aristide zolberg

by newschoolphilosophy

Aristide Zolberg,  a true NSSR great, passed away on Friday. Zolberg worked on human migration, an important subject in its own right, which also serves as a lens through which one can view such traditional topics as culture and identity, global economic organization, and the modern state. NS president  Van Zandt circulated a neat eulogy this morning:

We are saddened to share the news that longtime New School professor Aristide R. Zolberg passed away on April 12 at the age of 81. One of the world’s leading scholars of comparative politics and the history, philosophy, and ethics of migration, Ary taught at The New School for Social Research for three decades and authored A Nation by Design, one of the most authoritative accounts of immigration history in the United States.

From an early age, Ary knew the perils of war, ethnic hatred, displacement, and exile. A Polish Jew born shortly before the Nazis came to power in Germany, Ary survived World War II under an assumed Catholic identity in Belgium. After the war, he became a refugee in the United States, and earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago. In 1983, Ary joined The New School, where he served as Walter A. Eberstadt Professor of Politics, University in Exile Professor Emeritus, and founding director of the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship.

Ary mentored several generations of colleagues and students at The New School, the University of Chicago, and the many other institutions where he held academic appointments. By challenging the status quo with his innovative and thorough examinations of pressing social issues, Ary embodied The New School’s highest values. The humanity and erudition he brought to his research, writing and teaching will be missed by countless colleagues, students, and readers.

Writings by Zolberg that can be found online give at least some sense of his distinctive interests and focus. An article on “Guarding the Gates” discusses anti-immigration responses to the attacks of September 11, 2001. A paper on the “Limits of the Liberal State,” coauthored with Fiona B. Adamson and Triadafilos Triadafilopouloss, treats of boundaries in modern Europe, where “boundary” evokes both territorial demarcations and social norms. Another article, “Changing Sovereignty Games and International Migration” analyzes migration from the historical perspective. These works are basically critical and scholarly in tone and temperament. But Zolberg did not try to hide the normative implications of his analyses. On the contrary, one gets the sense of a scholar whose thoughtful and theoretical work was deeply motivated by his own values.