Rescuing Scholars: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Challenges (2014)

Throughout the twentieth century scholars and intellectuals have faced grim episodes of harassment, repression, violence, imprisonment and forced migration. Today, both threats against individual scholars and large-scale crises involving entire systems of higher education persist in many regions of the world. Most prominently, the current upheavals in the Middle East have created an academic crisis that is as severe as any the world has ever witnessed.

To address the challenges of scholar rescue, the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) and the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) organized a conference entitled “Rescuing Scholars: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Challenges.” The gathering drew nineteen participants to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in November 2013. The participants included staff members of leading rescue organizations, historians who have studied episodes of rescue, academics who have hosted rescued scholars at their institutions, and scholars who have survived threats to their lives and work in Syria, Iraq, Burma, Kenya, and South Africa. Three and a half days of intense conversation yielded many insights, which are recorded in this conference report.

“Rescuing Scholars: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Challenges,” features a nine-point plan of action, which aims to improve the mechanisms for helping scholars under direct threats and most in need of immediate aid. It looks toward the prevention of crises through the creation of early warning systems and stronger international advocacy. And it makes recommendations that point the way toward expanding the network of civil society organizations that must be enlisted and, more generally, protecting the systems of higher education that produce and disseminate knowledge.