Session 2: University in Exile

Guest Speaker: Arman Torkzaban (independent scholar and activist)

AUGUST 11th, 2022


With nearly 90 Million refugees by the end of 2021, the number of people who are forced to flee because of ‘persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order’ has massively increased in the past decades (UNHCR 2022). Many of these refugees were politically active, which resulted in them having to leave to protect their lives. Once they find a new place to live, they are faced with all sorts of struggles to adapt and survive in the new context. The diasporas are dispersed and following through with their political activism is a challenge. However, if there is ever a chance to reform the countries of origin and open them up for change, a substantial part of the hope lies with these very refugees who can prepare for this change and build a network. The UIE as a transnational transformative space, intends to be this safe place for refugees who have been fighting for their countries of origin so much that it put their lives in danger. It aims at being a hub for networking, studying and exchanging innovative and democratic ideas, with the goal of reconstructing their homelands while maintaining the best relationship with the host country. A regime change however it may happen, offers many challenges and opportunities with central questions of reconciliation, constitutional change, human and environmental rights. The UIE tackles these issues and opens the space to find possible solutions.

For some details about the University in Exile project, see the official website of Transnational Community Federation.

Meeting report 

Arman provided a summary of his collaborative proposal titled “University in Exile”. He told us about what inspired this project: the societal status and barriers against refugees and people in exile (esp. Iranian diaspora). He argued that empowerment takes many forms including educational, social, and political, and then showed us how his collaborative project aims to contribute to this process in a holistic way. The exchange throughout the presentation was rich and illuminating. The audience raised questions about the rationale and objectives of the project. For instance, the emphasis on having a physical space for the university was questioned and they were concerns about the funding challenges on the way to establish the university. Furthermore, Arman and the audience discussed the history behind the New School for Social Research (based in the U.S.) as a successful case of universities that served people in exile.