The Stubborn Parochialism of American Social Science

The attempt to internationalize American scholarship started in 1958 with the National Defense Education Act. At first view, the task seems to be accomplished: a wide range of international programs, research and courses gained access into universities.

In the article of the Chronicle of Higher Education (23 January 2015), Charles Kurzman (professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) presents his evaluation of data on American social science with the attention to international subjects. He examined more than six million bibliographic records. He figures out that the international topics became more and more relevant in the American everyday life due to internationalization of the economy and political agenda and the increasing number of the foreign-born part of the population. During the last 40 years, the amount of social-scientific attention devoted to international subjects grew by about one-third, but it varies by discipline. Nevertheless, the public investment in international education has been limited. The U.S. Department of Education provides the university’s international programs with less than one percent of the department’s budget.

Besides the small budget, many other factors pose a problem. Political turmoil or difficult diplomatic relations hamper the fieldwork on foreign lands with a lack of data, as a result. Also surveys remain the leading focus on the United States instead of other countries. The budget difficulties pose a problem to the libraries and their collection of international materials. Students and contingent faculty members are faced to the university’s policies of attendance. Students often have attendance study without a provided stay abroad. Contingent faculty members have an obligation to stay at their teaching posts. That complicates the fieldwork in other parts of the world.

But there is a ray of hope: the online source material and the number of foreign-born social-science doctorate recipients are increasing. That broadens at least the horizons and language skills of the future students.

The article’s result: Investment is needed!

Find the article here.


Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. It provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. More...

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