UBC and Carleton Partner to Help Afghan Scholars Find a New Intellectual Home in Canada

Afghan At-Risk Scholars Funding Announcement

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Carleton University are joining forces to help scholars and others who are fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan establish a new intellectual community in Canada.

Their project, “Placement, Preservation and Perseverance: Afghan At-Risk Scholars, Activists and Students,” has received a $1.096 million dollar grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to support intellectuals who have been forced to flee Afghanistan, especially women and ethnic minorities.

“We are looking for Afghan scholars, civil society actors, activists and journalists to help them re-establish a community of knowledge, research and activism in Canada,” says Law and Legal Studies Professor Melanie Adrian, the project’s lead researcher and founder of Carleton’s Scholars at Risk initiative. “We want to prevent the dissolution of the systems of knowledge in Afghanistan after the massive breakdown of their community.”

The project has three distinct goals: It will create peer support networks that “provide intellectual, political and personal kinship networks” for the scholars; map out the intellectual currents within the Afghan diaspora; and create a network of Afghan refugee students and scholars with the aim of preserving the Afghan knowledge community.

It is this third goal that UBC, under the leadership of Dr. Jenny Peterson, will coordinate. The “Intergenerational Connections and Futures (ICF)” portion of this project aims to connect Afghan students with ASAs (Afghan Scholars and Activists) to discuss, exchange ideas and document possible ‘pathways’ for a socio-politically forward looking Afghanistan. This programmatic area will contribute to inform research, policy, and practice and international debates about how best to respond to humanitarian, political and development crises in Afghanistan in the short- and medium-term.

“The scholars have lost their livelihoods and their ability to pursue their research and teaching, which they have worked so hard to secure,” explains Dr. Jenny Peterson, the lead researcher for the UBC arm of the project. “Their universities and communities are impacted as their local knowledge or highly specialized skills are also lost, threatening progress and development in the arts, medicine, engineering and many other fields in their own communities and countries.”

The team working with Dr. Peterson will be housed within the Human Rights Collective (HRC), run out of the Office for International and Community Engagement (ORICE), which will act as a host for student staff. This will allow them to be embedded in a wider student research team where they will be offered further support from fellow student researchers, staff and faculty who are part of the collective.

The HRC has worked in collaboration with Scholars at Risk (SAR) Global and Scholars at Risk (SAR) Canada on multiple student-led research and advocacy projects over the past three years and has extensive experience in welcoming student researchers working on diverse projects. Both the SAR HRC and ORICE at UBC have a strong focus on empowering student researchers and engaging in ethical programming in terms of working on global issues. UBC has further supported this project with additional funding for two full-time undergraduate researchers to begin in the summer of 2022.

To learn more about the other goals of the project being led by Professor Melanie Adriana and Dr. Shuchi Karim at Carleton University, please read Carleton’s announcement.