The world of the 21st century will become increasingly interconnected in its economic, technological, political, social, and cultural dimensions. The old euphemism of a “shrinking” world has given way to an understanding that the processes of “globalization” are complex and multi-dimensional in nature.
As Stanford educates the leaders of the future, we must prepare them to deal with the great issues facing the world – health, peace, prosperity, environmental sustainability – from a basis of cultural and historical understanding as well as a basis of scientific analysis. The School of Humanities and Sciences has established a division of International Comparative and Area Studies (ICA) to strengthen existing international programs and to expand the scope of our scholarship and education to include critically important regions and themes in today’s world. It will have an enduring benefit not only for the students and faculty in the School of Humanities and Sciences, but for the other schools and institutes in the university whose applied work will derive its effectiveness from the basic scholarship in our departments spanning the humanities and arts, and the natural and social sciences.
Virtually all departments in the School contribute to our understanding of international issues. We conceive of this understanding in three dimensions: international, comparative and area studies.
- International -- that is, global or transregional -- processes include such topics as trade and finance, environmental issues, global governance and human rights
- Comparative analysis of different countries, regions or cultures yields insights relevant to these global processes, and also aids in understanding such issues as economic growth and political development.
- Area studies provide basic knowledge of important regions and cultural traditions.
The development of a deeper understanding of international issues and policy alternatives depends on advanced methodologies for comparative analysis and the study of global processes. Yet, comparative and global analysis rest on a foundation of deep knowledge of the history, institutions and culture of the important regions of the world, balancing study in both the humanities and the social sciences.