GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Off-Campus Orientalism: New Generation Western Universities in the Gulf
Paper Proposal Text :
Over the last two decades, there is a proliferation of the Western universities establishing off-campuses in different parts of the Arab Gulf region. Gulf governments find foreign universities attractive because they provide educational opportunities for citizens and potentially generate non-oil revenue. While primary and secondary education in the Gulf tends to follow national lines, higher education is very diverse with stakeholders from different parts of the world. American, Canadian, Australian, Canadian, French and British universities have been established all over the region. In addition, Western-style methodologies and teaching practices are being employed in many of the state-run universities.
The recent influx of American and other foreign universities are sociologically significant as they bring in not only an alien system of learning and pedagogy mismatching with the cultural and political milieus of the host countries but also an oriental ‘point of view’ or ‘gaze’ in objctives and the way they function. The manifestation of oriental gaze often starts with the recruitment drive in which preference is generally being given to the European or North American academics. The peculiar architectural designs of some these universities that follow the western style blindly are also reflective of oriental imagination. A close examination of the situation vacant advertisements appeared on the official websites of the new generation universities also would reveal the practice of Eurocentrism in a subtle manner. Teaching positions in many of the disciplines are frankly not meant for Asians and Africans but for Western Europeans, North Americans or western educated non-GCC white Arabs who enjoy certain special status and occupy the lucrative positions.
Text books and course materialis sometimes become the finest examples of the plain subscription of oriental perspectives. The way through which these course materials look into the eastern societies and their cultures is always problematic and provides case studies to understand how ‘orientalism revisits in academic discourse. Orientalism in the context of branch campuses of western universities in the Gulf also involves the extension of particular form of knowledge production that originated in Western Europe and were exported or imposed upon other parts of the world. Similarly, scholars like Vora have pointed out that the social, cultural, geographic, and work spaces of different communities are very segregated and defined by systemic inequalities in these universities. This paper tries to look into such fragmented practices through which new generation western universities subtly endorse orientalism.
Recurring ideas in this paper are evolved out of a series of field observations undertaken between 2008 and 2010 in Qatar and the UAE. Personal interactions with the students and teachers of western universities in these two countries have also aided in developing the arguments presented here. Emphasis has been given to the opinions of Indian students studying in the Western university branch campuses in Qatar and the UAE. The field study, instead of being conducted along a structured interview/questionnaire model, employs a qualitative interactive mode. Regular informal visits and up-close personal interactions with them have helped in formulating the ideas about the exclusions of different sort.