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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: July 2017

Chapter 7 - Considerations on Global Studies


Every society known to history is a global society, every culture a cosmological order; and in thus including the universe within its own cultural scheme […] the people accord beings and things beyond their immediate community a definite place in its reproduction. (Sahlins 2000: 489)

Edward Tiryakian, to whom this book is dedicated, is a prime example of a global sociologist (Cohen and Kennedy 2007). One of the very first things that Ed ever uttered to me was “have passport, will travel.” In the forty years or more that I have known him, his activity has most certainly conformed to this maxim; although my first (indirect) encounter with the work of Tiryakian was my reading of the book that he edited in honor of Pitirim Sorokin, Sociological Theory, Values, and Sociocultural Change (1963, 2013). As a newly appointed sociologist at the University of Leeds in England and in a context in which theory and works deriving from countries other than England were relatively marginal, this volume struck me immediately as the kind of work I hoped to do myself. The range of Ed's interests—and my interactions with him concerning these over this long period—in large part constitutes the basis for much of what follows, not least the currently highly problematic relationships between and among regional, area, comparative, international and global studies, as well as civilizations. In addition, Ed and I have also shared a long-standing concern with the condition of disciplinarity. These are the kinds of interest that form the basis for this present, celebratory chapter. Indeed, what follows could usefully be regarded as a continuation of the general conversation that has been occurring between Edward Tiryakian and myself since we first met.

I propose to identify the major problems involved in defining—or, better, characterizing—the field of global studies, giving particular attention to the following. I begin by making a brief statement concerning my own academic-intellectual path to global studies (Robertson, 2012a). Second, I focus upon the relationship between global studies and the more specific topics of globalization and glocalization (Robertson, 2012b). Third, I reflect upon the inevitably unstable field of global interrogation and its connection to the theme of disciplinarity; taking a glance at the relationship between global and comparative studies—emphasizing the all too frequent conflation of these two perspectives.