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‘A Genuine Respect for the People’

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The Columbia University Scholars’ Transcultural Approach to Migrants

image of Journal of Migration History

I, first, discuss the ethical and scholarly bases of approaches ‘emancipated’ from mainstream societal discourses. Next, I reinsert into the genealogy of US migration history’s development several ‘early’ research clusters or schools from the 1880s with a focus on other people than white western and northern Europeans. Third, I argue that, in a subsequent phase, such approaches coalesced around Franz Boas and what I call the Columbia University/ Barnard School of interdisciplinary research from the 1890s to the 1950s. Both men and women were part of this group working in the spatial-intellectual context of New York City’s Ellis Island, Greenwich Village, and Harlem. In addition, a network of cooperative scholarly transnational relationships emerged esp. to Polish post-1918 scholarship. I will focus on the Columbia-Barnard scholars’ research on (a) European immigrants and exiles, (b) Mexican migration to and life-ways in the US, and (c) African American (more precisely: ‘African-US’) and African-Caribbean cultures. To emphasise agency and networks I will emphasize individual scholars’ contributions and connections. The question, why this scholarship was ignored or (deliberately?) forgotten, remains latent but any suggestion for an answer can be made.

Affiliations: 1: Salzburg, Austria, c/o the journal editors


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