Chapter contributed by Producing Knowledge on World Regions‘ research assistant Jonathan Z. Friedman & research associate Cynthia Miller-Idriss in Internationalisation of Higher Education and Global Mobility, edited by Bernhard Streitwieser.
Part of an anthology on the internationalization of higher education and global mobility, Friedman and Miller-Idriss contend in this chapter that rather than seeing academic mobility as an individual decision and an individual accomplishment, we need to understand the institutional dynamics that constrain its organization. To shed light on these dynamics, the authors look to the case of area studies centers. Drawing on data from the SSRC’s project ‘Producing Knowledge on World Regions,’ they argue that for these academic units, knowledge production is significantly predicated on the circulation of scholars between the US and other world regions, and, that this mobility largely rests on the centers functioning as both ‘gateways’ and ‘guest homes.’ In these dual and reciprocal roles, the centers promote and organize mobility opportunities, maintain the international relationships that keep mobility pathways open, and make the visits of international scholars to the US comfortable and positive experiences. These activities are highly dependent on key resources like administrative personnel, campus space and financial support, each of which present challenges to some area studies centers more than others. Though such quotidian work underpins much international mobility, the authors argue that the dynamics of reciprocal hosting, relationship management and information sharing have been little examined amid the rise of ‘academic mobility’ scholarship more broadly. They thus call for more research into the institutional and organizational dynamics undergirding academic mobility, but also posit that the financial challenges facing many area studies centers may impede the international exchange typical of these intellectual fields over their 50+ year operation.