Current Global Politics Limit Academic Freedom

On Universal Children’s Day, the scholarly organization International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) issued a Statement of Principles, because it is worried about the ways in which contemporary geopolitics curtail academic freedom.


This summer, IRSCL convened its 23rd biennial congress in Canada. More than 20 percent of the scholars whose papers were accepted were unable to attend Congress 2017, not only because of radical economic disparities in the world but also because of current restrictive travel policies and the “chill” caused by them.

– IRSCL finds the current xenophobic situation worrying as it curtails academic freedom. The free flow of people and ideas across borders has to be defended anew, says Lies Wesseling, President of IRSCL.

For this reason, IRSCL has issued a Statement of Principles, which explains why scholarship can flourish only in a world with open borders.

– The statement was issued on Universal Children’s Day, to emphasize not only the importance of our research, but also of children’s literature’s potential to foster empathy, nurture creativity, and imagine a better world, says Lies Wesseling.

IRSCL is an international scholarly organization dedicated to children’s and young adult literature with 360 members from 47 different countries worldwide. Every second year the organization arranges IRSCL Congress, the world’s most international congress within the research field.


The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) aims to facilitate co-operation between researchers in different countries and in different branches of learning and to enable researchers in different countries to exchange information, share discussion of professional and theoretical issues, and initiate and co-ordinate research. These scholarly aspirations are in keeping with the international nature of the object of our research: children’s literature and culture evolve through ongoing processes of cross-border and cross-cultural translation, adaptation, and remediation. Our scholarship matters both because childhood reading, watching, writing, and playing are invaluable cultural practices of young people and because these practices shape the adults we become.

Children’s literature and culture also tell us who is included in that “we.” Recognizing that we inhabit intersecting axes of identity, IRSCL values the inclusion of scholars from all stages in their academic careers and of any national origin, race, ethnicity, religion, class, ability, gender, sex, sexuality, size, and age.IRSCL also encourages scholarship on how these forms of identity become manifest in works for young people. IRSCL believes that international scholarly collaboration and the free flow of ideas across borders are indispensable: they grant insight into the sources of deep cultural assumptions about difference and help mobilize the capacity of children’s literature to foster empathy, nurture creativity, and imagine a better world.

IRSCL also knows that, in the current geopolitical climate, we cannot take for granted the values of intellectual freedom, scholarly expertise, careful and evidence-based argument and reflection, and the capacity to be open to contrary views, as substantiated through international exchange and collaboration. These values need ongoing articulation, implementation and defense, both within our own ranks and in global society at large. IRSCL may build on long-standing experience in this respect. The society was founded in 1969 by scholars from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Spain and Switzerland, under trying political circumstances, with the Cold War in full force, a divided Germany, and Soviet military oppression of the Prague spring. Nevertheless, the founding members were determined to cross national boundaries and political divides. Building on this heritage, we are ready to rise to the occasion again.

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