February 24-26, 2000

“Globalization” is a term that is often used but only imperfectly understood because it is unclear what developments are implied by globalization. Making matters still more confusing is the variety of contexts and disciplines, from the social sciences to the popular media, in which globalization is a central category of analysis. Globalization has become a term designating transformations in a number of areas: the internationalization of capitalism, the ascendance of information technologies, a new understanding of the state in the global economic system, and the contemporary movement of populations across national borders. But what are the relationships between these developments, and how are these attributes organized and understood within and outside the academy? How, in short, do we make sense of globalization and assess its consequences for the future?

The analysis of globalization raises timely and important questions about the institutional and disciplinary rubrics with and through which we understand this controversial term. A significant challenge for academics, for instance, lies in teaching and writing about globalization within and across disciplines of analysis. How is globalization changing the protocols for research and learning in the social sciences, and how is this term getting defined and used within specific disciplines? How do different disciplines conceive the relation, for example, between the contemporary flows of commodities and of populations across national borders? How far must the study of ethnic or national identities derive its categories of analysis from economic and social transformations at the international level? And how does globalization change the way social scientists and humanists conduct analyses of a city, a culture, a region, or even a nation-state?

Nor is it solely within the academy that these questions are felt to be pressing: the bewildering variety of issues raised by participants and protesters at the recent World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle indicates how fully globalization has become a term under dispute. Indeed, one of the chief ironies of globalization is that a term which has come to designate unifying trends in trade, communications, and management has generated so little consensus about its scope and probable consequences.

Drawing on voices from a number of fields, our seminar will collectively address the task of locating the global in the new century. Our aim is not so much to provide a cohesive definition of globalization as it is to investigate the problems its definition poses for our (academics and non-academics alike) understanding of ever-evolving regional and world structures. Central to our inquiry will be the institutional sites from which our sense of the “global” is defined, negotiated, and contested. Speakers will also address the impact of globalization studies across research and curricular fields of inquiry.

Speakers will include Arjun Appadurai (Anthropology), Farhat Haq (Government, Monmouth College), Rashid Khalidi (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and History), Alan Kolata (Anthropology), Moishe Postone (History), Saskia Sassen (Sociology), Lisa Wedeen (Political Science), and James Winship (Political Science, Augustana College).