The project provides a ground-breaking approach to the understanding of impact of exile on the development of law and legal thought. Taking as a case study the life and work of émigré scholars from Nazi Germany to the USA, it focuses on a circular journey of law: first its uprooting through exile; then its encounters with other disciplines and academic cultures while in exile; its reappearance in a changed form in the work of émigré scholars; and, finally, its reception in the USA and “export” to Europe.

The research is grounded in theory of acculturation yet it approaches exile in a novel manner. In particular, it breaks with the perception of exile as a one-sided and static mode of knowledge transfer and treats it as a formative and dynamic element of knowledge production. This is achieved by focusing on historical periods in life of the researched scholars, the personal and social dimensions of the scholarly research in exile as well as broader geopolitical situation and its influence on academic work. By going beyond biographical, bibliographic and bibliometric analysis of scholarly work dominating in exile studies and looking also at émigrés’ personal files and not yet analysed archival materials, the project will develop a critical theory of exile as knowledge production, emphasising its role in shaping our legal thought.

The project will show the vital importance of exile for the development of legal thinking and shaping post-war Europe, which has not been studied thus far. The research will uncover a new strand in the history of European legal culture developed through exile experience and show the epistemological value of exile for law. Although beyond the immediate focus of the project, the research will also contribute to our understanding of the possible effects of current refugee crisis on law, in particular on the rule of law or human rights, which paradoxically are now put to test by the crisis itself.