Book Launch

Book Talk | Seeing the World

04/16 Monday | 6pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and the Social Science Research Council invite you to a discussion of Seeing the World: How US Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era, with authors Mitchell L. StevensCynthia Miller-Idriss, and Seteney Shami. The event will be moderated by Ann Morning with critical remarks from George Steinmetz. 

U.S. research universities have long endeavored to be cosmopolitan places, yet the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology have remained stubbornly parochial. Despite decades of government and philanthropic investment in international scholarship, the most prestigious academic departments still favor research and expertise on the United States. Why? Seeing the World answers this question by examining university research centers that focus on the Middle East and related regional area studies.

Drawing on candid interviews with scores of top scholars and university leaders to understand how international inquiry is perceived and valued inside the academy, Seeing the World explains how intense competition for tenure-line appointments encourages faculty to pursue “American” projects that are most likely to garner professional advancement. At the same time, constrained by tight budgets at home, university leaders eagerly court patrons and clients worldwide but have a hard time getting departmental faculty to join the program. Together these dynamics shape how scholarship about the rest of the world evolves.

At once a work-and-occupations study of scholarly disciplines, an essay on the formal organization of knowledge, and an inquiry into the fate of area studies, Seeing the World is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of knowledge in a global era.


Cynthia Miller-Idriss is Associate Professor of Education and Sociology and Director of the International Training and Education Program at American University. Her current research follows two main trajectories, focused on the internationalization of higher education in the U.S., and education and far right wing youth culture in Germany.

Seteney Shami has been with the Social Science Research Council since July 1999 and is director of the InterAsia Program as well as the Middle East and North Africa Program. She also currently serves as founding director of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS), a regional nonprofit organization headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon.

Mitchell L. Stevens is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Advanced Research through Online Learning (CAROL) at Stanford University. He is an organizational sociologist with longstanding interests in the quantification of educational processes, alternative educational forms, and the formal organization of knowledge.

Ann Morning is Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference (UC Press, 2011).

George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Germanic Language and Literatures at the University of Michigan, and a Corresponding Member of the Centre de Sociologie européenne, Paris. He is a social theorist and a historical sociologist of states, empires, and social science.


Co-sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and its Producing Knowledge on World Regions Program

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