New Center for Global Studies Moves into High Gear

Posted: August 9, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

Ever since President Alan Merten announced a university-wide initiative to increase global awareness among the student body at George Mason in the university’s Plan for 2007, there has been a burgeoning of programs with the word “global” in their names. The newest addition to the effort is the Center for Global Studies (CGS), which was formally chartered last spring.

Peter Mandaville
Peter Mandaville
Photo by Evan Cantwell

“There is inevitably quite a lot of confusion about just what CGS is,” admits Peter Mandaville, CGS director and an assistant professor of public and international affairs. “We’re easily confused with the Center for Global Education, which handles study abroad and international educational exchange programs.” However, he explains, CGS is a research rather than an administrative unit, “and is not primarily concerned with brokering and facilitating research partnerships with institutions in other countries.”

CGS is dedicated to the academic study of global affairs, primarily with a social science and humanities orientation, but integrating elements of science, technology, and professional fields where appropriate. “Studying global interconnectedness is inherently a multidisciplinary activity,” Mandaville says. “For example, it’s not too difficult to envision scenarios in the future in which advances in biotechnology and changes in disease patterns could have a significant impact on how human societies organize themselves—on the nature and shape of political community, even.”

CGS currently has 75 associate faculty members. Individuals within the university interested in pursuing global affairs research can take advantage of the center’s resources, including other faculty members’ expertise, and more effectively seek out research grants. Faculty members and, eventually, graduate students will also be able to apply for funding from CGS to conduct relevant research abroad.

CGS will unveil its web site and publish the first issue of the Global Studies Bulletin, which will include articles by George Mason faculty, graduate students, and invited outside scholars, this fall. “The goal is to give new perspectives on issues of the day,” says Mandaville. “What we will try to do with the Bulletin is give a series of alternative viewpoints on global issues that go beyond the standard geopolitical and foreign policy perspectives that you get out of the average think tank in downtown D.C.”

Other plans in the works include a speakers series, a colloquium of faculty from Washington, D.C., area universities, and an annual conference.

CGS has already obtained its first private grant from the Vradenburg Foundation, which will fund the Globalization Dialogues Project. “One component of this will be academic research about globalization, which will critically examine the current impasse in the globalization debate,” says Mandaville. “We’re at a point where there are two sharply divided camps. The first thinks globalization is the answer to all the world’s problems. The other thinks it’s a set of hegemonic politics designed to make sure the developing world never gets anywhere and that only multinational corporations and the states that support them are able to profit from the integration of international economies. Through this project, we will try to pursue academic research that will try to chip away at these two established positions in order to find out if there is a space where dialogue and constructive engagement might take place, so as to move things forward a bit for both policymakers and activists.”

In cooperation with the Center for History and New Media, CGS is also engaged in a living history project. In an online, multimedia environment, the project will attempt to portray a sense of what it is like for average Iraqi civilians in the midst of the turmoil that is gripping their nation. Individuals representing nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. military, as well as the Iraqis themselves, are involved in the project. They will be equipped with multimedia collecting kits that include laptop computers, hand scanners, digital cameras, and digital audio recorders to gather information, which will then be sifted through and placed on a new web site. “We want to create a living archive, a site where people can go and get some sense of what it’s like to be an average Iraqi, going to school or doing your daily job,” says Mandaville.

Another upcoming CGS project will look at the outsourcing of jobs abroad by U.S. companies. This project will assess the social, economic, and cultural repercussions on the countries where these jobs are sent. “When you have this influx of what are essentially middle-class jobs, what does that do to patterns of consumption and culture in India?” asks Mandaville. “For example, in Mumbai, one of hottest growth industries right now is personal fitness, because if you’re an affluent young software developer, part of that lifestyle means that you have to belong to a gym and you have to work out. So, all over Mumbai, gyms have been springing up. In a way, these locales become a second tier of global cities and start to have more in common with similar cities in the rest of the world rather than with the national context of wider India.”

For more information on CGS, visit its web site or e-mail Mandaville at

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