On to Namibia?

As in all good stories, the protagonist will go to a far off and romantic place for the sake of love.  I originally met my fiance in South Africa where we were both students.  I was on study abroad and he was getting his degree in South Africa.  We are finally finishing up our degrees next year, so at last we will be able to marry and be together in the same country.

I still want to further my education by getting an MA and PhD in Sociology at the University of Namibia.  I have seen on various forums in the Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere that foreign PhDs are not as highly regarded as American PhDs.  From knowing lots of PhDs here in America, I really cannot see this comparison being valid.  Not to knock American PhDs, but it seems that American programs just have more social capital rather than research excellence.

PhD advisers in the American programs are more likely to be connected with American associations and American journals.  This is not really a function of research excellence, but really a result of American cultural hegemony.  It also helps that America has one of the world’s highest GDPs and is the world’s largest economy.

I went to the American Anthropology Association’s annual meeting in November 2010 as a naive student.  I was really shocked when I only found other Americans there plus some Europeans and one Japanese guy.   In turn, it is also shocking to see that hardly an American students are going to non-Anglophone countries for PhD work.  I could get a PhD in America, but I would be mostly be in America reading about other cultures, instead of actually living in another culture.  Well, most PhD programs have their students study a culture for a year or two, then come back to America to write up the dissertation.

Maybe I am just being fooled by a naive idea that academia is ruled by meritocracy and not oligarchy.  I hope that academia will become more meritocratic in practice in the near future.  This will be partially due to the greater access to digital technology which will help to make research libraries less important and information more accessible.

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