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Saskia Sassen

Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2013

At a time when the academic world is increasingly under attack in countries as diverse as Afghanistan and the US, I am deeply grateful for the work of those who recognize its value and grant us an award. Granting an award is one step on a much longer path. A major award does not fall –ready-made– from the sky. It is made. And it takes work and imagination and passion to make it and to select its winners.

The passion for discovery, reflection and interpretation is as old as mankind. No matter the different names it has been given over time –from spiritualism to the algorithm building–, it is an endeavour that can take years; years spent pondering over a particular subject or puzzle.

However, the making of institutions, codes and a large number of inventions and interpretations appears only in particular periods. These range from the period of high scholarship in China, through the Academies of ancient Greece and the great universities in Spain and France in the Middle Ages, up to the universities of our modern age. It all required vast amounts of work and of devoted workers and scholars.

This world of scholarship is today under attack, not simply large, visible attacks, but also under attack by Lilliputian deployments, thousands of small wounds. In this context, an award that recognizes scholarship takes on a special meaning. Where in past periods it may have been a simple reward, today such a prize becomes an active support for scholarship, a component of the broader field of the struggle for academic autonomy.

Dear and respected Prince of Asturias Foundation, you represent such support at this time in which academic autonomy and the autonomy of scholarship are under threat.

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