Author Salman Rushdie was stabbed today at New York’s Chautauqua Institution at an event he was attending there, moments before his speech. The author was later airlifted to a hospital to receive emergency treatment. Ironically, Rushdie was set to speak on how the United States is an “asylum for writers and other artists in exile”.

The Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit summer resort, which was established in 1874. It is on the list of the United States’ National Register of Historic Places, and is considered a National Historic Landmark. Notably, former US President Theodore Roosevelt had called the place, and the movement that followed from it, “the most American thing in America”. The institution, during its summer programmes, offers lectures pertaining to social, religious, academic, and political issues. 

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The aforementioned movement happened in rural America in the late 19th century, and was in full swing until the second World War began. The movement involved camp meetings, Christian teachings, theatre and musical performances. Notably, the institution was also the birthplace of one of America’s oldest and still functional book club, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

The institution saw a total of four sitting American presidents attend its events- Ulysses S. Grant in 1875, Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936, and Bill Clinton in 1996. Jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, and pop icon Johnny Mathis had also performed at the institution.

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Notably, the Chautauqua movement and the vaudeville theatrical genre were growing popular in America at the same time, and the two were involved in an intense rivalry. However, while Chautauqua had a religious or moral message at the centre of the arts it practised, the vaudeville genre mostly involved minstrel acts and humour that was at times crude in nature. While the art that Chautauqua produced was considered children and family-friendly, vaudeville appealed more to the working class.