Mission & history

Mission

The Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) is a non-profit German academic research center and part of the Max Weber Foundation – International Humanities, mainly funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It conducts and supports research on the Near East and the larger Arab world in past and present. Individual projects of research associates, postdoctoral and doctoral fellows may constitute interdisciplinary research clusters.  The OIB emphasizes the systematic study of primary sources, regional agents, and local contexts to provide a common conceptual framework for work in and between the academic disciplines of Arabic and Islamic studies, philosophy, literature, history, political science as well as in education, religion, art history, and social anthropology. The institute’s research increasingly reflects on links between the Arab world and processes and phenomena outside the region.

The OIB maintains a large public research library and undertakes two strands of book publications as well as an online series with titles published hors-série on occasion. The institute organizes research seminars, lecture series, international conferences and workshops. For the design, funding, and realization of its projects, the OIB engages in local and international academic partnerships. In addition, the OIB draws upon external funds for its projects from German and European science foundations.  It also supports academic activities of local partners.

Facilitating links between research interests in the Arab world and academic institutions in Germany and Europe in a multi- and interdisciplinary perspective is a core aim of all OIB activities.

History

Founded in 1961, the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) was initially established as a base for satellite of German Oriental Studies abroad organized by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft), an academic association founded in 1845 to promote the study of the languages and cultures of the “Orient”. In 1963, the institute gained the legal recognition of the Lebanese government and moved to its present premises in the former Villa Maud Farajallah in the quarter of Zokak al-Blat, near the downtown area of Beirut.

The institute’s funding was mainly provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by generous grants from other sponsors, most notably the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation and the German Research Association (DFG).

The OIB was designed to enhance German research links throughout the region and came to benefit from Lebanon’s unique advantages as an intellectual center and barometer of the contemporary Arab world.

Being the only German research center devoted to Arabic and Islamic Studies and based in the Middle East, the Orient-Institute helped train generations of German scholars specializing in the region. Academic activities at the institute continued even during the most turbulent periods of Lebanese history, although in 1987 the German staff had to be temporarily evacuated to Istanbul. In 1994, the directorate and parts of the research staff returned to Beirut, but as a result of the evacuation the institute developed de facto into a bi-local entity, with branches in both Istanbul (OII) and Beirut (OIB). In 2003 the institute joined the Foundation German Humanities Institutes Abroad (since 2012: Max Weber Foundation – International Humanities), a non-profit foundation established by German Federal Law in 2002 and funded by the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as an umbrella organization for the currently ten German research centers in the Humanities located outside the Federal Republic. In 2009 the Orient-Institut Istanbul became an independent research center, but it continues to cooperate with the OIB as part of the Max Weber Foundation. Since 2010, the OIB has also maintained an office in Cairo.