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Global Citizenship and the University: Advancing Social Life and Relations in an Interdependent World

reviewed by James A. Banks - November 03, 2011

coverTitle: Global Citizenship and the University: Advancing Social Life and Relations in an Interdependent World
Author(s): Robert Rhoads and Katalin Szelenyi
Publisher: Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
ISBN: 0804775427, Pages: 336, Year: 2011
Search for book at Amazon.com

Worldwide immigration, the rise of globalization and its challenges to the nation-state, and supranational documents such as the United Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) are among the important factors that have stimulated a prolific and rich literature on citizenship and citizenship education within the last two decades (Banks, 2004; Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, & Stephens, 2003). National boundaries have become increasingly porous as migrant groups around the world have settled in nations that were their former colonizers and as indigenous and formerly enslaved groups have demanded that their histories, cultures, hopes, and dreams be recognized and incorporated into the histories and cultures of their nation-states (Banks, 2009). These developments have forced nation-states around the world to seriously reexamine traditional and institutionalized notions of citizenship and to construct novel conceptions of citizenship and citizenship education that are more consistent with the requirements of a world characterized by powerful globalizing forces and the quests by marginalized and migrant groups for cultural rights and structural inclusion.

This timely, informative, and engaging book by Rhoads and Szelényi contributes significantly to the burgeoning literature on citizenship, globalization, diversity, and education. The authors conceptualize global citizenship as a specific part of a broader notion of identity. They use case studies from four universities in different parts of the world to examine and test their idea that universities can and should play a decisive role in teaching and enhancing global citizenship and in resisting what they describe as the capitalist and neoliberal trends that are strongly influencing universities in the United States as well as universities in other nations. Their case studies are from these four universities: Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Buenos Aires in Argentina; and Central Eastern European University in Hungary.

Consistent with the transformative and postmodern scholarship that has challenged traditional mainstream scholarship since the 1970s, these case studies of citizenship education in four universities are undergirded by values, beliefs, and goals that the authors make explicit. Like much of the transformative scholarship on race, gender, and ethnic studies (Code, 1991), Rhoads and Szelényi do not claim to describe and interpret their case studies from a neutral perspective. Rather, their goals and normative assumptions are integral parts of the analysis and interpretation of their findings. The goals of their project are to describe ways in which universities can foster global citizenship among faculty and students and help them to acquire the knowledge, dispositions, and actions needed to make decisions and to take actions that will help to resolve the global problems the world faces and to resist what the authors describe as the cogent neoliberal and capitalist forces that are influencing universities throughout the world. Rhoads and Szelényi are deeply concerned about the ways in which global and academic capitalism are threatening the academic freedom of universities around the world and the ability of universities to be critical of neoliberal and capitalist forces that imperil human freedom. The authors believe that an important role of university scholars is to critique society and to work to improve the human condition. This role was also envisioned by scholars such as Kenneth B. Clark (1974) and Edward Said (1994). Clark and Said believed that university scholars should be public intellectuals who advanced human freedom by speaking truth to power. Said wrote, Insiders promote special interests, but intellectuals should be the ones to question patriotic nationalism, corporate thinking, and a sense of class, racial or gender privilege (p. xiii).

The ways in which Rhoads and Szelényi make their values explicit in the book are consistent with the recommendations Myrdal (1969) made about the normative stance researchers should take in reporting their findings and interpretations. He argued that researchers should make their value premiseswhich he called valuationsexplicit because objectivity is enhanced when a researchers value premises are known by the research community. Myrdal wrote, Research is always and by logical necessity based on moral and political valuations, and the researcher should be obliged to account for them explicitly" (p. 74).

Rhoads and Szelényi believe that new conceptions of citizenship must be constructed to deal with the problems and promises wrought by globalization and global migration, and that in a globalizing world nationalism can no longer be the primary identity of citizens (p. 277). To construct a new conception of citizenship education in the context of globalization the authors develop and describe two interesting and useful typologies that they use to analyze their findings from the four university case studies. Their first typology is a citizenship framework (p. 19). It conceptualizes citizenship as consisting of rights and responsibilities across three dimensions of life: (1) the political/civic (citizen participation) (2) the economic (making a living), and (3) the social (experiences with social groups). Each of these three dimensions may include experiences that are local, national, regional, and global.

Rhoads and Szelényi present another typology to describe types of citizen action and to make explicit the kind of citizen action they view as essential to constitute global citizenship. The typology consists of two continua: a vertical axis of collectivist and individualistic, and a horizontal axis of locally informed and globally informed (p. 265). Four ideal-types of citizens are derived from this conceptualization: (1) locally informed collectivist; (2) globally informed collectivist (3) locally informed individualist, and (4) globally informed individualist. The authors believe that each of these types of citizen action may be appropriate within particular situations and contexts. However, they view type 2, globally informed collectivist, as constituting their notion of global citizenship. The global citizen understands global issues and participates in collective action in a variety of geographic contexts including local, national, regional, and global sitesto promote the public interest and to contribute to human betterment. Rhoads and Szelényi conceptualize action at any geographical level as global provided that it is globally informed. They write, The global nature of our model of citizenship thus lies in the act of developing an understanding of global issues and processes and applying knowledge and skills in a variety of geographic spheres, including local, national, regional, and global (p. 173). The authors do not conceptualize global citizenship within the context of a particular geographic area such as the local community, nation-state, or region, but rather as the knowledge, skills, and perspectives used by citizens when they take action to improve the human condition. Global citizenship and action can take place in the local community if the citizen action draws upon global knowledge, dispositions, and skills when taking local action.

Rhoads and Szelényi believe that globalization presents both challenges and opportunities for societies and nation-states and that the nation-state is becoming less important as a focus for citizenship because of the challenges that it faces and because most of the serious problems that the world is experiencing are global in scope and must be solved by nations working cooperatively. Their notion that the criterion for global citizenship should be determined by whether citizen actors use knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are global in scope rather than the particular geographic site in which the action takes place is compelling. However, I do not think their argument will satisfy the critics of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism such as Himmelfarb (2002) and Glazer (2002), who believe that national identity should be stronger than other identities, and that identities are zero sum constructions (Kymlicka, 2004). However, this book is a valuable and important resource for readers who think that identities are complex, interrelated, contextual, and evolving, and who share the authors view that an important goal of civic education should be to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to become effective global citizens. It provides rich insights, revealing and interesting case studies, and complex discussions of the challenges and opportunities universities around the world are experiencing that are caused by globalization, global capitalism, and increasing racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity.


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Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (2009). The Routledge international companion to multicultural

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Clark, K. B. (1974). Pathos of power. New York: Harper & Row.

Code, L. (1991). What can she know? Feminist theory and the construction of knowledge.

Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Beaumont, E., & Stephens, J. (2003). Educating citizens:

Preparing Americas undergraduates for lives of moral and civic responsibility. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  

Glazer, N. (2002). Limits of loyalty. In J. Cohen (Ed.), For love of country (pp. 61-65). Boston: Beacon Press.

Himmelfarb, G. (2002). The illusions of cosmopolitanism. In J. Cohen (Ed.), For love of country (pp. 72-77). Boston: Beacon Press.

Kymlicka, W. (2004).  Foreword. In J. A. Banks, (Ed.). Diversity and citizenship

education: Global perspectives (pp. xxu-xvii). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Myrdal, G. (1969).  Objectivity in social research. New York:  Pantheon Books.

Said, E. S. (1994). Representations of the intellectual. New York: Vintage Books.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 03, 2011
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16577, Date Accessed: 10/21/2021 3:11:23 PM

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About the Author
  • James Banks
    University of Washington, Seattle
    E-mail Author
    JAMES A. BANKS holds the Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and is Founding Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society, and editor of Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives, the Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education, and the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education (4 volumes), which will be published by Sage in May, 2012.
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