Edward Said and a lost Western Civilization

In my Global Studies theory class I’ve always enjoyed assigning the work of Edward Said, as a basis for talking about Orientalism and Exoticism. But I’ve usually been disappointed to find that my upper-division graduate students seem to not have as much interest in Said’s work as I do. Perhaps, I’ve wondered, it’s because his work is becoming a little dated? Or is perhaps because Said takes literature and art so seriously, in an age dominated by social media and digital globalization? To be honest, I think that the Western works that Said engages with now (Euripides? Gibbons?) might seem as distant and alien to many of my students as some contemporary Middle Eastern musicians and authors. The Age of Western Civilization courses is long gone in most liberal arts colleges. I think that my students struggle to read someone who assumes that a reader has a deep familiarity with 19th century European scholars and artists. I always have students in my classes who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, although their numbers are waning. They bring their own perspectives on the Middle East and Central Asia, which have a different framework.

The irony is that on Twitter someone just referenced (I’m very sorry that I don’t remember the name of the person who tweeted it) this 2014 article by Sadik Jalal al-’Azm. On the one hand, the author provides an effective and thoughtful critique of Said’s work. At the same time, he so concisely describes Said’s argument that this piece it also serves as an effective introduction to Said. Of course as the West has diversified, the scholars that Said refers to have receded from the curriculum. A first-generation Asian-American or Latinx student may have a very different take on Said. I still think that the idea of Orientalism and exoticism are important. But reading this article crystallized some of the problems that I found I was having teaching his work, as students themselves seemed to be struggling to express similar points. If you’re teaching Said’s work, I think that this is a great piece to assign with it.

Shawn Smallman

Neoliberalism- a lecture for a Global Studies theory class

This will be the last lecture that I post for a Global Studies class. As with all the earlier materials, please feel free to adapt and use in your classes any way that is helpful. One free documentary that I think would work well to accompany this lecture would be the Spider’s Web.

Shawn Smallman

Feminism, a lecture for a Global Studies theory class

If you’ve been following this chain of blog posts, I’ve been sharing the class materials I created for a Global Studies theory class. I no longer teach it and I wanted these materials to be useful to others. Please feel free to take, use and adapt. Like all my lectures, I would have liked to have updated this piece if I were to teach it again. But I hope that there may be some passages or ideas here that may be useful still.

Shawn Smallman

Green Theory, a lecture for a Global Studies theory class

If you’ve been following the series of blog posts, over the last two weeks I have been posting course content from my Global Studies Theory course. Please feel free to use, adapt and make it your own. In this lecture, I focused on India’s Chipko movement to talk about Green Theory. I feel that this lecture (and my feminism lecture) are not as strong as the others, but I hope that there may be some material here that you find useful.

Shawn Smallman

Classical Liberalism, a lecture for a Global Studies theory class

This month I am posting some syllabi, assignments, rubrics and lectures for my theory class in Global Studies. Please feel free to take, use and adapt for your own classes.

Shawn Smallman

Critical Theory- a lecture for a global studies theory class

This month I am sharing lectures, assignments, rubrics and syllabi for a Global Studies theory class. Please feel free to take, adapt and use this material in your own classes.

Shawn Smallman

NeoMarxism: a lecture for a Global Studies theory class

This month I am sharing syllabi, lectures and assignments for a global studies theory class. Please feel free to take, adapt and use as you see fit in your classes. Please note that this lecture is now several years old, so examples and figures will need updating.

Shawn Smallman

Postcolonialism- a lecture for a Global Studies Theory class

This month I am sharing lectures, assignments and syllabi for a Global Studies theory class. Here is a lecture on postcolonialism that you are free to take, adapt, and use for your own classes. As you’ll see, some of these lectures may have references to my own experiences or location, so please edit them as needed. Please click on page 2 below to view the syllabus. Good luck with your class!

Shawn Smallman

Classical Marxism lecture for a Theory class in INTL

This month I am sharing some of my syllabi, lectures, and assignments for a “Global Studies Theory” class. Today I am sharing the lecture on Classical Marxism. Please feel free to use and adapt this for your own classes.

Shawn Smallman

Action Research: a class competition

This month I am sharing some of my syllabi, assignments, rubrics, and class lectures for my “Introduction to Global Studies Theory” class, which in my department was called “Foundations of Global Studies.” In my face to face and hybrid class alike I liked to use small group work during class. Of all these assignments, none was more popular with my students than this competition. I would frame the competition with a brief lecture (5-10 minutes) on action research. Then I would break the class into small groups, and have each group present their groups’ proposal for an action research project.

Action Research

  • I want to briefly discuss action research
  • A field that dates back to the 1930s, and has roots in education, as well as anthropology, health and women’s studies
  • Action based research blurs the lines between scholar and subject, because the people studied become part of the research process
  • One of the goals is to empower them
  • The approach hopes that people in the community studied will better understand their problems at the end of the process
  • In that sense, an emancipatory theory, that aims to free people to think critically about their world
  • Sounds abstract: let me give you a concrete example
  • Work mapping in Arctic communities: includes members of the communities
  • Map rolled out on the floor: elder note sacred sites, burial grounds, trap lines, the movement of animals
  • Creates a product for their use
  • The goal is not to be a dispassionate observer
  • It is to produce something of use to the community
  • The focus is on practical outcomes related to the actual lives of the people studied
  • The theorizing tends to be small scale and often has the goal of creating positive social change
  • One of the goals is to democratize knowledge production and use
  • Very different perspective than the behavioralist ideal of the dispassionate observer off to the side
  • Instead, the action researcher is a facilitator, who brings the community together
  • This is a collaborative approach to research
  • Designed to be accessible and understood by the very people that it studies, so as to empower them

Core Idea:

  • At the core is the idea of action
  • Knowledge is not created solely for its own value
  • Instead, it is designed to be used
  • This school draws heavily in theoretical writing in education, in particular the work of Paulo Freire
  • The hope is that not only will the research prove useful, but also that people will develop the skills to study their own problems and be empowered.
  • For this reason, action research is designed to take into account the communities’ culture, emotional lives, and other influences
  • The researcher is a participant in the process of learning with the community
  • The research is then shared with the community
  • This is very important in action research
  • Research that is not shared has no value
  • There is a clear social or political value to research in this perspective
  • It hopes to create research to help solve a particular problem
  • Very attractive in fields such as public health that work with communities
  • Challenges older constructs of the social sciences

Small Group Work, Action Research:

  • Break into groups of four or five people. Appoint one person to be the action researcher. It is this person’s job to interview the group to learn what the key concerns facing university students are at our institution. Then with the group, this person is to come up with an action research plan that could be used to further study these problems. Remember: you have to include the community in your plan for research process. We’re going to report out on the findings from each of the groups, and the class is going to judge if these sound like good plans for action research. 
  • Which of these plans did you like the best? Why?
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