Global Trends in Higher Education

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

Around 20 individuals came to the first event of the spring semester held by the Center for Global Studies: Global Trends in Higher Education. This event brought together three experts in the field of higher education to converse on some of the latest trends in an increasingly globalized world.

The first to speak was Walter McMahon, an economist who studies the development, financing, and macroeconomics of education. His recent work on the rate of total return from higher education shows that under-investment in the US is leading to sub-optimal rates of growth and development. McMahon began by stating that human capital plays a central role in growth and development.

A main thrust of Mcmahon’s presentation was that there are social benefits of higher education besides earnings. But despite this, there have been rising tuition costs at both universities and community colleges, in part due to an increase in privatization happening in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, India and Malaysia. And while a trend such as privatization may make sense in many industries – for example, steel – those industries don’t have the same “spill-over” benefits into society that higher education does. McMahon stated that his research shows the humanities, history, education, and political science have larger social benefits than fields like business and engineering. These social benefits are seen in populations who have received higher education, and they include better health, greater longevity, better-educated and healthier children, smaller families with less poverty, increased probability of having a college-educated spouse, and greater happiness.

The next to speak was Helaine Silverman, a professor in the department of Anthropology. She is also the Director and Co-Originator of the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management Policy (CHAMP), a strategic research center dedicated to the critical study of cultural heritage and museum practices around the world.  The structure of CHAMP is interdisciplinary, as it works with many units on the University of Illinois campus such as anthropology, architecture, landscape architecture, business administration, music, English, the classics, urban and regional planning, and the school of information sciences, to name a few.  

Silverman began by asking the question: “What does heritage have to do with global education?” “Everything”, was the emphatic answer. There are heritage claims being made for Jerusalem by Jews and Muslims, as well as other groups around the world. There are conflicting conceptions of national identity; immigration informs debates about the heritage of countries. This contemporary reality motivates CHAMP to offer coursework addressing the past and the present. In the US there are no free-standing departments of heritage studies, they are embedded in departments of anthropology, architecture, or others.  

The final speaker of the event was Allison Witt, the Director of International Programs in the College of Education where she teaches Global Studies in Education and is the Program Leader for the International Education Administration and Leadership program. Witt began by pointing out that higher education has always been global to some extent. The US higher educational model is cobbled together from many other international models. She placed US higher education in the larger context of how the international engagement of the United States has changed from a development focus (post-WWI and WWII) and moved more recently towards the use of Higher Education as a form of soft power.  

Since the 1980s, with a large cut in public support of education instigated through the economic policies of Reagan and Thatcher, there has been a shift towards a more competitive framing with academic institutions having to compete for grants, students, and funding. There is a large field of literature dedicated to the study of this shift, identifying this trend as “Academic Capitalism”Witt continued her talk by next focusing on study abroad, which she pointed out is tied to benefits for students and communities. The university is seen as a hub of innovation globally and has research relationships with universities around the world. This global focus was then explored vis-à-vis the original mission of a land-grant institution, which was the opportunity for local individuals to receive technical training in agriculture and engineering.

Witt suggested we need to move towards a collaborative model of global engagements. Teacher education is inherently a collaborative process, as it requires higher education to work with K-12 in equal partnerships to train teachers. Models need to be developed where we work closely with partner institutions and schools, where institutions reciprocally exchange preservice teachers in local schools, and where local teachers are engaged as both participants and hosts.

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Global Knowledge and Governance

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

On 4 December 2018, nearly forty people joined a panel to discuss the intersections between global knowledge and governance. After an introduction of the panelists by Steve Witt, the director of the Center for Global Studies, Brian Dill, Department Head and Associate Professor of Sociology, began the day’s proceedings with a look at international tax governance. Dill identified Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Apple as tax evaders  — meaning they look for legal loopholes in order to find ways to avoid taxes. There has been a recent outcry by governments and a big push on how to capture the big corporate transactions that take place; prompting legislation. Dill explored ways in which international taxation is being governed and identified currents systems as those that exacerbate inequality and advance the interests of those who write the rules.

Global Tax Governing Schemes

In his presentation, Dill talked about the movement to regulate global taxation known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). This was initiated by the G20 countries in 2014. Overall, there has been a rising capacity within corporations to find loopholes to shift profits from one entity to another, eroding traditional tax bases. Set to take effect in January of 2019, BEPS is a multi-governmental policy.

However, as Dill pointed out, the BEPS process has largely disadvantaged poor countries. Although the consultation process began to discuss how to implement new tax policy in 2014, countries from the global south were not invited to join the conversation until 2016.

Dill asked the audience to reflect on how many countries around the world have been denied development opportunities because of the deprivation of these resources?

The next speaker of the event was Zsuzsa Gille, Professor of Sociology and Director of the LAS Global Studies program. Her talk centered around global rules and rulemaking.  She began by identifying the effect that an increasing globalized world has had on the strength of the state, suggesting it has generally been weakening over time. But at the same time, Dr. Gille notes there are more regulations and rules being generated to govern the behavior of the state. States may no longer be the primary actors in regulations Gille suggests, since the nature of regulations has changed.

Dr. Gille made the distinction between governance and government, where the former dictates regulation that bears on the actions of the latter. Actors which have influence over governance are identified as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), Supranational Organizations (such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, or the IMF), and private entities such as corporations. Global governance, Gille stated, is almost never influenced by a single actor, but rather through a regime of many different actors.

Tangible consequences to political outcomes.

She drew an interesting conclusion between political outcomes and how we treat the regulation of both big and small things within the EU. The regulation of big things could be over human rights for example, while regulation of small things could be over what shape of fruit may be sold within the EU.

Dr. Gille made the claim that there is a connection between increased time spent on discussion over the little things, such as regulation of the shape of fruit which is ok to sell within Europe, and the recent rise of the populist movements of the right.

Transitional Justice

Colleen Murphy, Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Illinois, was the next to address the enraptured audience. Murphy opened by stating that when we are dealing with the question of an increasingly interdependent world, we need to look at the theory of transitional justice —that is the idea that societies which are emerging from extended conflicts deal with the wrong-doing of millions of people.

Murphy outlined many different examples in the world where societies have had to deal with the transition from an extended conflict to a more orderly society. Countries in South America and Africa, including Sierra Leone, South Africa and Egypt; Asia with the Kmher Rouge of Cambodia and the Sri Lankan Civil War; and Columbia with the recent end of 52 years of conflict between the government and the rebel group FARC.

Within societies who are transitioning, there are a range of responses that deal with past wrongs. These include:

  1. Criminal Trials on both a domestic and international level.
  2. Truth commissions
  3. Reparations of victims
  4. Memorials
  5. The barring of groups from serving in particular public capacities.

Scholarship on Transitional Justice

The body of scholarship on transitional justice tries to understand why particular societies make specific choices in how to deal with past wrongs and which wrongs they will focus on. Why are choices made?  Scholarship is disseminated in academic journals, but also reflected in the practice of NGOs that act in many places around the world, for example the International Center for Transitional Justice.  Lawyers are often heavily involved with these NGOs and work closely designing implementation of responses.

Murphy identified three worries about how scholarship is currently practiced, and suggested it may not be as global as it needs to be.  Firstly, there is a disproportionate exclusion of practitioners from the global south. The global body of scholarship is largely composed of scholars from the global north who go to the global south and advise them on what should happen. This may be erasing agency and expertise of actors in the global south. Secondly, the way in which the knowledge is generated may be limited because it fails to capture the characteristics of different groups who are in transition. This could include, for example, the gender dimensions of wrong-doing, but also needs to be further complicated to see how caste and gender interact. Thirdly, there is a worry that the aspiration to globalize knowledge and practice transitional justice is often defined as the “tool kit”, a prescription to be applied anywhere without taking into account the local context. In these situations, there is a danger of overlooking local viewpoints.

Conspiracy and Lizard People

The final speaker of the day was Timothy Wedig, professor and Associate Director of LAS global studies. His talk focused on the impact on governance of knowledge that may not be accurate. He began by pointing out that conspiracy theories are corrosive to democracy and that paranoia is no basis for a system of government, since often paranoia produces toxic outcomes. While paranoia may be effective at gaining support, it produces poor policy decisions.

Governance requires good input. Wedig noted that recent polling data shows that 67% of Egyptians believe the U.S. controls ISIS in order to take over Syria; 55% of French citizens believe vaccine dangers are being hidden by the government; and 4% of Americans believe in lizard people.

Wedig pointed to research that shows belief in one conspiracy theory is highly correlated with belief in others. Sometimes this leads to individuals believing in two or more highly contradictory theories. Individuals may simultaneously believe that we have never gone to the moon and that there are secret moon-bases controlled by Radioshack. Research also shows that social isolation increases as individuals subscribe to conspiracy theories.

Wedig outlined two results of a large belief in conspiracy theories. Firstly, there is an erosion of trust in governance, institutions, and norms, which leads to a perceived, or actual, loss of legitimacy. Secondly, there is an increased penchant to assign blame to specific groups, increasing hostility and violence against the government or the “other”.

Conspiracy’s Impact on Policy

In terms of conspiracy’s impact on policy, Wedig identified several ways in which policy can be affected. Using climate change as an example, he identified that climate change is a conspiracy created by one of many actors. Conspiracy can lead to confusion about what scientific consensus and data mean. It allows for an easy manipulation of ignorance. Conspiracy encourages movement toward ready-made escapes from scary realities which enables individuals who do not want to think about the impact of climate change to look the other way.

Wedig ended by suggesting the best ways in which we can resist conspiranoia. He said first of all, those that are lost have to find their own way back. We need to stop debating those who engage in conspiracy theories, it only legitimizes their own position. We need to decipher how knowledge is created and advanced, and include discussion of methods, peer review, process of research, and the difference between fact and opinion. And as scholars, we need to make our own work accessible and transparent. This includes outreach in order to have conversations with non-academic audiences. If we publish an article, we should write a version for the general audience and publish it in spaces where the public can interact with it.


Figure 1: BEPS is an initiative by the G20 countries to decrease tax evasion by large international corporations.

Figure 2: In 2008 the European Union chose to allow the sale of ‘odd’ shaped fruit and vegetables.


For more information on the event, a supplemental libguide of the same name can be found here


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The Mortenson Center, Dr. Valeda Dent, and the Importance of Rural Village Libraries in Uganda

Photo courtesy of St. John’s University

On Monday November 26th, the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs held their 28th Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture. The speaker was Valeda F. Dent, Dean and Professor of the University Libraries at St. John’s University in New York.

In her presentation titled “Evaluating the Impact of Rural Village Libraries in Uganda: A Mixed-Methods Narrative”, Dr. Dent went into detail about her research on Rural Village Libraries (RVLs) and their impact on people in Uganda. Dr. Dent’s journey began when a librarian from Uganda enlisted her expertise to gage how a rural village library was being received and utilized by local patrons. Twelve years later, Dr. Dent is still conducting research on how RVLs are being used to bridge gender gaps, encourage literacy, empower democracy, and catalyze economic change.

Dr. Dent spoke at length about an idea she calls the “humanitarian effort”. She explained that we, as humans, feel an urgency to help others less fortunate than us. But as westerners, often we neglect to take issues of sustainability into consideration. Often we assume problems in the developing world have simple solutions and we believe these problems can be solved simply by hosting a fundraiser or collecting materials. But in response to this, Dr. Dent implores us to remember that many problems developing countries face are deep-rooted in complex social, cultural, and/or political constructs that often take years to understand and uproot.

Dr. Dent mostly discussed how her research has evolved over time. Initially, she believed her question revolved around how RVLs were being used to add literacy, and she looked into how RVLs help to prepare young children for school. But unexpectedly, she discovered there were underlying trends overlapping the following eight categories:

Women & Girls                                   Secondary School Children

Primary Caregivers                            Preschool Children

Gender & Stereotypes                        School Readiness

Literacy                                            Economic Development

While an analysis of any one of these categories could easily stand on its own, Dr. Dent believes they all come together under the umbrella of RVLs. While RVLs have had a longer time to come to fruition in West Africa, examples from East Africa can still be found. RVLs in Uganda are typically used to hold supplemental materials for secondary school children. This provides a unique dynamic, because most of the books are in English. But Dr. Dent’s research shows that despite the lack of materials in local languages, numerous individuals from the community will come and use the library. Many children venture to Kitengesa (one of the libraries observed by Dr. Dent) with older family members, and even though they cannot read yet, they see their parents, grandparents, or siblings reading, and they mimic the action. This frequent visiting and mimicking leads young children to develop an appreciation for the library and reading, to develop reading skills more efficiently, and to increase school readiness. Also in her research, Dr. Dent has discovered that in many communities, libraries are the only safe space for girls; libraries provide a place for girls to exist free from harassment and abuse, and when given a place where they can be themselves, young girls are free to learn and dream. Especially in rural areas where girls are exposed to more traditional gender roles and expectations, RVLs are being utilized as a space where women can feel empowered and girls can seek to learn what and how they want.

On a more general note, Dr. Dent referenced Nancy Kranich’s book Libraries and Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty within this discussion, suggesting that libraries can lead to democracy. Little research has been done in East Africa relating to these assumptions. But the overall increase of literacy, as seen through the introduction and sustainability of RVLs, suggests that if people are literate, they are more likely to involve themselves in the democratic process. If people are illiterate, they often assume they have no power, or that they can have no influence on policy or politics. Overall, RVLs around the world are largely overlooked because of their size or their contents. But as seen through the extensive research Dr. Dent has been involved with in the last decade, RVLs are doing a lot more than they are given credit for. RVLs provide an environment for children and adults to learn. But even more than that, RVLs provide a space where secondary students can feel encouraged, women and girls can feel free, and everyone can feel as though they can have a hand in politics, economics, or education.


If you missed the event, and would like to listen to the lecture, you can find a recording of Dr. Dent’s presentation on the Mortenson Center website. Just go to the Event Page using the link below, and click “Watch The Recorded Lecture”.

Mortenson Center Event Page for Dr. Dent’s Presentation 

Mortenson Center Event Page 

If you are interested in learning more about how RVL projects are being utilized on the continent of Africa, you can visit the “Friends of African Village Libraries” (FAVL) website that focuses on libraries in Ghana, or the East African branch of FAVL called “Uganda Community Libraries Association” (UgCLA) that focuses on Uganda.




If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Dent or her research, you can visit her faculty page at St. John’s University or her Academia page.

St. John’s University



Published Works by Valeda F. Dent

Dent, Valeda F. “Multiple Research Methods as a Way to Explore the Longitudinal Impact of the Rural Village Library in Africa.” Qualitative & Quantitative Methods in Libraries, 2015, pp. 17-28.

______________. “Observations of School Library Impact at Two Rural Ugandan Schools.” New World Library, vol. 107, no. 9/10, 2006, pp. 403-421.

______________. Rural Community Libraries in Africa: Challenges and Impacts. Hershey, Information Science Reference, 2014.

Dent, Valeda Frances. “An Exploratory Study of the Impact of the Rural Village Library and Other Factors on the Academic Achievement of Secondary School Students.” ProQuest LLC, 2012, pp. 1-210.

________________. “A Rural Community Library in Africa: A Study of Its Use and Users.” Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Sciences, vol. 55, no. 1, 2018, pp. 39-55.

________________. Keeping the User in Mind: Instructional Design and the Modern Library. Oxford, Chandos, 2009.

________________. “Modelling the Rural Community Library.” New Library World, vol. 107, no. 1/2, 2006, pp. 16-30.

_________________. Qualitative Research and the Modern Library. Oxford, Chandos Pub., 2011.

Dent, Valeda Frances, and Geoff Goodman. “The Beast had to marry Balinda: Using Story Examples to Explore Socializing Concepts in Ugandan Caregivers’ Oral Stories.” Oral Tradition, vol. 28, no. 1, 2018, pp. 55-76.

_______________. “The Intergenerational Impact of a Rural Community Library on Young Childrens Learning Readiness in a Ugandan Village.”

________________. “The Rural Library’s Role in Ugandan Secondary Students’ Reading Habits.” International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, vol. 4, no.1, 2015, pp. 53-62.

Dent, Valeda F., and Geoff Goodman. “Rural Library Services: Historical Development and Modern-day Examples from West Africa.” New Library World, vol. 109, no. 11/12, 2008, pp. 1-21.

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Universal Declaration of Human Rights – 70th Anniversary

This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) celebrates its 70th anniversary.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home–so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt (chair  of the UDHR drafting committee)

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations. The first document to outline the need for universal protection of fundamental human rights, the declaration consists of thirty articles that paved the way for numerous international treaties, human rights movements, and national laws. The precursor to the International Bill of Human Rights, the UDHR provided more clarification to the United Nations Charter, a foundational treaty adopted in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II.

The structure and content of the declaration was compiled over time with contributions by John Peters Humphrey, René Cassin, and Code Napoléon, and was finalized to include a preamble and thirty articles outlined as follows:

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal.

 Article 2 Everyone is entitled to the same human rights without discrimination of any kind.

 Article 3 Everyone has the human right to life, liberty, and security.

 Article 4 No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

 Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

 Article 6 Everyone has the human right to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law.

 Article 7 Everyone is equal before the law and has the human right to equal protection of the law.

 Article 8 Everyone has the human right to a remedy if their human rights are violated.

 Article 9 No one shall be arrested, detained, or exiled arbitrarily.

 Article 10 Everyone has the human right to a fair trial.

 Article 11 Everyone has the human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 Article 12 Everyone has the human right to privacy and family life.

 Article 13 Everyone has the human right to freedom of movement and residence within the state, to leave any country and to return to one’s country.

Article 14 Everyone has the human right to seek asylum from persecution.

 Article 15 Everyone has the human right to a nationality.

Article 16 All adults have the human right to marry and found a family. Women and men have equal human rights to marry, within marriage, and at its dissolution.

 Article 17 Everyone has the human right to own property.

 Article 18 Everyone has the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

 Article 19 Everyone has the human right to freedom of opinion and expression.

 Article 20 Everyone has the human right to peaceful assembly and association.

 Article 21 Everyone has the human right to take part in government of one’s country directly or through free and fair elections and access to the public service

Article 22 Everyone has the human right to social security and to the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for dignity.

 Article 23 Everyone has the human right to work, to just conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to sufficient pay to ensure a dignified existence for one’s self and one’s family, and the human right to join a trade union.

Article 24 Everyone has the human right to rest and leisure.

Article 25 Everyone has the human right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services.

 Article 26 Everyone has the human right to education including free and compulsory elementary education and human rights education.

Article 27 Everyone has the human right to participate freely in the cultural life and to share in scientific progress, as well as to protection of their artistic, literary or scientific creations.

Article 28 Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which these rights can be realized fully.

 Article 29 Everyone has duties to the community.

 Article 30 None of the human rights in this Declaration can be used to justify violating another human right.” [1]

The UDHR is responsible for influencing over eighty international declarations and treaties for human rights and in 1999, the UDHR broke the record for most translated document in the world. To date, it has been translated into more than 500 languages. [2]


Visit the “United Nations Association of the United States of America” for more information on what resources are available for educational purposes, and which events are being held in your area.

Visit the International Federation of Libraries Association (IFLA) website to see what is happening on Human Rights Day 2018 (December 10). You can also follow their blog and even download a free “Libraries for Human Rights” poster.



[1] “Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Summary)”, People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (PMHR), 2018,

[2] Lee, Jenni. “About the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, United Nations Foundation, 8 December 2017,


Resources on Human Rights

Bellamy, Alex J. The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Cahill, Suzanne. Dementia and Human Rights. Bristol, Policy Press, 2018.

Devere, Heather. Peacebuilding and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Experiences and Strategies for the 21st Century. Cham, Springer, 2017.

Holcombe, Sarah E. Remote Freedoms: Politics, Personhood, and Human Rights in Aboriginal Central Australia. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2018.

Lindkvist, Linde. Religious Freedom and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Loeffler, James Benjamin. Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2018.

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. Boulder, Westview Press, 2012.

Plesch, Daniel. Human Rights after Hitler: the Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes. Washington, D.C., Georgetown University Press, 2017.

Ten Years of the Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Good Practices and Lessons Learned — 2007 – 2017: Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Geneva, United Nations General Assembly 2017.  Continue Reading →

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MillerComm2019: “Facts, Objects, and Visions in the Design of Globalizing Knowledge”

Rapporteur: Thaddeus B. Herman

On October 24th approximately 100 individuals came to see Dr. Michael Kennedy, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, deliver his keynote address at the Center for Advanced Study’s MillerComm 2019 event. In a speech titled “Facts, Objects, and Visons in the Design of Globalizing Knowledge” Kennedy outlined the nature of various global conversations he has been involved in since the 2015 publication of his book Globalizing Knowledge. The conversation consisted of radically different scopes of imagination, principles of design, and visions of consequence in the articulation of transformative knowledge cultures. The three different visions that were explored in his presentation related to:

  • A technocratic approach to governing the future, associated with the Oxford Martin Commission and Pascal Lamy.
  • The pragmatic imagination of ecosystemic design associated with the work of Ann Pendleton-Jullian and John Seely Brown.
  • An AfroFuturism made popular by the cinematic debut of Black Panther and the more transgressive works of John Jennings, Stacey Robinson and others.

Kennedy opened by acknowledging that access to knowledge and knowledge generation directly leads to representation of ideas and research questions, and he prefaced that his talk would bring many issues together through his expertise and experience as a scholar and an administrator. Kennedy was the University of Michigan’s first vice provost for international affairs, he has been the director of an institute and five centers and programs at Michigan, and he has served as the Howard R. Swearer Director of Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.  Kennedy concluded nine years of service on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors at the Social Science Research Council in 2015, and now serves on the Governing Board of European Humanities University and as chair of the Advisory Board of the Open Society Foundations’ Higher Education Support Program.

After Kennedy read the Land Acknowledgment Statement (, he noted it was difficult to summarize what his book Globalizing Knowledge had been about, despite having talked about it in many locales. He said that his book had been an attempt, in part, to think about how we, as scholars, interpret intellectual responsibility, as well as how we perceive the institutional responsibility of the homes of which we are a part. Kennedy suggested we should think about what those intellectual responsibilities should be. Most discussions of globalization have a flat meaning, or a post-colonial flavor, but perhaps one question that can be asked in order to guide our understanding of the term is, “If you are suffering as an administrator, how can you make your life sufferable?”

Another question set the tone of the day’s talk: How does work in different sites inform one another? Kennedy began to answer this question by stating “we have no problem with our ability to rationalize, we have a problem with imagination”– referring to imagining the world that we want to inhabit.

Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations

The first imagination of a different world which Kennedy engaged with was the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, a “group of 19 international leaders from government, business, academia, media and civil society who came together to address the growing short-term preoccupations of modern politics and business and identify ways of overcoming gridlock in key international negotiations” (  Since the publication of his book, Kennedy has been engaging in discussions with this group of individuals. This commission was chaired by Mr. Pascal Lamy, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

The Oxford Commission in part was a process initiated to establish a common platform of understanding, as it was understood that the ability to address today’s global challenges is undermined by the absence of a collective vision for society. To remedy this, the commission urged a renewal  of dialogue based on an updated set of shared global values around which a unified and enduring pathway for society can be built. Kennedy mentioned that, within this framework, it is just a matter of who leads and to which networks, organizations, social groups and accompanying values they are tied, not in what method is used by that leadership to interpret the complexity of a rapidly changing world. Leadership is a matter of understanding global complexity and the meaning of progress.

Kennedy mentioned that after exploring the imagination of global trends with this group, he feared that they had missed an opportunity to get creative. Kennedy mentioned that all futures are part of a trend of which we already know and are familiar.

John Seely Brown and Ann Pendleton-Jullian

Kennedy laid out a conceptual map of John Seely Brown and Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s work on a “Whitewater World” that states because of the rapid pace at which knowledge is being generated in today’s age, we require a different method of navigation — the metaphor employed being that of whitewater kayaking.

Figure 1: The Future of Knowledge Sharing. Source:

Invoking the use of kayaking as metaphor implies that we are ever-pragmatic in our decisions, meaning we are rapidly reacting to new sets of information that we are confronted with. Thus, Kennedy noted that universities need to think, not only about how to invest in the production of knowledge, but also how to elevate truthfulness to a higher status in our public life. This applies even more in relation to the new information ecosystem being created by the ever-increasing use of social media – especially twitter – by those who occupy elevated stations within political administrations.


Tegan (2012) notes that “AfroFuturism, like cyberfeminism, uses science fiction and cyberculture in a speculative manner, in the case of Afrofuturism to escape a definition of what it means to be black (or exotically African) in western culture” and is a way to “critique…both western culture and techno-culture” (p. 26). Most people are familiar with AfroFuturism through the example given to us by Marvel’s extremely successful Black Panther film released in early 2018. Kennedy noted that AfroFuturism is cutting edge and we need to engage with it, not only because of pop culture, but also so we can encourage our imaginations to wander towards something different than what already exists. Kennedy emphatically claimed “AfroFuturism is more profound than many world-building exercises”.

Figure 2: Black Panther may be the most popular example of AfroFuturism. Source:

Kennedy warmly called this part of his talk “comic-book sociology” but spoke in all seriousness when he reflected on his 2015 publication Globalizing Knowledge, and wondered if he had written the book on a “white canvas”. He speculated on how the book could have been different if conceived in more “Du Boisian terms” referencing, of course, well-known sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Kennedy pondered, what if he had conceived the context of Globalizing Knowledge not as a globalizing university, but as white privilege composed on a white canvas much like the Incredible Hulk or even the Black Panther. What if blackness had been the guiding light? “What might I have seen beyond diversity?” Kennedy asked of himself.

Kennedy ended his talk by wondering what his project would have looked like if his most recent book had been conceived of with an AfroFuturist sensibility, not only influenced by Du Bois, Fanon, Cabra and Césaire, but also with Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, George Clinton and Audre Lorde.

Kennedy left the audience with this question about the future: “Is the Black Panther the beginning of a popular movement around AfroFuturist alternatives”?

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The African Union and Agenda 2063

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established in September 2000. Thought to bridge all areas in need of development, the MDGs were created with eight goals:

  1. “To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development” [1]

After fifteen years, in direct response to the MDGs, the entire continent of Africa has seen a reduction in infant mortality rates and the number of individuals with HIV/AIDS, while seeing an increasing number of women in parliament and children in primary school. Although progress was made, the deadline for achieving the goals – 2015 – passed with work still needing to be done.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed in 2015 with the hope that the momentum provided by the MDGs could continue in the seventeen categories noted in the chart below:


Photo courtesy of the United Nations.


Many scholars, politicians, and humanitarians are aware of the MDGs are a predecessor to the SDGs, however few people are cognizant of the fact that the African Union Agenda 2063 also had influence on the creation of the SDGs. While the MDGs and SDGs were both established with a global mindset, the continent of Africa chose to also involve themselves in the African Union Agenda 2063, an agenda that focuses on the continent of Africa specifically. While the SDGs were established with the expectation for progress to occur within the next fifteen years, Agenda 2063 was created with a timeframe of fifty years, and with those fifty years, seven “aspirations” were set:

  1. “A Prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  4. A Peaceful and Secure Africa
  5. Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics
  6. An African whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth and caring for children
  7. An Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner” [2]

While numerous non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations have been active on the continent since the 1970s, this agenda is significant because it places the agency with Africans themselves. Agenda 2063 proves its uniqueness through a bottom-up approach; rather than have international or outside organizations dictate the who and when of development, a bottom-up approach enables Africans to have a voice in what they want and a hand in how it happens.

Agenda 2063 has obvious implications for political, economic, and social advances, but many researchers are focusing on the idea that, if Agenda 2063 makes notable progress, many African countries could become world players, immersing themselves in international affairs.  Numerous scholars place doubt on Africa’s ability to successfully develop within fifty years, insisting the difficulty to develop lies within a combination of weak governance, political instability, and insecurity – a combination that can be found transcontinentally. [3] However, many researchers make claims  related to the power of Africa, proposing a reawakening of Africa that could have significant implications for the world. In highlighting aspirations 3, 4, and 5, Oluwaseun Tella suggests that the African Union (AU) could be the first union to become an active force in international soft power – the idea that “soft power actors are able to influence other actors due to the attractiveness embedded in the former’s values, culture, and policies”. [4] But neither doubting scholars nor optimistic researchers can claim their projections as fact until the fifty year span has come to an end. In the meantime, the world waits and watches – ready to see Africa’s next move.


Additional Reading

Amupanda, J.S. “Who is the ‘We’? Interrogating the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and Youth Political Participation”, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies 13, no. 1: (2018): 56-76.

Ayieko, Benard. “Continental Unity”, Beijing Review 61, no. 36 (2018): 30-31.

Fagbayibo, B. “Nkrumahism, Agenda 2063, and the Role of Intergovernmental Institutions in Fast-tracking Continental Unity”, Journal of Asian and African Studies 53, no. 4 (2018): 629-642.

Ogbonnaya, U.M. “Terrorism, Agenda 2063 and the Challenges of Development in Africa”, South African Journal of International Affairs 23, no. 2 (2016): 185-199.

Slavova, Mira. “African Smart Cities Strategies for Agenda 2063”, Africa Journal of Management 2, no. 2 (2016): 210-229.

[1] United Nations, “From MDGs to SDGs”, The Sustainable Development Goals Fund, Accessed 4 Oct 2018,

[2] United Nations, “Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform”, Accessed 4 Oct 2018,

[3] African Union, “Agenda 2063: About Agenda 2063”, The African Union Commission, Accessed 4 Oct 2018,

[4] Nwebo, O.E., “The African Union Agenda 2063 and the Imperative of Democratic Governance (Review)”, Law and Development Review 11, no. 2 (2018): 259-276.

[5] Oluwaseun, Tella, “Agenda 2063 and Its Implications for Africa’s Soft Power”, Journal of Black Studies 49, no. 7 (2018): 714-730.

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Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime

posted by Thaddeus B. Herman

On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, the Center for Global Studies held its second event in a year-long series dedicated to the globalization of knowledge. Around 20 individuals attended to hear Dr. Yulia Zabyelina, Assistant Professor at John Jay college of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, speak about Transnational Organized Crime. Zabyelina’s scholarship relates to ‘crimes of the powerful’ – defined as crimes committed at the upper levels of government where it is difficult for individuals to be prosecuted or held responsible.

Zabyelina opened the event by asking the question “How does legal immunity provide an opportunity for serious misconduct to its holders?” This question relates to the topic of research she is currently undertaking in preparation for a new book. In her research, Zabyelina focuses on misconduct by representatives of the state, specifically diplomatic representatives.

Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) is different than organized crime. Organized crime elicits services that are in response to public demand, are often associated with the desire to have monopoly control in a particular area, and use a pattern of violence and/or corruption through methods of extortion, loan sharking, gambling, bootlegging, or prostitution, among others. TOC, on the other hand, is defined by the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) as an offence that has been:

  • Committed in more than one State;
  • Committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State;
  • Committed in one State but involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State; or
  • Committed in one State but has substantial effects in another State.

Conventional forms of TOC have included drug or human trafficking, migrant smuggling, or firearms trafficking. Whereas new and emerging forms include natural resource trafficking, counterfeit goods trafficking, cultural property trafficking, and cybercrime.

In her presentation, Zabyelina pointed out that typical theories dealing with crimes focus on causes such as poverty or lack of general opportunity because of life’s circumstances. TOC, on the other hand, is committed by smart, capable individuals who engage in sophisticated operations. This “elite deviance” is perpetrated by those who commit crimes despite having high educational and financial means. While Zabyelina pointed out there is literature on corporate crime and corruption, she intends for her research to fill an important gap in knowledge on elite deviance through TOC. Elite deviants are those who, according to the Criminaloid theory posited by Cesare Lombroso in 1876, project a respectable, upright façade in an attempt to conceal a criminal personality, enjoy the respect of society, and – because of their established connections with the government – are less likely to meet with opposition.

Zabyelina’s research is focusing on those individuals who have legal immunity that exempts them from search, arrest, and civil or criminal prosecution. Often, legal immunity also includes privileges such as exception from fiscal obligations. Individuals who may receive immunity are usually Heads of State, diplomatic corps, international civil servants, peacekeepers, MPs, or judges. The legal sources for diplomatic immunity vary from international conventions, such as the Vienna Convention of 1961 or the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of 1947, to local domestic laws and constitutions of various States. Diplomatic agents are of particular interest to Zabyelina and were defined by her as “a public official who acts as an intermediary between a foreign nation (the receiving state) and the nation which employed and accredited the diplomat agent (the sending State)”. Diplomatic agents of various types make up a diplomatic corps and may hold titles as ambassadors, envoys, ministers plenipotentiary, chargé d’affaires, consuls and vice-consuls, or administrative and technical staff of diplomatic missions.

A typology of offenses by a diplomatic corps was offered by Zabyelina as one fruit of her research. This typology included four types of abuse:

  1. State-authority crime: crime committed on behalf of state institutions
  2. Diplomats as victims: crime without the diplomatic agent’s conscious involvement or knowledge
  3. Diplomats as co-conspirators: diplomats who have deliberately exploited legal immunity to profit from criminal activity
  4. Diplomats as principle offenders: diplomats who have abused diplomatic entitlements for profit as the principal perpetrator of a criminal act.

She provided several case studies to illustrate this abuse. Zabyelina pointed out that the North Korean government has been involved in state-sponsored criminal activity in order to help fund the regime, which is an example of the first type of abuse. As an example of the second type of abuse, Zabyelina highlighted an event that took place in 2012 which saw a shipment of drugs to the United Nations headquarters from Mexico in what appeared to be an imitation of a diplomatic pouch – which traditionally have not been subject to search. As no diplomat was found to be responsible for the crime, this act was perceived as an example of diplomats as victims of crimes. An example of the last type of crime comes from an event where an Ethiopian diplomat was arrested at Heathrow Airport for attempting to smuggle 123 pounds of cannabis through security. When detained, she attempted to use diplomatic immunity as a way to escape consequences of her actions. Her activity resulted in a prison sentence of 33 months.

The presentation ended with an open question followed by discussion with a lively interaction between the audience and presenter. An attendee asked how Zabyelina finds source material from states – especially when it is related to deviant behavior committed by their own diplomats. Zabyelina identified five areas from where she gathers her information:

  1. Mass media and journalism
  2. Court files
  3. Her colleague’s connection to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services – where her college has interns working to help collect information
  4. Reports or investigations undertaken by international organizations
  5. Interviews with diplomats, members of the chambers of commerce, employees of the New York Police Department, and members of the US State Department

Overall it was an event which elaborated upon a very interesting aspect of global knowledge production.  For more information on the topic,  please look at the library guide – Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime.


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The Meaning of Global/Globalizing Knowledge

Thaddeus B. Herman – Rapporteur

On Wednesday, September 26, over 30 individuals came together to participate in a discussion on global knowledge and its production. This event was hosted by the Center for Global Studies and was the first in a series of events exploring different aspects of globalization and knowledge. The discussion was led by a panel of four prominent Illinois scholars including Nicholas Burbules – Gutgsell Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; Andrew Orta – Professor of Anthropology; Assata Zerai – Professor of Sociology and Associate Chancellor for Diversity; and Steve Witt – Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Head of the International and Area Studies Library.

Witt opened up the discussion with a speech on access to academic knowledge and how it is being generated. He showed data that supported his claim that many “global” collections of knowledge really only include a very small portion of the globe and are not representative of truly global knowledge bases. Knowledge production – or at least the knowledge generated that has impact in academic organizations – largely takes place in a few countries, the majority of which are located in regions commonly referred to as the “west”.


Figure 1: Source: US Congressional Research Service. (2018, June 27). Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet. Note the definition of “rest of the world”.

Burbules spoke second with a presentation titled “An epistemic crisis”, focusing on many issues around journal publishing. He indicated it is simply not possible to read every new article published in one’s field of study. In fact, more than 80% of all published papers are never cited and those that are cited are often not actually read. He also spoke of the influence of impact factors – the frequency with which articles in a journal have been cited in a particular year – and how this can lead to discrimination against local journals – which may be more relevant to a local population. Research institutions also pressure academics to publish in journals considered to have high impact factors. Of course, this system can be gamed and Burbules included examples of editors of journals who encourage those who submit to cite authors from their own journal in order to increase their impact factor.

Another issue highlighted was the lack of incentive to publish studies which reproduce and reinforce previous studies. Replicability is a cornerstone of the scientific method since a study performed under the same conditions should produce the same results. In fact, when meta-studies have attempted to reproduce results in many areas, a surprising number of results cannot be reproduced – even after increasing sample sizes. So we must ask ourselves the question, how much work of low quality is slipping through and being published?

Andrew Orta spoke on the globalized nature of Catholicism and Capitalism and how they have both been buffeted by local cultural forces. He briefly explored the concept that Catholicism responded to local practices of worship, and adapted to appear more palatable to a local audience. Interesting parallels were drawn between this process, and the process of incorporating global cultural trends into MBA programs around the world. The educational context of the MBA has changed from a “flat” model which saw a fairly standard set of curriculum taught throughout the world to models which are based on various cultural practices found throughout the regions in which the MBA program is established.

The final speaker of the day was Assata Zerai whose talk centered on access and digital inequality. Zerai pointed out that there are excluded voices from multiple fields of study and African research – particularly African research undertaken by women – is not included in western databases that collect research and provide access through search mechanisms. Scholarship that is readily available about Africa is largely generated by western scholars who are often disconnected from actual African perspectives. She argued that there is a direct correlation between the success of people-centered governance structures and women’s access to information and communication technologies (ICT). By not incorporating scholarship undertaken by women on the African continent, we are hindering the promotion of intellectual diversity.

Zerai is undertaking a project to build a database of the works of female African scholars to help make this body of research available to a wider audience and disrupt the conventional division of labor in the social sciences in which African scholars provide the empirical evidence while the heavy lifting of theorizing is left to their western counterparts. The hope is that this effort will amplify the voices of women scholars in African countries.

Following the presentations there was a rich dialogue between members of the audience and the panel members which ended with a dilemma. Can we create systems of knowledge to highlight voices that have been traditionally excluded from processes of knowledge generation and distribution? The speakers acknowledged that there is hope that a way may be found and we can move forward.


For more background information and reading please visit the library guide found at .

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The International Mind Alcoves, Librarians, War and Peace: CGS Director Steven Witt’s Article in the Carnegie Reporter

By Cassia Smith

As the US joined World War I, two librarians partnered with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to foster international understanding and world peace. The outgrowth of this partnership was the International Mind Alcoves, a curated collection of books on international travel, exploration, culture, and politics. These books were selected by the Carnegie Endowment and donated to small public libraries, primarily those located in rural areas. Over the following thirty years, International Mind Alcove collections were established in libraries across the country. Center for Global Studies Director Steven Witt has an article in the Summer 2018 volume of the Carnegie Reporter that traces the development, ideals, execution, and cultural impact of this program.

In addition to providing background on the Carnegie Endowment’s aims for and administration of the project, Witt also highlights anecdotes from librarians who circulated the collection, and political leaders’ (often less than enthusiastic) comments regarding the program. He also includes information on the overall quality and selection of the collections and the sometimes complicated ways in which the program interacted with overseas libraries and communities. He concludes by describing how the establishment of the United Nations prompted the end of the International Mind Alcoves, as other avenues for fostering international awareness and understanding became available. In a fascinating twist, after the program had already ended, it became involved in a series of McCarthy-esque Congressional hearings aimed at regulating the activities of American nonprofit organizations, a process that Witt also briefly documents.

Though the UN continues to be a valuable source of international communication and understanding, the precedent set by the Carnegie Endowment’s International Mind Alcoves should not be ignored. The principles of wide dissemination, varied and high-quality books, and a sense of exploration and free interchange are still valuable concepts for modern librarians considering their own collections policies. Even during a period of intense nationalistic forces, the International Mind Alcoves provided a valuable resource for communities trying to make sense of a sometimes chaotic world. As modern libraries face their own uncertainties, this effort may represent one way forward for librarians interested in fostering peace and peaceful communication. Witt’s article has been posted in its entirety on Medium, or you can download the entire issue to your device at this page.

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Nordic education and the Sápmi region

Jeremie Smith, Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Global Studies (CGS), is collaborating with University of Illinois’ alum, Betty Trummel, to develop a new College of Education study abroad course, Nordic Models of Education.  The study abroad course, designed especially for pre-service teachers and other College of Education students, will debut during the Spring of 2018.

This course development is supported by the Center for Global Studies, the European Union Center, and the College of Education. Jeremie and Betty are currently on a course-planning trip in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.  Jeremie will write blog posts during the course development trip to share his experiences and preview the course.

Read the full blog post at the European Union Center Teachers’ Corner blog


Nordic education and the Sápmi region

by: Barbara Myers, M.A. European Union Studies
Program Coordinator, Center for Global Studies

Jeremie Smith is currently traversing the Sápmi on a course-planning trip, in search of conversations, connections, and experiences that will inform the development of a new study abroad course. The Sápmi region, which spans across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula, is the home of the indigenous Sámi people. Smith is visiting the Nordic countries of the region to meet with scholars and experts on Sámi culture and education. The Sámi are a semi-nomadic community, with a total estimated population of 70,000 to 100,000.[1] They have traditionally relied on a close relationship with nature to support their hunting, fishing, gathering, trapping, and reindeer herding enterprises, and their semi-nomadic lifestyle revolves around the seasons.

Residents of the Sápmi region have had a complicated relationship with the Nordic governments. Prior to World War II, Sámi education was largely conducted at boarding schools, where Sámi pupils were acculturated in the language and culture of the school’s state. The Sámi fight for autonomy has led to several changes in their relationship with the Nordic governments. For instance, the Sámi Parliament Act of 1993 established the Swedish Sámi Parliament as a government agency and a popularly elected body, with responsibilities that include allocating state funds for Sámi organizations, cultural programs and other matters, and appointing the board of directors for Sámi schools in Sweden.

Sámi educators are faced with the challenge of transmitting their culture and knowledge under what American educators might consider unconventional conditions. In Sweden, the decentralized structure of the school system leaves education providers responsible for teaching materials. The Swedish government provides remittances to the Sámi Education Board and the National Agency for Education to produce Sámi-language teaching materials, which can be hard to come by. According to recent reports from the Council of Europe on the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Sweden, some Sámi educators have taken it upon themselves to translate and dictate books for instruction.[2] Up to 70% of Sámi children under 10 do not reside in the Sámi education area, and the semi-nomadic lifestyle can challenge American notions of a typical school day or term.[3]

Despite these challenges, educators in the Sápmi region endeavor to provide instruction and guidance to their students through Nordic models of education. These models are tied to the Nordic Theory of Love—independence, individualism, self-reliance—as well as the Nordic social welfare state. In his posts about his trip, Smith details how his experiences in the Sápmi region informed the development of the new study abroad course, Nordic Models of Education.

Map of Sápmi









Source: Nordiska Museet website 


Additional Reading

Berggren, H., & Lars Trägårdh, L. (2010). Pippi Longstocking: the autonomous child and the moral logic of the Swedish welfare state. In H. Mattsson & S. Wallenstein (Eds.), Swedish Modernism: Architecture, Consumption, and the Welfare State (pp. 10-23). London: Black Dog Publishing.

Gaski, H., & Weinstock, J. (n.d.). Sámi Culture in the Nordic Countries – Administration, Support, Evaluation. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from

Kristinsson, A. P., & Hilmarsson-Dunn, A. (2012). Unequal language rights in the Nordic language community. Language Problems and Language Planning, 36(3), 222-236. doi:10.1075/lplp.36.3.02kri

Partanen, A. (2017). Nordic Theory of Everything: in search of a better life. New York: HarperCollins.

[1] Anaya, J. (2011, January 12). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

[2] Council of Europe. (2014, May 16). Committee of Experts’ Evaluation Report: Sweden.

Council of Europe. (2013, October 10). State Periodic Report: Sweden.

[3] UN report calls for Sami language boost. (2011, January 18). Retrieved May 10, 2017, from

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