Thursday, November 05, 2009

Long-lasting legacy

We had the last of a series of "teach-ins" on the history of the New School today, at least for this semester. (I presented at one, you'll perhaps recall.) Our topic was The University in Exile. One speaker described how the New School's quick reaction to the dismissal of Jewish academics in Germany was the natural extension of the work of "genius president" Alvin Johnson. Another described how the legacy of the University in Exile continued and continues to shape the graduate faculty's ethos, in supporting the democracy movement in Poland in the 1980s, etc. What made the inspiring history of the University in Exile particularly resonant for me this time however was the fact that one of the beneficiaries of its French incarnation, the École Libre des Hautes Études (the brainchild of the genius president when Hitler invaded France), just died - the great anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, age 100! (Like many, I thought he'd long since passed.)

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