Friday, February 03, 2006

The Separation of Universities and Research

The separation between research and universities in the US at least when it comes to Eurasian history is just about complete. Almost all history searches advertised in the US place no value what so ever on research and publications and only count teaching experience. This is especially true regarding the history of Eurasia. Not counting document collections my Ph.D. dissertation which I wrote from 2002 to 2004 has 140 books and articles listed in the bibliography. The number of works in it written by people tenured in history departments at US universities and published in the last 12 years is a mere 15. That is fewer than the number of scholarly works published in the same period it cites by people without a university position. I had not really given this issue much thought at the time I wrote my dissertation. But, my experience on the job market made it painfully clear to me that universities in the US are only for teaching and that publications play almost no role in hiring decisions. I am not the only one who has noticed this removal of knowledge production from the university. Dr. Deniz Kandiyoti at SOAS and others have also commented on it. The separation of universities and research will most certainly only acclerate in the near future. The schism will also probably continue to be most pronounced in the US with regards to the historical study of the peoples and lands outside the Americas, the European Union and East Asia. Unfortunately in this time of transition there are few institutions hiring people who do historical research and writing.

There are two possiblities for the future of the study of history in the US that I can envision. First, that institutions separate from universities spring up for the purpose of historical research. I do not think such a scenario is likely. The second is that history becomes a mostly free lance affair and gradually is eliminated from institutions of education. This is already happening and it is a world wide movement. The removal of history as a subject of learning from secondary schools has been proposed in Scotland and Norway. History I believe will soon be relegated to the same position now occupied by Classics in the academy. At the same time I think historical research and writing outside the university will continue to grow. My hope is that such growth renders the universities rather than history as a subject irrelevant.

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