Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, U.S.A.
So what should we do now? Perhaps the first response should be to redefine
who we are. Smith’s commentary on the term Arab nationals forces us to
reflect that we are all victims of constructed identities to some degree.
We face the limitations of being, to varying degrees, academic nationals,
constrained by both national settings and disciplinary boundaries. The
time is certainly ripe to invigorate dialogue across national and disciplinary
lines. Of course, this has been said many times before, it is easy to say,
and its validity is patently obvious. But how should we accomplish it?
An unintended consequence of the attacks of 11 September may be a renegotiation
of academic questions. The bad scenario may be is an entrenchment of nationalistic
defence/aggression informed by national academies. This very morning (8
October 2001) I received a memorandum from the Penn State administration
exhorting my colleagues and I to aid the military response at home and
abroad through our research efforts. The better scenario is for funding
agencies, university administrators, and academics to rethink questions
and how we answer them. The key word is dialogue, not just across disciplinary
boundaries but, perhaps especially, among nations. We hope this collection
of essays is a small step in that direction. It requires a longer hike,
though. Conferences, exchanges, syllabi, classes taught over the Internet,
and special issues of journals are all possible routes. Just as the attacks
of 11 September both utilized and were a reaction to globalization, academic
responses can take a critical stance towards the 21st Century as (re)defined
on 11 September but also make use of some of its features—especially the
increasing exchange of information—to our advantage. It is a contemporary
axiom that “geography is socially constructed.” It is our job to ensure
that suicide hijackers and the American military machine are not the only,
or even the prime, architects of the political geography of the 21st century.
(Submitted 11 October 2001)
© The Arab World Geographer