Academia in Times of Crises (20th century)

Adaption – Autonomy – Continuity: Academia in Times of Crises (20th century)

Bern, 26-28 October 2020

Deadline: 24 April 2020

The conference «Adaption – Autonomy – Continuity. Academia in Times of Crises», organized by the SNSF project «Science Transnational. Switzerland and Forced Academic Migrants 1933 to 1950» will take place from 26th to 28th of October 2020.

Academia is a historically grown and interwoven social and cultural system, and is closely linked to social and political developments. This relationship becomes particularly visible in times of political upheaval or accelerated social change such as during the First World War and in the years of state building after 1918, in fascist and national socialist dictatorships and the Second World War, throughout the turmoil of «68», after the collapse of communism in Europe as well as during and after various revolutions throughout the century and major (academic) migration movements. Academia and its core institution, the universities, have a longer tradition than almost any other institution, and has therefore shown particular coping strategies in times of crises.
It is the goal of this conference to focus on what happened to academia, its institutions and actors in «times of crisis» and to ask about its specific strategies to overcome rupture. The broadly defined concept of crisis will provide the opportunity to bring different research projects and perspectives into contact with each other. This allows us to discuss the many developments and ruptures of the 20th century in a comparative way.

When and why did universities react either cautiously or offensively in the face of political change? How did upheavals affect the inner structure of the institutions and the mechanisms of knowledge transfer? To what extend did academia develop its own dynamics? Questions like these will be just as central as the significance of political and personal interdependencies and the experiences and agency of individual actors.

The aim of the conference is a differentiated and multi-perspective discussion of the developments of academia in the 20th century with a focus on continuities, breaks and distortions. Local and case-related as well as transnational and comparative contributions are equally welcome.

Conference topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Academic relief organizations (university, student and non-university assistance)
  • Intellectual exile and the cross-fertilization of national cultures
  • History of institutions
  • Political conformity vs autonomy/opposition
  • Academic freedom and state influence
  • Appointment policy
  • Academic networks and transfer of knowledge
    Academic migration
  • Gender and Race


Applicants are encouraged to submit an abstract (250–350 words) outlining their contribution, as well as a short CV (max. 200 words), by Friday, 24 April 2020. The conference will be held in English, the documents to be submitted can be sent in English, French or German. Please send your submissions to Aleksandra Petrović ( Applicants will be notified by the end of April.

The conference will take place in Berne, Switzerland. Travel and accommodation costs of external participants are covered; participants from Switzerland will be reimbursed for travel costs. We also provide childcare.


For questions please contact Aleksandra Petrović (; Aleksandra Petrović – Länggassstrasse 49, CH-3012 Bern) or Stefanie Salvisberg (

Further information on the SNF PRIMA project «Forced academic migration» can be found under the following link:

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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