American liberal education and the civic university: ‘citizenship’ and ‘learning’ at the American University of Beirut

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Abstract

This article examines constructions of ‘citizenship’ and ‘learning’ in university initiatives and curricula at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, contributing to theorizing in critical geographies of education. The methodology entailed examining: (i) educational rationales from the AUB archive (1922–2012); (ii) university catalogues (1880–2015) and (iii) contemporary university initiatives from the AUB website. This empirical examination is contextualized in relation to: (i) discourses on the mission of higher education including nation-building, the ‘civic’ university and its local embeddedness, and (ii) the neoliberal internationalization of higher education. These constructions of ‘citizenship’ and ‘learning’ are also socio-politically located in relation to the post-colonial history of the institution and region. My empirical analysis identifies three themes: discourses of the ‘moral’ role of education at AUB, its importance in a precarious region, and discourses of ‘common values’ amongst a diverse student body. I illustrate how these contested discourses of ‘citizenship’ and ‘learning’ are situated both within a discourse of the civic university, yet simultaneously negotiated and in tension with discourses and practices of neoliberalism in higher education. Despite these challenges, I propose that the post-colonial particularities of AUB in the region construct a space that enables faculty and students to exercise their agency.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalGeografiska Annaler. Series B. Human Geography
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017

Keywords

  • neoliberal, postcolonial, Citizenship, civic university, knowledge production, Lebanon