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A Light in Dark Times: The New School for Social Research and Its University in Exile

General Programming

dateMarch 26, 2019 timeTuesday, 6:30pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Columbia University Press
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated

Founded in 1919 in the name of academic freedom, the New School for Social Research quickly became a pioneer in adult education—what its first president, Alvin Johnson, called “the continuing education of the educated." During the 1920s, the New School became the place to go to hear famous people lecture on politics, the arts, and recent developments in new fields of inquiry such as anthropology and psychoanalysis. In 1933 Johnson opened the University in Exile within the New School, providing visas and jobs for nearly two hundred refugees fleeing Hitler. And through these exiled scholars, he re-created in miniature the great intellectual traditions of Europe's imperiled universities.

In this book, Judith Friedlander reconstructs the history of the New School in the context of ongoing debates over academic freedom, intellectual dissidents, and democratic education. Against the backdrop of World War I and the first Red Scare, the Hitler years and McCarthyism, the student uprisings during the Vietnam War and the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe, Friedlander tells a dramatic story of academic, political, and financial struggle through brief sketches of New School administrators, faculty members, trustees, and students, among them Alvin Johnson and the political philosopher Hannah Arendt. As this unique educational institution prepares to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary, A Light in Dark Times offers a timely reflection on the New School's legacy, which can serve as an inspiration for the academic community today.

Judith Friedlander, Professor Emerita of Anthropology is a long-standing member of the Hunter College community. She served as Dean of Social Sciences in the early 1990s and Acting Dean of Arts and Sciences from 2002-2006. In the intervening years, she was Dean of the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science and Eberstadt Professor at the New School for Social Research. During her seven-year tenure as dean at the New School, the Graduate Faculty strengthened its historical commitment to human rights and policy research by establishing two new policy centers – the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship and the Center for Economic Policy Analysis -and transforming the East and Central Europe Program into the Transregional Center for the Study of Democracy. Professor Friedlander has written extensively on questions of ethnicity and cultural identity. She is best known for her books on indigenous Mexico, Being Indian in Hueyapan, and on Jewish intellectuals in France, Vilna on the Seine. Over the years, she has also contributed to debates about women and ethnicity in higher education.

Speakers will also include Jonathan Cole, Ira Katznelson, and Alice Kessler-Harris.