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The archival holdings of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) are a valuable resource for the history of expertise. I have used several of the RAC collections to write a social history of the interchange of knowledge between Polish social scientists and American internationalists in the 1920s and the 1930s. I would like to see this story as the Continental prehistory of American area studies. This report offers an overview of my work at the RAC, in particular, the types of materials I have looked through. It briefly discusses how the evidence enriched my understanding of the ways that expert knowledge traveled between Eastern Europe and the United States.
From the mid-1950s onwards, the Ford Foundation (FF) awarded research fellowships to hundreds of social scientists, humanities scholars and artists from Communist-ruled East European countries, which was probably the earliest and largest effort to establish academic exchange across the Iron Curtain in the social and human sciences. The program was driven by the idea that allowing extended research stays for East European intellectuals in the West would reduce their isolation and increase their anti-Soviet and anti-Communist tendencies that were observed in the course of the crises in Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the bloc in the 1950s. In 1968, the program was merged with similar programs into a new organization called the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). The documents at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) contain rich materials on the Ford Foundation's own views of the program, on its network of academics that helped to run it and on the conduct of the program including travel notes, etc. It proved very difficult, however, to find detailed information on the individual fellows and their doings during their research stays in Western countries. More research will be necessary to assess the impact of the program.
The Rockefeller Foundation Turns to the East: Polish Social Sciences Fellows during the Interwar PeriodJanuary 1, 2011
The Rockefeller Foundation's (RF) social sciences fellowship program in Eastern Europe has been ignored by scholars largely because, from a quantitative and financial point of view, the program was a minor part of the RF's broader scientific policy. Yet, by addressing from a peripheral setting such crucial issues as the training and circulation of scientific elites, the rise of expert-knowledge, or the relations between science and politics in the interwar period, one gains relevant insight into the RF's policy to promote transnational scientific networks and the circulation of knowledge. In this respect Eastern Europe challenges conclusions that resulted from the limited study of the programs carried out only in Western Europe. Therefore Poland is an appropriate case study.
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