Thursday, 29 October 2015

First Meeting of the CIH Reading Group!

Our first meeting officially occurred yesterday. Discussion began with a focus on determining the purpose of the reading group - which is meant to stimulate dialogue with people in the field of scholar emigration history. Collaboration between researchers with similar interests who read similar materials will enable a fruitful discourse and hopes of international research projects in the future.

Our first meeting was convened by Aleksandra Loewenau, who gave a detailed discussion of a chapter from U. Deichmann (1995) Biologists under Hitler. We read the first chapter - "The Expulsion and Emigration of Scientists, 1933-1939" - which focused on the experience of scholars under national socialism in Germany. It was interesting to read about the problems many non-Jewish scholars also had with job loss and persecution due to their political leanings.

The chapter highlighted how much state control there was over academic institutes - and how this impacted the jobs of scientists and other scholars at the time. With the introduction of the Civil Service Act - which was soon expanded into the academic community - many Jewish and left wing academics lost their positions or were forced out.

This chapter was especially strong in quantitative research. Deichmann provided excellent statistics on emigration and the types of positions affected. It was noted in discussion however than a more nuanced understanding of the international perspective would have been useful. The international job market had a significant impact on German doctors and the positions available for academics were quite limited. This highlights a need for more work done on Canada and the Americas - to highlight questions that impacted these scholars. The current literature is highly individualized, usually autobiographies or works that focus on one scholar. But in order to access the refugee scholar experience we need to ask – how many of these people have had their experience defined by being a refugee? What was the experience of non-Jewish vs Jewish academics? Which places were easier to get to based on religion? How do the experiences of these individuals fit into a larger history of women, or intellectualism, or refugees?

These questions will be considered in our future meetings!

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