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Comparing contexts, institutions and periods of the Émigrés' arrival and possible return

Ludger Pries, Pablo Yankelevich

pp. 285-295

The contrasts between two distinct experiences of academic exile allow for outlining a series of conclusions concerning the similarities and differences of the cases. First of all, it must be noted that the US-American society, which is open to immigration, stands in contrast to Mexico and its reduced exposure to international immigrant streams. As opposed to the cosmopolitanism experienced in New York City, the Mexican case especially stands out in those times in which a refined nationalizm closed down its gates for immigrants. We can distinguish two completely different experiences. The NYC cosmopolitanism facilitated the settlement of important figures, the circulation of new thoughts and the creation of academic institutions such as, for example, the New School for Social Research (NSSR). In contrast, the broad solidarity of Mexicans with those persons persecuted by European fascism helped to open up the country's doors to exiled Spanish Republicans and, to a lesser extent, to other displaced Europeans. These differences help to understand the strategies which led to the arrival of exiled academics and the financing of the institutes founded. In the USA, the exiled academics from Europe arrived by means of special networks which, for the most part, were privately financed, whereas Mexico officially adopted policies in order to rescue persecuted intellectuals and financed El Colegio de México through government resources. The institutional design is further evidence of these differences. In the case of NSSR, the institution managed to insert itself and its critical academic proposal into a broad network of prestigious universities. This, however, was not the case for El Colegio de México, which opted for a more elitist education and committed itself to the schooling of experts capable of changing the course of investigation in social sciences and humanities and influencing the formulation and implementation of public policies. This chapter centres on the intellectual power of the exiled academics who managed to turn both institutes into a space focusing on academic reflection and the drawing up of theoretical and methodological paradigms that have marked the evolution of social sciences on a national and global scale. Among other things, the contributions of Hans Speier, Hanna Arendt, Günther Anders, José Gaos, José Medina Echavarría, as well as other representatives of Latin American exile during the 1970s at El Colegio de México will be compared while underlining their importance for the areas of Sociology, Philosophy, History and Political Science. Apart from the different experiences of both the NSSR and Colmex, it is worth to put to test James Clifford's proposal concerning the so-called "Traveling Theory." Of particular interest could be the reintroduction of the very suggestive idea that, during the reconstruction and epistemological assessment of theories and concepts, their developmental path is much more significant than the specific place where they were formulated. That is, what should be emphasized is the manner in which contrasts in vital experiences, as well as the exchanges and transnational debates which result from the situation of forced migration, may enable reflections and conceptualizations of lasting validity with regard to the understanding of the challenges of our time.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-99265-5_13

Full citation:

Pries, L. , Yankelevich, P. (2019)., Comparing contexts, institutions and periods of the Émigrés' arrival and possible return, in L. Pries & P. Yankelevich (eds.), European and Latin American social scientists as refugees, Émigrés and return‐migrants, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 285-295.

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