Lost Knowledge: Approaching Migrant Knowledge After Migration

Virtual Workshops and Special Issue | Organized by Philipp Strobl (Universität Hildesheim) and Swen Steinberg (GHI Washington)

Call for Authors

Knowledge relates not only to migrants themselves who acquired, moved, or translated bodies of knowledge throughout history. Instead, the spatial dimension of migrating knowledge always has two sides: knowledge often originates from specific local or regional spaces, including practical or everyday-life knowledge. Such bodies of knowledge are frequently moved by migrants with a specific agency, depending on the context of migration. However, the history of migrant knowledge is often written and understood as a story of negotiation, adaptation, or ignorance. Therefore, research on migrant knowledge and its application is usually limited to the migration process, the places of arrival, the „import“ of knowledge through migrants and their adjustment, or the translation of old bodies of knowledge to a new environment to prevent devaluation or ignorance.

The first aspect – the origin of migrating knowledge – usually remains unreflected; we do not know much about the spaces of knowledge abandoned by migrants. This leaves crucial questions unanswered in understanding the complex processes of knowledge transfer: What happened to these places after the departure of specific knowledge agents? How did the outflow of knowledge and ideas affect the development of these places? What kind of strategies can we observe to „replace“ or substitute knowledge lost through outward migration?

This special issue seeks to extend the scope of research in the histories of migration and knowledge by focusing on neglected and / or abandoned spaces of knowledge. To approach these unexplored aspects, we seek to bring together a small group of experts from different academic backgrounds to jointly conceptualize and compile a special issue for a peer-reviewed academic journal. We are interested in contributors who want to participate in this academic experiment and would be willing to not only provide an article for the special issue, but also to participate in three online workshops to discuss and jointly prepare the overall manuscript. The project will consequently build the nucleus for further research in this innovative area.

This special issue, entitled „Lost Knowledge“, is interested in abandoned spaces of knowledge, in places people had left for various reasons, as well as in the adjustment of those who have to deal with the knowledge gaps caused by migration. Our interdisciplinary interest addresses all epochs and regions of history in a comparative perspective as well as all forms of mobility. The following questions provide a first guideline of the focus the special issue might cover. However, we are explicitly open to further suggestions.

- Coping strategies: What strategies can we observe on different levels to cope with lost knowledge caused by migration? Who are the agents that reflect and respond to such knowledge gaps? What were the strategies to counter, replace, or substitute these gaps, especially on the local or regional level? Can we identify efforts by people remaining in the spaces of lost knowledge to organize return migration – and the return of the knowledge lost through migration? Are there specific forms of knowledge exchange or communication after migration and between migrants and the places of origin to bridge knowledge gaps?

- Societal effects: Why were spaces of knowledge abandoned? How did lost knowledge affect societies, cultures and economies, particularly on the local level and in everyday life situations? How did knowledge gaps caused by migration trigger emancipation and the change of traditional role models? Besides gender effects, what role did age, class, and the social background play within these processes?

- Emotion and memory: How do people remember and narrate emigration and outward migration of knowledge - as a loss of knowledge through migration or a „success story“ after the migrants had left? When and why did such narratives change? Does this memory disappear at some time after migration? Did the migrants themselves reflect or remember the knowledge gaps they left behind?

Please send abstracts no longer than 200 words until December 1, 2021, to Philipp Strobl (stroblp@uni-hildesheim.de) and Swen Steinberg (steinberg@ghi-dc.org). The first of three online workshops will be organized in April 2022.