As Edward Said ruminated in his Reflections on Exile, “[e]xile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted” (Said 2000a: 137). Honestly, the reason why I set out to conduct this research and write this book in the first place was the need to externalize this experience by thinking about it. But as time went by, the experience itself came to reshape my way of thinking. And I came to realize that the “unsurmountable sadness” that Said wrote about is not necessarily a paralyzing grief, but actually an eye-opening, new-found sensibility for life’s ironic ways, an invaluable lesson in being human in an incredibly precarious world.
Thus, this is a book about the optimism of the will. Not only because it searches for seeds of resistance in the structural mud of the academia, but mainly because it was written in (spite of) a moment where the pessimism of the intellect was rightfully gaining the upper hand. In the midst of a grave occupational disillusionment I set out to do the empirical part, hoping against hope, that sociological analysis could still help make sense of the whirlwind which seemed to render useless even sociology itself. In some ways, it is a book about an almost Sisyphean struggle: It is a dialog with the Peace Academics in German exile, who are practically kicked out of the meritocratic levers of the academic labor markets and are henceforth reduced to being “scholars at risk”. Currently, they don’t seem to have any prospect for rejoining the ranks of the institutional academia, and yet they keep rolling the rock back up the hill again and again.
Whatever else this book may claim to be or not, one thing is for sure: It is the fruit of collegial solidarity – the type of comradeship which is said to be vanishing from the sphere of intellectual production due to the fatally competitive nature of the neoliberal academic labor markets. It is my way of thanking my colleagues for collectively fighting against this structural fate, and for letting me again believe in the optimism of the will. My heartfelt gratitude and appreciation go to my fellow Academics for Peace members abroad and in Turkey, and to our marvelous lawyers/friends who voluntarily took up our cases and fought for us incessantly, for maintaining an unprecedented kind of solidarity under impossible circumstances. I hereby would also like to thank a number of our international colleagues for their sincere and sympathetic interest in our situation, and to the teams at Scholars at Risk and Scholar Rescue Fund for their support and consistent guide.
I also want to express my deepest thanks to the colleagues at the Department of Political Science, Law, and International Studies of the University of Padova for providing me a “home” that was so hard to say goodbye to. But there is one person to whom my gratitude is beyond words: I will forever be indebted to Prof. Dr. Claudia Padovani for setting an incredible example of intellectual responsibility, good will, camaraderie, and solid friendship. Without her openhearted approach to human relationships and her candid efforts to create spaces of solidarity, I wouldn’t have even had the inspiration to write this book.
A very special gratitude goes out to my dear family for their endless love, support and understanding: I owe it all to them.
Berlin, December 2018