Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

The Corporate University in Canada and the U.S.: History, Manifestations, and Oppositional Strategies

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

The Corporate University in Canada and the U.S.: History, Manifestations, and Oppositional Strategies

Article excerpt

During a recent half-sabbatical, I held a fellowship at the National Humanities Centre in North Carolina. The NHC--in the Research Triangle Park between University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh--is a humanities outpost in a beautiful pine forest within a research and development hub that stretches for miles. Across the road from its entrance is the controlled access gateway to one of GlaxoSmithKline's two enormous pharmaceutical research facilities in the Park. Many other R&D enterprises in biotech, high tech, and other industries fill the RTP, mostly hidden by the trees, many invisible at the end of long restricted-access drives. This is the face of knowledge production in the twenty-first century, one might say: concealed in its locations as well as in the dissemination of the research it carries out; accountable to CEOs and shareholders, not to the public; invisibly intermeshed with university applied research facilities, tech transfer offices, and university educational facilities that "socialize" the costs not only of considerable research but also of worker training to "subsidize private profits," as David Shultz notes (np). (1) The NHC was established in 1978, and it provides a stimulating environment for humanistic research, with highly functional and efficient administrative and library infrastructure supporting the work of its annual group of fellows. Despite massive cuts in government support for the humanities in the U.S., the centre has managed to survive for over thirty years, supported by the active and agile fundraising of its director, advisory board, development office staff, and benefactors. The fundraisers have increasingly turned to private foundations and philanthropists, reflecting the shift in fundraising sources and patterns treated in a Globe and Mail series beginning 29 October 2011 with "Save the world inc." (Saunders). The NHC's physical infrastructure is aging, and one can only hope that it will still be providing an infrastructure for humanities scholars thirty years from now.

The current NHC Director, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, is a vigorous advocate for the humanities, evident in his most recent book, The Humanities and the Dream of America, and a companion article ("From Eternity to Here") in a 2011 special issue of Representations on the corporate university. (2) In these twinned publications, Harpham traces the American history of the humanities within a changing political, cultural, and financial environment much as Daniel Coleman and Smaro Kamboureli track the history of the humanities since the Massey report (1949-51) along with the rise of "research capitalism" in Canada in the introduction to their collection Retooling the Humanities: The Culture of Research in Canadian Universities (1-39). The parallels between the studies are striking, despite certain key differences between the Canadian and American trajectories: most notably the American triumphalism of the vision of achieving a "stronger, freer social order" through investing in universities in the 1947 Truman Report, Higher Education and American Democracy ("From Eternity" 45), and the more embattled nationalist emphasis on developing an "autonomous culture" in response to the " American invasion'" in the Massey report (1949-51) (Coleman and Kamboureli 14). The similarities are not surprising, given long-established cross-border business and capital networks now becoming more deeply integrated through the negotiations for a common North American security perimeter. Coleman and Kamboureli point out that the launch, in 1983, of the Canadian Corporate Higher Education Forum (C-CHEF) at Concordia University created an entity identified as a "'sister organization of the Business-Higher Education Forum in the USA.'" C-CHEF was established to put " 'major Canadian public and private corporations in contact with the presidents, principals, and rectors of Canadian universities' " and to promote " 'mutual understanding' " between university and industry: a goal it thought might be better achieved "by working in camera" (21). …

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