals such as countering Third Reich, Soviet, Vietnamese or Iraqi propaganda or cultivating foreign markets. To correct is to flatter. But in the liberal version, more common to the professoriate, correct images are distinguished by their complex form. They show, for example, that the US is more diverse than Hollywood Westerns, Fourth-of-July bravado, United Fruit, and MTV would lead foreigners to believe. To correct is to balance or complicate.
Whether the end is content or form, flattery or complexity, both versions of this rationale imply that exchanges will be more effective to the extent that they are formal and one-way, well-organized (e.g., by strictly representative, goal-oriented bodies) to exploit whatever opportunities a dangerously competitive world actually provides. The ideal might be something like the Fulbright Program as it has been justified in Congress, an instrument of foreign relations as defined by (even if administratively separate from) the Department of State. Of course, since the 1960s, most academics would prefer not to be considered instruments of State. The view is more common to detractors, people who see global American studies as cultural imperialism and suspect that USIS dances to the tune of the CIA. Given the oppositional bent of university life in the US since McCarthy, outside of promotional literature or memoirs ("not real work") few academics would write as if they had anything to do with image management. Most would at least air-brush their own place in it. But in doing so, they accommodate the same story. Aiming to correct images of the US abroad, whether for form or content, the left or the right, implies a convergent orientation toward the state (e.g., as proper representative of the "culture" of residents) and the promise of purposeful intervention on its behalf.
The following chart is designed to highlight the differences implied in these three rationales:
Thematic Model of Politics of International American Studies
Each rationale employs a distinguishable rhetoric of justification and notion of representation and agency in decision making. Each in its way accounts for the emergence of cultural and/or national differences and makes more or less muscular assumptions about the proper role of education in affecting them. If nothing else, they range from optimistic to pessimistic in tenor. And all of these differences invite further analysis. But since these categories and implications are abstracted from a convoluted, subtle and dynamic discourse, it would be wise not to make too much of them. For example, I think they are helpful in understanding the conflicting testimony with which I began, reasons these commentators may talk past each other. Horowitz seems to be using something like my first rationale, and Kuriyama my third, while Kawabuchi and Skard mediate. But none of them is necessarily restricted to one model, much less, I assume, actually employing any one. The typology is only a heuristic device for creating room for discussion, a range of standards for evaluating the politics of international American studies. I will, then, stress the ways past experience has fit and failed to fit a more roughly conceived continuum from the relatively apolitical vision of the first of my threesome to the Realpolitik of the third. In this way I hope the discussion is somewhat fairer to the mix of rationales and circumstances which actually occur.
It is worth emphasizing that experience counsels significant faith in relatively "benign," apolitical interpretations of the exchange industry, interpretations following disinterested academic or liberal developmental lines. In fact, much foreign scholarship on the United States pre-dates the development of formal, coordinated governmental programs. After all, Crèvecoeur and Tocqueville did not have Fulbrights. Over two hundred German publications on the US appeared before 1900, more than a half-century before USIA.8 Cross-cultural work on the US was originally funded by patricians, missionaries, foreign universities, private foundations, and then various private relief commissions following World Wars I and II. With notable exceptions in China, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the armed forces and the US government got into the business quite reluctantly only about fifty years ago.9 Even today, most American universities foster a steady flow of exchange students and professors whose only connection to the government is through paperwork for USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and now part of the Department of Homeland Security) that is usually no more than a formality.10
Americanists outside the US can well boast of many achievements substantially independent of the US government. Maybe the most prominent example is expertise in English as a second language. Teaching ESL is now very much a part of global American studies, but commitments to it date from well before the Twentieth Century, when the US was hardly in a position to imagine global domination. As evidenced by the continuing popularity of British English, TESL cannot be considered an essentially American operation.11 Furthermore, in several countries the bulk of funds and staff for cultural exchange, even for Fulbright commissions in Finland, Spain and Germany, are supplied by representatives of their home countries. Some of the most prestigious teaching and research facilities for American studies (e.g., the American Studies Research Center in Hyderabad, the Salzburg Seminar, the Kennedy Institute) have long benefited from non-American funds and staff. They have produced a substantial number of books and courses essentially on their own. Their associates are now leading the scholarship on emigrant experience, the blending of national literatures and political ideologies, and the foreign reception of US popular arts. Here and there new agreements among scholars, publishers, and universities have been established on the initiative of and with resources of non-governmental agencies. Foreigners are increasingly well-represented and exercise independent clout in academic organizations in the US itself.12 Furthermore, even when the embassy has been a major player, one cannot discount ample testimony of personal and professional growth directly attributable, not to budget lines or bureaus, but to the generosity of particular hosts.
The results should encourage those who look to exchange mainly for its apolitical contribution to knowledge. As a result of intellectual trade, the standard for research about such basic questions as American identity has noticeably risen. Before surmising that anything is uniquely American, scholars must consult a strong, truly international literature. Moreover, they must recognize that many of the key concepts in American studies in the US appear themselves to have been imported from abroad. For example, the emphasis on culture and the treatment of it as unified, organic, and conceptual appears to have been taken from Germany. The romantic strain in classic American studies -- "myth-and-symbol" with its emphasis on cultural transcendence through great books -- owes much to British literary criticism. Thus even US promotion of US-style American studies outside the US can be seen as a return of ideas to native soil, a reintegration of international understanding rather than an introduction of peculiarly American designs.13
In all of these ways -- in its informality, dispersed authority, voluntarism, and independent achievement -- American studies around the globe cannot be considered the direct result of some Washington plot. Institutions and interests in the field overseas cannot in themselves be considered proof that the US government has achieved an imperialist design or that anyone has been devious or dumb. There are, however, a number of complicating, more transparently political experiences to consider.
From an organizational standpoint, the development of American studies around the world has been thoroughly political, not just in the sense that it was designed to influence masses of people, but also in that it has been tied to strategic interests of the US government. Since World War II, most cultural exchanges assisted by the US government have been explicitly designed to advance its foreign policy objectives, broadly conceived.14 For example, the largest share of government-supported academic exchanges with the US are through military colleges. But such influence is clear, as well, in less obviously strategic areas, such as American studies. For several decades, its promotion has been among the highest priorities in USIA. After thirty years working with that organization and its diverse, changing agendas, Richard T. Arndt reminds academics that for a diplomat a Fulbrighter is a "tool" of US foreign relations.15
Such connections between statecraft and cultural exchange are hardly surprising in the context of US cultural diplomacy commencing with World War II. When national survival is at stake, just about everything becomes ammunition or is at least touched by military procurement priorities. For example, one reason that Jay Hubbell's anthology, American Life in Literature, and his version of the literary canon received such wide circulation was its selection in 1941 by the US Armed Forces Institute for its massive home-study program.16 Like academics in a wide variety of fields, many of the founders of American studies, especially in Europe, were recruited to and supported in that endeavor by the US government to help solidify the Alliance against the Axis powers.
For example, Sigmund Skard -- as likely a candidate as anyone to be considered the parent of American studies in Europe -- came to that position via the Office of War Information, the propaganda division of the US war effort and the forerunner of USIA. His transformation from the 1940s to 1950s was remarkable.17 Born in Norway, he hailed from a family long prominent in government and university efforts to recover and defend all things Norwegian. With the brutal Nazi invasion, he fled to a position in Scandinavian studies at the University of Minnesota. He had to register as an alien agent. Soon thereafter he was reflagged for service to OWI: "I was going to represent the American government and to act as the mouthpiece of its specific national policy toward my own countrymen."18 When he returned to Norway, he led the drive for American studies in Europe as a whole and spent so much time hosting academics and diplomats from the US that Fulbright paid his family entertainment bill. Late in his life, as US troops ravaged Vietnam and as US popular culture flooded the globe, he felt that he could no longer teach about the US as an attractive alternative for Norwegians. The US hardly needed or deserved another mouthpiece. He decided he had to get out of the business.19 Of course, Professor Skard maintained his intellectual independence, but his spiritual ties and institutional debts were neither insignificant nor exceptional. The war forged an important link between serving American studies and serving the US.20
Much the same could be said of his American contemporaries. Professor Norman Holmes Pearson, later President of the American Studies Association and chair of the extremely influential program at Yale from 1963 until his death in 1975, was a member of OSS (the Office of Strategic Services) and head of X-2, its counter-intelligence unit in London. When the OSS was reorganized to form the CIA, Professor Pearson acted as a consultant, urging continued CIA-to-university connections and helping recruit to the CIA academics who would serve that end.21
A large portion of the first generation of Americanists were veterans of intelligence and propaganda units or returnees from war-time exile in the US at a time when building appreciation of the US abroad was at once a moral, personal, academic, military, and political imperative. As the war came to a close, US occupation forces promoted and screened the introduction of US books, news, music, and films into war-torn areas to please, to pacify, and to build a market for American ideas and communications industries. Their good intentions may well be above question and their effects entirely debatable, but their actions were firmly grounded in geopolitical agendas.22
The connection was solidified after the war with a shift in focus from fighting fascism to fighting communism. When the USSR opted for an iron curtain, cross-cultural education became a Cold War pincers movement. Despite intermittent protestation to the contrary, for example, like UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in the late 1940s, the Fulbright program became in effect an alliance against the Soviet Union. Each bilateral Fulbright commission was composed to represent equally the US and its "partner," but in negotiating these arrangements the US government bargained very hard to protect its prerogatives. And it won that protection generally in reverse proportion to the geopolitical stature of its partner from a US perspective.23 France successfully asserted its autonomy over minute affairs, but in India for nearly four decades, until very recently, Indians themselves were ineligible to direct the American Studies Research Center in Hyderabad. Since each commission must include the US cultural attaché, links to the embassy and thence to State have always been present, no matter what the organizational chart in Washington. Fulbright directors whom I have queried in Europe and Asia note that patently political considerations in international educational programming only became obvious after 1977, when responsibility for its administration was shifted out of the State Department to an "independent" USIA. This is precisely the change that Senator Fulbright himself anticipated in opposing the shift at the time.24
Of course, again, links do not necessarily make for conspiracies, much less effective ones. The vast majority of Fulbright awards have had nothing to do with American studies per se. Furthermore, the bilateral commissions are often bureaucratically quite distant from the process of cultivating and screening candidates. They can well boast of exercising little influence on what Fulbrighters actually study or teach. They join liberal professors in outrage whenever censorship is suggested, but in doing so they have effective promotion of government interests as well as scholarship and world peace in mind. An "open, free-flow of information," most obvious in the form of harsh self-criticism by visiting Americans, has regularly figured in anti-Soviet strategy. Most cultural diplomats know that the hard sell does not work.25
No matter what individual grantees have actually said about the US, the institutional success of the Fulbright program has established a near monopoly, tying up resources in foreign universities for academic trade between the US and its partners that is far heavier than that among other potential partners around the globe. The fact that some countries have agreed to pay larger shares of the cost of the Fulbright program or an America center can be considered a sign of the success of educational exchange as a "chosen instrument" of US foreign policy.26
Even today, screening criteria for Fulbrighters require that candidates "represent their country well," whatever that means. The standard appears to be very loosely applied, but Fulbrighters regularly report feeling that they "have to" act as if they work for Washington. On the lecture circuit they are likely to be asked to account for the US government (that is after all helping bear the cost) and to avoid criticizing hosts as if they were diplomats. In the words of Fulbright alum Jeanne J. Smoot, you become "an ambassador unaware."27
In lecturing abroad, I am usually embarrassed to discover that my opportunities to meet and thank embassy officials are called "briefings" on my itinerary. Nearly every time, with a warm, knowing smile, an official reminds me, "You know, it is important to represent your country well." Such innocuous "talking points" for them are among the expressions that someone who studies the US and its representations cannot help but question. What they mean by "your country" is usually clear enough when I note our conversation takes place in a diplomatic building, guarded (thank God!) by US Marines, under an American flag, next to a picture of the incumbent President, who helped appoint the boss of the official who speaks, but who I most likely opposed in the last election. "Your country" means the vision of it for the group currently in control of the White House. Fortunately, "representing well" is more open to contest. But again, even when grantees do not flatter the US government, USIA has noted their public-relations value. Divergence from the party line may be the best demonstration of "freedom of expression" that supposedly distinguishes American democracy. In typical foreign lecture series one liberal American after another bashes the US; on the way to the exit, the audience can be heard to say, "What a great country, to have people talk that way! I've got to go there." The soft sell works.28
Nevertheless, since cultural diplomacy was reorganized under the Carter administration, increasing priority has been assigned to "informational" (i.e., image-management/propaganda) uses of exchange opportunities. It has always been an implicit objective, but the temptation to make it explicit mounted once academic and propaganda programs were organizationally aligned. Since Fulbright joined USIA outside the Department of State and the Reaganites introduced "Project Democracy," pressure has escalated to model all intercultural programming after Voice of America, a reputable operation but also about as pure a formal, one-way form of communication as the government has at its disposal.29
The revelation in 1984 of a USIA blacklist -- the names of dozens of potential lecturers barred from its American Participants (AMPARTS) circuit -- was sufficiently embarrassing to credit opponents' fears. Yet, after a series of evasions including the destruction of 720 documents, government officials have been able to give the whole matter an upbeat spin: with names spanning the likes of Walter Cronkite, Ralph Nader, Coretta Scott King and Congressman Jack Brooks, obviously there was no coherent ideology at work; the list was the hare-brained scheme of a few renegades (alternatively: career dolts, middle gnomes or top-level Republican appointees); Congress investigated and purged the officer in charge, Leslie Lenkowsky; the blacklist was gone, and the credibility of USIA (either as masters of self-regulation or innocuously fallible plain folk) was restored. By witnessing the correction of an isolated case of abuse, we should be all the more confident that the system has no political import worth watching.30
But we still could wonder if the trajectory of policy over the past half-century, accelerated over the past decade, should be dismissed with the blacklist as a collection of isolated cases. Unlike AMPARTS celebrities, few Americanists have ever reported bureaucratic attempts to control the substance of their activities abroad, but their number, prestige or assertiveness have recently increased enough to attract the attention of the Congress. In investigative hearings USIA testifies that it imposes no ideology; but come budget time, it boasts that it helped dismantle the Soviet Union, and with better funding, just think! Of course, the truth might well be a bit of both or neither.31 The point is that there is some reason to pause before dismissing every sign of politics in internationalism as isolated or trivial or, for that matter, malignant.
For example, the people who applied their talents to foster an alternative to Hitler's or Stalin's version of intellectual life deserve our gratitude. "Freedom of expression" may not be as free of politics or as unproblematic in its relation to civil liberty as proponents often allege, but it is surely preferable to brutal repression, an obvious even if not the only alternative. Once the equation of cultural exchange with beneficence or evil is broken, we still have to decide when it merits support, and individual cases may be hard to judge.
Outside the US, for example, publications, conferences and guest lectureships in American studies are routinely supported by USIA. In fact, among the patterns that drew my attention to this subject was the great frequency with which foreign colleagues spoke of "what the embassy will buy" when planning their work. It is a practical necessity. But how independent or culturally "other" could that work then be? How much of an "exchange of differences" should I expect? Or were we all in effect merely "free" to legitimate government interests with which we may or may not agree?
In many cases knowing the designs of the sponsors may still leave these questions open. Consider, for example, when USIA mandates topics or local arrangements for funded scholarship. Periodically the only sure route to funding is a patriotic theme such as the Bicentennial or the Columbiad. Leaders of the European Association for American Studies have told me that the 1986 meeting of EAAS was funded on the condition that it be held in Budapest rather than Copenhagen, as proposed, and cultural attachés have told me that they push for Fulbrighters at universities near controversial military bases.32 Although such cases invite knee-jerk reactions against government meddling, these particular choices are hardly defenseless. They require much more pointed discussion with the help of academics who, knowingly or not, help implement diplomatic priorities. If they choose to resist, they face the additional challenge of explaining to American taxpayers why academics should have fewer strings attached to their checks than defense contractors or mothers on welfare.
Nevertheless, in such cases strictly speaking the influence of USIA is through incentives rather than force.33 Wittingly or not, by keeping geopolitics center stage USIA helps dramatize the need for support from alternative sources. Many foreigners recognize that need, but they have long been handicapped in building native institutions when US support has, until recently, seemed so generous and free. Acknowledging that American studies has figured in the foreign policy of the US government can be among the ways that alternative institutions for more substantially cross-cultural exchange may be fostered.
But there are signs that such acknowledgement has had the reverse effect. For example, the executive branch has used it to justify censoring or restricting access to archival materials that might "compromise national interests." Under Reagan, the administration of the Freedom of Information Act was changed to allow for retroactive classification of personal papers of ex-officials, even when those papers were in private collections. Of course, anything that makes a US foreign policy or policy maker look bad could be considered "compromising," and there are signs that it has been so considered to restrict inquiries going as far back as the Spanish-American War. When, as in this instance, the Organization of American Historians and other individuals work to reverse such clear cases of abuse, they deserve wide support.34
But there are more subtle signs of abuse that require attention. For example, USIA funding in particular circumstances limits the ability of Americanists to organize themselves internationally. Under US law, USIA-funded publications -- such as the newsletters of some foreign American studies associations and the original, massive Murphy/Luedtke bibliography of the field -- cannot be distributed in the United States.35 At the very least, this arrangement makes it hard for US Americanists outside of old-boy networks to keep abreast of developments overseas. Moreover, the law was originally justified to protect Americans from government propaganda, a principle that is surely sound. But its limited jurisdiction suggests potential abuse abroad. For example, most US Americanists cannot have ready access to texts that USIA publishes and distributes to introduce American studies overseas. The German American Studies Newsletter is probably the most widely circulated periodical in the field, but it has no visible university editorial in-put or readership. A USIA officer in Bonn basically puts it together on his own.36 Though we might not question the talent or integrity of these authors or editors, we ought to question if their work should be so sheltered from academic criticism.
Although people have been getting PhDs in American studies for about a half-century, many of the people recruited to teach abroad first encounter the name "American studies" when the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) deems them experts in the field for overseas appointment. By accepting this procedure, proponents of American studies as a distinctive enterprise delegitimate their own field. Can you imagine physicists or art historians being so cavalier about accreditation?
In such ways, accepting US governmental support for international American studies has exacted some costs to the freedom of inquiry and expression, the integrity, and the legitimacy of the field. Of course, such compromises should be expected when funding agencies strictly represent nations. But the personnel of cultural exchange agencies (notably USIA but also many non-US agencies) have weak records of representing the people who actually live in those countries -- the range of social classes, ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations, physical abilities, etc.37 In many cases, exchanges through these channels have not just tolerated but hardened the inequalities that make these agencies poor representatives of their own constituents. The role of exchange institutions in creating or at least maintaining an academic star system undercuts their stance as neutral brokers in cross-cultural representation.
Selectively granting resources for teaching, study, or research necessarily accentuates inequality, and it is always possible it will be a kind of inequality that is open to contest, not least because this is the sort of issue on which cultures frequently divide. In their disinterest, in their effort to be sensitive to "foreign cultures," US cultural diplomats are naturally most responsive to the version of it that they encounter, that of their counterparts, national elites who have risen through the local system of inequality. In showing respect for foreign sovereignty over such matters, as they must given their position, the official exchange apparatus may not only perpetuate but also increase inequalities that both US Americanists and non-elite foreigners resent.
This possibility was among the subjects of my own research on the background, scholarly interests, beliefs, and activities of Americanists in the Republic of China in 1985. Contrary to my expectation and nearly every imaginable condemnation or defense of international American studies, there were remarkably few patterns. For example, the kind and length of someone's participation in exchanges with the US was not a significant predictor of what a scholar would say about the US, his/her own country, or relations between the two. So much for cultural imperialism and the global village! But exchanges were related to successful careers and social stratification. The more intense people's participation in the international American-studies scene, the more likely they were both to hold elite academic positions and to be men from the ethnic minority that controlled the government. In such ways, in relying on brokers with a special version of "respect for local ways," exchange-oriented US Americanists may help maintain an international patriarchy. Under the banner of diversifying perspectives, a jet-setting elite in effect solidifies its own.38
Furthermore, given global inequalities of power and wealth, the traffic of ideas about America has hardly been balanced, much less favored the most "foreign" of foreigners as apolitical rationales would imply. Despite the long history of original scholarship outside the US, the great bulk of trade in American studies in the Twentieth Century has been one-way, a US export. American studies is unevenly developed around the globe, but systematically most developed according to US international alliances. It is strongest in Europe (especially within NATO), then Asia (SEATO), then South America (OAS), then the Middle East, then Africa. Differential development can even be traced from university to university following occupation forces after World War II. Fluctuations in cultural exchange programming have shadowed military procurement policies in the "two Chinas."39
Foreign Americanists are generally US-trained and largely, though hardly exclusively, dependent on US facilities and support. They are among the least "foreign" of candidates for exchange even outside the old World War II alliance. For example, Yasaka Takagi, "the grand old man" of American studies in Japan, was a student of Frederick Jackson Turner of the University of Wisconsin, and just about everywhere the grand old men in the field were associated with Robert Spiller of the University of Pennsylvania.40
Again, though, one need not look for villains or fools to understand why. Research and teaching facilities about the US are concentrated where you would expect, in the US. Furthermore, as Tunstall notes, the infrastructure for the dissemination of all kinds of information is dominated by the US: "the media are American." Since the 1920s government and media elites have self-consciously cooperated with agencies of the US government to foster that monopoly. The sheer wealth of resources for propagating US communications lends credence to the chauvinistic and oft-repeated (but rarely printed) use of US methods and media, including books, curricula, and journals, as the models of "understanding" to which others must aspire. First foreigners are supposed to learn how to do American studies as Americans do or at least from them, and then to strike out on their own. In the meantime, scholarly differences abroad are likely to be slighted as "insufficiently advanced," "out of touch with the literature."41
For better or worse, the export of American studies represents an assault on the form and sensibility of higher education overseas. Many countries traditionally offer an inhospitable climate for the transplanting of US-style American studies. The climate features formidable institutional obstacles. Faculty and curriculum are organized along rigidly disciplinary lines. Since establishing American studies may require an additional chair (not to mention examination procedures) foreign professors and administrators are apt to view American studies either as an opportunity to radically reform or as a threat to the sovereignty of constituents and the structure of higher education as a whole.42 But there are also dispositional obstacles. Foreigners have less reason to connect American studies and citizenship and less propensity to see US history as a morality play or US literature as prophesy. The fact that many countries bar foreigners from becoming professors in their national universities clearly signals a perception that their presence has geopolitical significance. Simply by virtue of their citizenship, American professors can be considered an intrusion.
This essay has been intended to clarify reasons that perception should be of greater or lesser concern than stock justifications for internationalism would allow. In some respects, the growth of American studies around the world has been a purely scholarly or at least non-aligned movement. But for many reasons, attributable less to malice than statecraft and organizational history, this view will not suffice. The politics of international American studies have in effect constrained the relationships among potential colleagues around the world. At times it has compromised freedom of expression and equality of opportunity in the field as well as the legitimacy and substance of inquiry itself. Unfortunately, the diplomatic context of exchange has hollowed out the meaning of cross-cultural work.
Nations are not necessarily cultures, and their officials should not be presumed to be neutral brokers or representatives of the diverse interests of citizens in general and scholars in particular. In the past there have been admirable common interests among these parties, ranging from combatting Hitler to promoting freedom of expression. But the conflicts seem to be mounting, if only because the infrastructure has changed to reflect its Cold War calling more crudely than it ever did during the Cold War itself. Routine justifications of internationalism, I have argued, are self-contradictory, inadequate both in the abstract and when applied to narrate the past.
In this essay I have been less concerned with constructing the right justification or ideal arrangements for international American studies than with clearing the way for more fruitful discussions of them in the future. But I obviously have some changes in mind.
For several reasons they are not very dramatic, and I resist touting them. A first consideration is the conditional quality of my own rhetoric, particularly the order in which I here cover the relevant terrain. I begin with the good news and end with the bad or at least the questionable. Clearly, the tale could be reversed to advance an alternative moral: the international American studies trade has had its problems, but we can take comfort in its success or the modesty of its import. The facts do not require one reading over the other, much less any particular policy change.
Second, some problems that I identify could be recast as isolated events or dismissed as innuendo. Of course, I think such a judgement is unwarranted, but I do not want to foreclose the possibility that I am wrong. This is among the reasons that I do not apologize for writing in a personal voice. Before "applying" my analysis to refashion exchange in wholesale fashion, before imposing yet another grand American scheme, I hope colleagues from around the world will join in refining the analysis itself.
Third, while I have stressed a general trend in the political evolution of international American studies, there have been important variations and counter-trends in the experience of individuals no less than countries. Even more radically than Sigmund Skard, for example, former-President of the ASA Leo Marx has taken very different positions toward government-sponsored exchange over the course of his career. As a young man during the Cold War, he devoted considerable energy to clearing his name, attributing alleged association with "fellow travelers" to innocent indiscretion, so that he could qualify for a Fulbright award. After two such awards, in protest of US action in Vietnam in the late 1960s, he publicly announced his resignation from the Fulbright national selection committee on which he had long served.43 He has since returned to the Fulbright family. In his case as in many others, then, history has followed no single course and implies no magic fix. Any changes that I might recommend must be responsive to particular possibilities on the ground.
With such practical matters in mind, I cannot envision building an entirely new infrastructure for exchange. As regrettable as I find current dependence on national governments and on the US in particular, there are obvious benefits in allying with a bureau that can help issue visas and collect taxes to support itself. USIA and Fulbright are large organizations with talented, experienced staff -- people who for the most part value learning and tolerance and who could well do even a better job if they received more ample funding. Even if their interests may at times diverge, I think Americanists have a stake in supporting these cultural diplomats, especially as competitors threaten to raid their coffers to balance a budget depleted by military and financial adventurers.
But scholars can do more to get their own house in order, voice their interests and organize themselves to participate more substantially in the process. They have let themselves become currency for others to trade. In formal reviews of cultural programs and academic lore spanning forty years there are all-too-predictable complaints. For example, a US Fulbrighter travels for professional development and global understanding and discovers that she/he is grudgingly accepted to cover an understaffed curriculum. A non-US host wants a chance to learn from a US star and discovers that he/she is mainly after an expense-paid vacation and is unprepared to teach or learn abroad. Officers in a professional society or a binational commission aiming for international understanding discover that they have set off a fierce personal or institutional rivalry for recognition and resources. Surprise! -- their work has become soiled by "politics."
Of course, exchanges are often pure joy, but these disappointments along with the institutional breakdowns that I have discussed suggest why scholars have an immediate, personal and collective stake in getting soiled. After all, who is looking out for their interests if they do not happen to coincide with the smooth operation of diplomacy? Since officials are often over-worked and have no particular reason to make academics unhappy, their interventions could well be appreciated.
Scholars could, for example, consult prospective hosts to help plan ways to engage in intellectual trade that is best for their own, publicly debated agendas. For example, rather than sticking to routine agreements with a large number of countries (often, in effect, providing free, grunt labor for US-allied, foreign universities), scholars might agree to concentrate more substantial resources in a smaller number of countries, providing personnel and materials so that they might be less dependent on American intrusions in the future. Through their professional associations, scholars might also hammer out more general, collective interests to be negotiated in exchanges. These negotiations may be particularly necessary to support policies which diplomats may be less willing or able to advance. Freedom of expression and equality of opportunity seem to me prominent among them. I cannot see why, for example, Americanists in Philadelphia should have more qualms about holding a meeting in a US state that has not endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment than in a nation state that systematically reserves positions of academic leadership for men. Through professional associations scholars might also participate more directly in recruiting, screening, and supporting particular candidates for exchange and in challenging those who would turn American studies into government propaganda. These are among the initial changes that scholars might initiate and exchange officials might welcome, but I hope to inspire yet better designs.
It is time to move past tired clichés, identify alternative visions, and better speak to our differences. I hope that this is the beginning of a candid and sustained, albeit immodest discussion.
1. The Fulbright Experience, 1946-1986: Encounters and Transformations, eds. Arthur Power Dudden and Russell R. Dynes, (New Brunswick, 1987), 201, 252, 247, 257, 255. This volume was assembled on behalf of the Fulbright Association in recognition of the fortieth anniversary of the program. Dudden is also among the most distinguished senior figures in American studies in the US. He served as executive secretary and treasurer of the American Studies Association and ran the first convention from a national office in 1971. In 1991 he received the `Bode-Pearson prize for lifetime achievement in American studies. See also Walter Johnson and Francis J. Colligan, The Fulbright Program: A History (Chicago, 1965). [return]
2. J. Hector St. John Crèvecoeur, Letters From an American Farmer: Letters and Sketches of 18th-Century America (New York, 1981); Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley, 1985); Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. George Lawrence (New York, 1966). [return]
3. Of course, administrators and academics who claim international education as a field in itself have their own ways of addressing these issues. I refer here, not to such managerial or expert opinion, but to its variants among part-time practitioners, such as international Americanists. Even their literature of defense and attack is too large to cite here. But a sampler of lay defenses might well begin with the Dudden and Dynes collection, which includes just about every imaginable justification for cross-cultural programming. Defenses of international American studies in particular punctuate the journal American Studies International, especially its regular nation-by-nation reviews/promotions of the state of field around the world. They also regularly figure in proposal boilerplate and forewords to published proceedings of international American studies conferences, often in the form of a welcoming speech from a representative of the US embassy. Attacks are easily overheard in university hallways but are seldom fixed in print. To catch their feel, see for example, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelhart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic, trans. David Kunzle (New York, 1975); Mansour Farhang, US Imperialism: The Spanish American War to the Iranian Revolution (Boston, 1988); Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley, 1989); Robert Forrey, "Speaking of America," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 11:4 (Spring, 1976), 41-46; Donald Lazere, ed., American Media and Mass Culture: Left Perspectives (Berkeley, 1987); Armand Mattelart and Seth Siegelaub, eds., Communication and Class Struggle: An Anthology in Two Volumes (New York, 1979). [return]
4. These generalizations about the lore of American studies overseas, like those that follow, are based on my conversations, observations, and correspondence with four groups of people, 1984-1991: 1) visiting scholars and lecturers from the US, 2) directors of Fulbright commissions and their staff, 3) Cultural Affairs Officers and their associates in US embassies, and 4) professors and students of American studies overseas. Although by no means a representative sample of everyone concerned, they range widely in age, experience, disposition, and locale: Australia, Austria, Cameroon, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the People's Republic of Korea, the Soviet Union, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, and Turkey. I followed up these leads by spot-checking published histories and memoirs as well as Fulbrighter reports and periodic area reviews submitted to CIES. Although the total number of people whom I contacted is nearly 1000, obviously I did not "cover" the globe -- especially, the southern half -- nor any one corner of it. In some countries I had close contact with a large share of relevant scholars and diplomats, but in others I only managed a few letters and conversations with a couple of people. Nevertheless, the patterns seem abundantly clear. For example, they provided ready reference points for conversations among the hundreds of Fulbrighters who gathered from all over Europe (and considerably beyond it) for the Berlin Seminar in 1991. Though most of those in attendance were meeting each other for the first time, and warnings about the particularity of each host country were obligatory, the experiences that drew attention were similar enough to give most conversations a support-group feel: "Gosh, that happened to you, too? It's good to know it isn't just me." I was able to check this impression with Fulbright administrators in attendance from six countries. Even those who rejected my interpretation of these patterns confirmed my sense of the formulaic quality and substance of the patterns themselves, such as the particular gripes and raves that Fulbrighters aired in debriefing sessions. In this lore, then, I stress not occasional slips or nuances but overt patterns that are too pervasive to ignore -- even though they are generally ignored in the literature on international American studies. [return]
5. For a brief introduction to the history of American studies, see Gene Wise, "'Paradigm Dramas' in American Studies: A Cultural and Institutional History of the Movement," American Quarterly 31:3 (Summer 1979), 293-337. In practice the form and content of American studies, particularly the degree of its difference from other disciplines, varies with the place and occasion. In general, American studies in the US is understood to be interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, or at least multi-media. Outside the US American studies is more often disciplinary work that is distinctive only in that it embraces a North American subject. [return]
6. For an introduction to some of the ways to relate the means and ends of educational exchange and cultural diplomacy, see Robert Blum, ed., Cultural Affairs and Foreign Relations (Englewood Cliffs, 1963); Paul Braisted, ed., Cultural Affairs and Foreign Relations, Rev. Ed. (Washington, 1968); Alice Chandler, Foreign Students and Government Policy: Britain, France, and Germany (Washington, 1985); Philip H. Coombs, The Fourth Dimension of Foreign Policy: Educational and Cultural Affairs (New York, 1964); Terry L. Deibel and Walter R. Roberts, Culture and Information: Two Foreign Policy Functions (Washington, 1976); Charles Frankel, The Neglected Aspect of Foreign Affairs: American Educational and Cultural Policy Abroad (Washington, 1966); Steward Fraser, ed., Governmental Policy and International Education (New York, 1965); Arthur S. Hoffman, ed., International Communication and the New Diplomacy (Bloomington, 1968); Harold Jacobson, Networks of Interdependence: International Organization and the Global Political System, 2nd Ed. (New York, 1984); Isaac L. Kandel, Intellectual Cooperation: National and International (New York, 1944); Charles A. Thomson and Walter H.C. Laves, Cultural Relations and US Foreign Policy (Bloomington, 1963); US General Accounting Office, The Public Diplomacy of Other Countries: Implications for the United States (Washington, 1979). [return]
7. This is the red herring that recently occasioned a spirited published exchange on international American studies. Karen J. Winkler, "Scholars Chide American Studies for Ignoring the Rest of the World," The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 13, 1985); and Carl Bode, "American Studies: Guilt for Being Provincial," The Chronicle of Higher Education (December 11, 1985). [return]
8. Arnold Bergstrasser, "American Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany: Some Observations on Its History and Development," American Studies International 26:2 (October 1988), 51-60; Brigitte Georgi-Findlay and Heinz Ickstadt, eds., America Seen from the Outside -- Topics, Models and Achievements in the Federal Republic of Germany, (Berlin, 1990). [return]
9. Frank A. Ninkovich, The Diplomacy of Ideas: US Foreign Policy and Cultural Relations, 1938-1950 (Cambridge, 1981); and Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 (New York, 1982). See also Wang Yi-Chu, Chinese Intellectuals and the West, 1872-1949 (Chapel Hill, 1966); Chang Peng-yuan, "Sino-American Scholarly Relations as Seen From Taiwan, 1949-1979," The American Asian Review 1:3 (Fall, 1983), 46-86; J. Manuel Espinosa, Inter-American Beginnings of United States Cultural Diplomacy (Washington, 1977); George Black, The Good Neighbor: How the United States Wrote the History of Central America and the Caribbean (New York, 1988); US General Accounting Office, US and Soviet Bloc Training of Latin American and Caribbean Students: Considerations in Developing Future US Programs (Washington, 1984). [return]
10. USCIS paperwork for visiting students or lecturers is usually just a formality, but not always. From 1952 to 1991, when the McCarran-Walter Act was largely repealed, foreign intellectuals and activists, by some estimates as many as 250,000, were denied US visas on political grounds. See John Shattuck, "Federal Restrictions on the Free Flow of Academic Information and Ideas," and Mark Schapiro, "The Excludables," in Freedom at Risk: Secrecy, Censorship and Repression in the 1980s, ed. Richard O. Curry (Philadelphia, 1988), 58-59 and 162-168; Marvin Howe, "US Denial of Visas to Foreigners Because of Politics: The Battle Heats Up," New York Times (July 28, 1985); Mary Macarthur, "The Latest Skirmish," Z Magazine 3:12 (December, 1990), 42-46; A. Ebert Miner, "McCarran Act: 50s Relic in the 80s," In These Times 7 (April 20, 1983), 5; and Do Not Enter, a New Day film by Robert Richter and Catharine Warnow (New York, 1990). Of course, other countries also have a record of excluding foreign intellectuals on political grounds. See for example, Peter I. Rose, "Fulbright Fandango," or Albert H. Vee, "The First Fulbrighter to the People's Republic of China," in The Fulbright Experience, 92 and 215-221. [return]
11. Harold B. Allen, "My Fulbright Experience," in The Fulbright Experience, 149-155. Allen led the drive by the US National Council of Teachers of English to promote standardized TESL texts and practices. His efforts were initially a response to USIA designs on Francophone Africa, but NCTE went ahead independently "when shifting political winds altered USIA policy. . . . I have simply [!?] been an instrument for a force produced by the temper of the times. . . . It is high time for us Americans to cease imposing our values and customs on peoples with differing cultural backgrounds." 151-152, 155. [return]
12. See the periodic reviews of "American Studies in X" in American Studies International. Note, for example, that Werner Sollors, one of the most respected scholars in American studies in the US today, came to Columbia and then Harvard from Free University in Berlin. Rhys Issac and Marcus Cunliffe are among the other distinguished US immigrants who leap to mind. See also Lewis Hanke, ed., Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S., 1945-1980, 5 vols. (White Plains, 1985); Katsuhiro Jinzaki, ed., Teaching American Studies: The Present Situation and Prospect for Improvement (Horishima, 1982); Maurizio Vaudagna, ed., "Forum: American Studies in Europe," Storia Nordamericana 7:1 (1990), 117-178; Robert H. Walker, ed., American Studies Abroad: Contributions in American Studies (Westport, 1975). [return]
13. Joseph J. Kockemans, ed., Interdisciplinarity in Higher Education (University Park, 1979); Laurence R. Veysey, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965); Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis, 1983); Allen F. Davis, "The Politics of American Studies," American Quarterly 42:3 (September, 1990), 353-374. If allusions to British cultural studies, French feminist theory, German hermeneutics, or Third-World literature were barred from current discussion in American studies in the US, there would not be much left. Note, too, that the German Association for American Studies was founded (albeit with the support of the US Embassy) two years before the ASA in the US. [return]
14. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream and Ninkovich, The Diplomacy of Ideas provide the best modern surveys of the historical background and broader context of the evolving role of the US government and cultural exchange around the world. See also Frederick C. Barghoorn, The Soviet Cultural Offensive: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Soviet Foreign Policy (Princeton, 1960) and "The Special Case of US-USSR Exchanges," International Educational and Culture Exchange 5:2 (Fall, 1969), 32-46; Robert F. Byrnes, "Soviet-American Academic Exchange: The Inter-University Committee Experience," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 2:1 (Summer, 1969), 39-45: George Creel, How We Advertised America (New York, 1920); Wilson P. Dizard, The Strategy of Truth: The Story of the US Information Service (Washington, 1961); Wilma Fairbank, America's Cultural Experiment in China, 1942-1949 (Washington, 1976); Allen C. Hansen, USIA: Public Diplomacy in the Computer Age (New York, 1984); John W. Henderson, The United States Information Agency (New York, 1969); Robert C. Hilderbrand, Power and the People: Executive Management of Public Opinion in Foreign Affairs, 1897-1921 (Chapel Hill, 1981); Michael H. Hunt, Ideology and US Foreign Policy (New Haven, 1987); Henry J. Kellerman, Cultural Relations as an Instrument of United States Foreign Policy: The Educational Exchange Program Between the United States and Germany, 1945-1954 (Washington, 1978); Christopher Lasch, "The Cultural Cold War: A Short History of the Congress for Cultural Freedom," Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American History, ed. Barton J. Bernstein (New York, 1969), 322-360; Guy S. Metraux, Exchange of Persons: The Evolution of Cross-Cultural Education, Social Science Research Council Pamphlet No. 9 (New York, 1952); Frank A. Ninkovich, "The Currents of Cultural Diplomacy: Art and the State Department, 1938-1947," Diplomatic History 1 (1977), 215-237; Stephen Vaugn, Holding Fast the Inner Lines: Democracy, Nationalism, and the Committee on Public Information (Chapel Hill, 1980). [return]
15. "I recognize the shock inherent in the discovery that a Fulbright scholar can be viewed as a 'tool,' but I promised not to lie." Richard T. Arndt, "Questioning the Fulbright Experience," in The Fulbright Experience, 15. [return]
16. Kermit Vanderbilt, American Literature and the Academy: The Roots, Growth and Maturity of a Profession (Philadelphia, 1986), 460-498. Note that the Americanist Howard Mumford Jones used a Vietnam-War era tribute to Hubbell as an occasion to sing the praises of American studies as US propaganda: "It has been urged, usually as a reproof, that American Studies are in fact a branch of propaganda. I think this is not wholly bad, and I think the allegation perhaps puts us on the right track. American Studies are propaganda because they are an attempt to explicate and make persuasive a set of values satisfactory to the American people; and because the American people believe these values, or some of them, may benefit other nations, they are engaged in a mighty effort to make these values comprehensible both at home and abroad." "'American Studies' in Higher Education," in Essays on American Literature in Honor of Jay B. Hubbell, ed. Clarence Gohdes (Durham, 1967), 7. This is the very passage that Russell Reising reprints to document the "imperialistic function of American studies." Jones' "admission," Reising writes, is unusual only in its "honesty." The Unusable Past: Theory and the Study of American Literature (New York, 1986), 39-40. For other examples of this go-round, see Arthur E. Bestor, Jr., "The Study of American Civilization: Jingoism or Scholarship?" William and Mary Quarterly 9 (January, 1952), 3-9; David Reynolds, "Whitehall, Washington, and the Promotion of American Studies in Britain During World War Two," Journal of American Studies 16 (August, 1982), 165-188; Marvin Wachman, "Chauvinism and American Studies," American Studies (May 1958), 3-4. [return]
17. Sigmund Skard, Trans-Atlantica: Memoirs of a Norwegian Americanist (Oslo, 1978). See also his two-volume survey, American Studies in Europe: Their History and Present Organization (Philadelphia, 1958). [return]
18. Skard, Trans-Atlantica, 46. [return]
19. Sigmund Skard, "Fulbrighters in Norway," in The Fulbright Experience, 247; Skard, Trans-Atlantica, 179-185. [return]
20. Philip Gleason, "World War II and the Development of American Studies," American Quarterly 36:3 (Bibliography Issue, 1984), 343-358; Ellen W. Schrecker, No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities (New York, 1986). [return]
21. Robin W. Winks, Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961 (New York, 1987), 247-321. [return]
22. For an introduction to these developments, see Georgi Arbatov, The War of Ideas in Contemporary International Relations (Moscow, 1973); C.W.E. Bigsby, ed., Superculture: American Popular Culture and Europe (Bowling Green/London, 1975); Gregory D. Black, "What to Show the World: The Office of War Information and Hollywood, 1942-45," Journal of American History 64 (1977), 87-105; Leo Bohart, Premises for Propaganda: The United States Information Agency's Operating Assumptions in the Cold War (New York, 1976); Thomas C. Sorensen, The World War: The Story of American Propaganda (New York, 1968); Reinhold Wagnleitner, "Propagating the American Dream: Cultural Policies as Means of Integration," American Studies International 24 (April, 1986), 60-84 and "The Irony of American Culture Abroad: Austria and the Cold War," in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War, ed. Lary May (Chicago, 1989), 285-301. [return]
23. Ninkovich, The Diplomacy of Ideas, 113-167. [return]
24. Richard O. Curry, "Choices: International Education, Civil Liberties, and Domestic Politics During the 1980s," in Freedom at Risk, 197; Richard T. Arndt, "The Fulbright Program and US Foreign Relations, 1946-1986," OAH Newsletter 15 (May, 1986), 24-26. [return]
25. Professorial memoirs do, however, note at least a steady trickle of exceptions. See for example, Robin W. Winks, "A Tissue of Clichés," in The Fulbright Experience, 42-43; Alfred Kazin, "Carrying the Word Abroad," American Studies International 26:1 (April, 1988), 62-66. [return]
26. Of course, there are other "monopolies" as well. For example, France exerts even more exclusive control over instruction in the French language than the US does over American studies. But American studies is only one among a much larger number of product lines in Fulbright's massively diversified scholarly trade. Even though generally favorable toward this arrangement, one Fulbright alumnus explains: "There was no true exchange to begin with. It was a one-way operation, a gift, a spilling over of American abundance. . . . The effect of the program on the universities in these other countries has been to tie an incommensurably large part of their academic exchange to one country, not by creating barriers to other exchange but simply by doing such an excellent job of smoothing that one road back and forth to the United States." Orm Overland, "On Realizing the Exchange in the Fulbright Program," in The Fulbright Experience, 242-243. I borrow the expression "chosen instrument" from Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream, 61-62. She explains that, prior to World War I, the US government found itself bound to obligations not of its own making but of private overseas adventurers who, in some cases, aided its enemies. Through more careful paperwork, as in the minutia of international finance and licensing agreements, the government, particularly the executive branch, discovered that it could selectively empower the "right" groups (i.e., private interests who in pursuing their objectives also protect or advance US foreign policy) without having to assume direct responsibility for their actions. Rosenberg argues that US influence around the world grew in the following half-century largely through the use of such chosen instruments. In this respect, CIES and AID share a legacy. Eva Cockcroft finds a similar dynamic in the history of the Museum of Modern Art in "Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War," in Pollock and After: The Critical Debate, ed. Francis Frascina (New York, 1985), 125-133. [return]
27. Jeanne J. Smoot, "Ambassador Unaware," in The Fulbright Experience, 301-302. See also Kazin, "Carrying the Word Abroad," 62-66. [return]
28. See for example, Jan Egeland, "Killing Myths and Prejudices: Bridging the Atlantic Gap," in The Fulbright Experience, 235-238. [return]
29. William Preston, Jr. and Ellen Ray, "Disinformation and Mass Deception: Democracy as a Cover Story," and Richard O. Curry, "Paranoia -- Reagan Style: Encounters with the USIA," in Freedom at Risk, 203-223 and 178-191; Candyce Stapen, "Radio Free Reagan," Washington Journalism Review 6 (1984), 10-11. [return]
30. Curry, "Paranoia -- Reagan Style," 190-191 and Curry, "Choices," 196-197; Howard Kurtz, "Testimony at Senate Panel Hearing Conflicts Sharply on USIA Blacklist," and "Hill Rejects Nominee for USIA," Washington Post (April 6 and May 16, 1984); Robert Pear, "Information Agency turns Down Officials' Request for Transcripts," New York Times (March 9, 1983); Jonathan Rosenblum, "The Origins of the Blacklist: The USIA Today," The New Republic 194 (July 9, 1984), 7-9. Since the key documents were destroyed, no one knows how many people were actually blacklisted. In testimony before House and Senate investigatory committees, estimates ranged from 84 to 95 names. Lenkowsky may know, but he steadfastly denied that any blacklist ever existed. Charles Z. Wick claimed that, rather than a blacklist, there was an "approved" list of 5000 names, but when Lenkowsky produced his own version, it was considerably shorter. Nevertheless, the House Foreign Affairs Committee was eventually able to produce 74 names of people supposedly barred from AMPARTS participation. This blacklist appears, in fact, to feature generic "liberals," with the exception of a couple of right-wingers who could well have been added at the last moment to make the list appear less partisan. US House, Foreign Affairs Committee, "Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Operations on Oversight of the US Information Agency," 98th Congress, 2nd Session, May 10 and 15, 1984; US Senate, Committee on Foreign Affairs, "Hearings on the Nomination of Leslie Lenkowsky," Appendix D, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, April 5 and 11, May 9 and 15, 1984. The spin-control scenario that I outline is an assemblage of the assertions of USIA employees who challenged my criticism of the blacklist in lectures in Europe, 1990-1991. [return]
31. Richard O. Curry, "Introduction," and "Choices," and Preston and Ray, "Disinformation and Mass Deception," in Freedom at Risk, 15-17, 192-202, 203-223; Richmond Lattimore, "Research in Greece," in The Fulbright Experience, 209. [return]
32. For an introduction to the way USIA carried the Bicentennial abroad, see Ronald Clifton, "The Bicentennial and American Studies Abroad," Michael Schneider and Ethel Freid, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," and Robin W. Winks and Robert Forrey, "The Coming-of-Age of American Studies Abroad," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 11:5 (Summer, 1976), 15-17, 24-27, and 17-21. Some USIA officials deny the Budapest and military base priorities, but both were confirmed for me by people who claimed to be principals. [return]
33. One can still question how meaningful this distinction is when in some countries, specifically poor ones, the US contributes nearly all of the cost of cultural exchange programming. Even in relatively wealthy and independent Europe it may be hard to distinguish conditions for USIA support from control of programming. In 1989, USIA contributed about 70% of the annual operating budget of the European Association for American Studies, more than four times the total amount paid in dues by the membership in its twelve countries. Report of the Treasurer, EAAS Newsletter, (October, 1990), 3. [return]
34. Diana M.T.K. Autin, "The Reagan Administration and the Freedom of Information Act," and Athan Theoharis, "Conservative Politics and Surveillance: The Cold War, The Reagan Administration, and the FBI," in Freedom at Risk, 69-85 and 266-267. For early signs of protest against the politicization of USIA in the 1980s, see the Organization of American Historians Newsletter (August, 1982), 10-11. See also Thomas G. Paterson, "Thought Control and the Writing of History," in Freedom at Risk, 60-68. For an example of the range of published opinion on US information policy, contrast Steven L. Katz, Government Secrecy: Decisions Without Democracy (Washington, 1987) with Charles R. McClure, Peter Hernon and Harold C. Relyea, eds., United States Information Policies: Views and Perspectives (Norwood, 1989). See also, James R. Bennett, Control of Information in the United States, An Annotated Bibliography (Westport, 1987). [return]
35. Murray G. Murphey and Luther Luedtke, eds., American Studies: An Annotated Bibliography of American Civilization of the United States, 4 vols. (Washington, 1982). Cambridge University Press published a revision of the bibliography for circulation in the US in 1986 and an update (1984-1988) in 1990. [return]
36. Dr. Jurgen H. Bodenstein, an American Studies Specialist with USIA in Bonn, has edited this journal since 1983, but final editorial responsibility remains with the Cultural Attaché. Total circulation in 1990 was about 7000 per issue. Since the circulation of official publications of the American Studies Association in the US is considerably smaller (about 5000 for the American Quarterly and 3500 for the ASA Newsletter), the USIA's Newsletter is probably the most widely circulated periodical associated with the field in the world. In response to my query, the editor humbly asserted that its "modest objectives do not merit the attention of the American Studies profession." These objectives include providing "balance of the image of the US" and "dispelling some general and recurrent misperceptions of American social and political life prevalent in Germany." It is intended primarily for upper-level ESL instructors in German secondary schools who welcome from the embassy accessible English-language materials. "Small" numbers of issues are also sent to other countries through subscription or their local USIA post. Bodenstein, correspondence, December 12, 1990. Nevertheless, the American Studies Newsletter has the look of an academic journal and introduces enough misperceptions of its own to make me cringe before its title, including, as it does, the name of my field. The first issue I saw, purely by happenstance in the US embassy in Bern, struck me as an example of distinctly even if unintentionally hard-sell image management. The cover features a photo of a multi-racial group of squeaky clean, grinning paperboys standing should-to-shoulder. Readers are introduced to Americana: "bustling visitors" in the "splendor" of the Union Station shopping center in Washington (8) and "former refugees from Indochina [who] now own shops, restaurants, and wholesale businesses" (12). "Hispanics" appear as a newly treasured market, dramatized through a photo-reproduction of a print advertisement for Coors beer, an infamous ally of the Republican right (26). "Spic," readers are instructed, is "slang for an American of Spanish ancestry." Newsletter representation of the "debate" about bilingual education ranges from it will not work to it is counterproductive. Senator Hayakawa is given the last word on the subject. The overall message is abundantly clear: "as the United States enters its third century, it retains many of the characteristics that can assure continual global pre-eminence" (15). American Studies Newsletter 22 (September, 1990). When I asked a colleague from a German university what he knew about the copies of the Newsletter that embassy staff had neatly stacked on a table for an American studies conference, he responded, "Pure propaganda!" But no one whom I queried at the Kennedy Institute or at the 1991 ASA meeting in the US had ever seen a copy. [return]
37. For an early example of a call for remedies, see Gilbert Anderson, "American Blacks . . . Involvement in Educational Exchange," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 8:2 (Fall, 1972) 25-31. [return]
38. Richard P. Horwitz, "'Foreign' Expertise': American Studies in Taiwan," American Studies International 27:1 (April, 1989), 38-62. See also Hans-Joachim Lang, "The Function of a European Journal of American Studies," in America Seen from the Outside, 44. [return]
39. Gunter Moltmann, "The 'Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien' and Interdisciplinary Studies," in America Seen From the Other Side, 119-135; Rudolph Chu, "A Status Report on the American Studies Program in the ROC," Proceedings of the First Regional American Studies Seminar of East Asia, July 2-4, 1973 (Taipei, 1973), 163-167; Wang Yi-Chu, Chinese Intellectuals and the West; Chang Peng-yuan, "Sino-American Scholarly Relations as Seen From Taiwan," 46-86. [return]
40. Spiller traveled widely to promote American studies outside the US and was the key figure in establishing its prominence in the Fulbright program. Wise, "'Paradigm Dramas,'" 309-310; Davis, "The Politics of American Studies," 353-356. It is hard to find a history of American studies overseas that does not acknowledge Spiller's influence. See for example, Skard, American Studies in Europe. The tight network associated with Spiller in the US is still visible today. Its shape was dramatically confirmed in Baltimore at the meeting of the ASA, October 31, 1991, when past-President of the ASA Alan Davis awarded the annual Bode-Pearson Prize to Arthur Dudden (the co-editor of The Fulbright Experience) for lifetime achievement in American studies. Davis joked that Dudden was "the best of the old boys" who institutionalized the field on a national level from the 1950s to 1970s. In accepting the award, Dudden agreed that in those days the old boys ruled. For example, he claimed that his rise to office in the ASA was Spiller's solitary decision: "Spiller was a king-maker." Dudden closed his acceptance speech by recalling how he and Carl Bode (the first President of the ASA and first recipient as well as namesake of the Bode-Pearson Prize) would often pass the time trading "war stories" from days in OSS, as when they electronically bugged diplomats in Madrid. Dudden may have actually meant to say Pearson rather than Bode -- or maybe I misunderstood -- but the point remains: this public exchange between Davis and Dudden neatly scribes the circle -- centered on Spiller and associates from OWI, OSS, Fulbright, and ASA -- who institutionalized American studies at home and abroad. Although the tightness of their circle -- for example, its de facto European-American-male covenant -- is objectionable, the point here is not that Spiller et al. should be faulted for some sordid conspiracy. The point is that they quite literally embodied the original statist politics of international American studies; on the US side they were its agents -- far more enlightened ones, I would add, than ones the US government might have empowered if these scholars had chosen to leave politics to the pros. I cite this legacy, then, to remind academics that there has never been much of anything "above politics" in their cross-cultural work. Rather than retreating from politics, they ought to engage in it more openly and critically. [return]
41. Jeremy Tunstall, The Media are American (New York, 1977). See also Oswald H. Ganley and Gladys D. Ganley, To Inform or to Control: The New Communications Networks (New York, 1982); Herbert I. Schiller, Communication and Cultural Domination (White Plains, 1976); Ariel Dorfman, The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds (New York, 1983). "For several years, we had to learn who's who in American literature and our guest visiting professors were the persons to tell us. Nowadays we sometimes get the impression that a few American professors might be usefully enlightened about who's who in American literature, but naturally enough they do not listen to their former pupils." Hans-Joachim Lang, "The Function of a European Journal of American Studies," 47. See also Julianne Burton, "Marginal Cinemas and Mainstream Critical Theory," Screen 26:3-4 (May-August, 1985), 2-21. [return]
42. For an early warning, see Marshall W. Fishwick, "An Approach to American Studies Abroad," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 1:3 (Winter, 1966), 43-48. See also Robert H. Walker, "The Internationalization of American Studies," American Studies International 26:1 (April, 1988), 67-71. For specific examples, see James F. Lacey, "American Studies at German Universities: Failure of the Interdisciplinary Approach," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 6:1 (Summer, 1970), 27-33; Stuart Levine, "American Studies in Latin America," International Educational and Cultural Exchange 4:3, (Winter, 1969), 18-30 and "American Studies in Latin America," American Studies 27:1 (Spring, 1986), 4, 159. [return]
43. See the correspondence of Leo Marx and J.W. Fulbright in New York Review of Books (November 9, 1967), 35-36, and (February 15, 1968), 29. [return]