Event details

When Relations Turn Sour: Ernest Renan and the Islam Debate of 1883 as a Moment of Disentanglement between the Middle East and Europe

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Public Lecture


Prof. Dr. Birgit Schäbler (Director of the Orient-Institut Beirut)


Tuesday, 20 February 2018, 6-8 pm



In 1883 Ernest Renan gave a lecture at the Sorbonne in Paris in which he reiterated his position on the Arabs and Islam with arguments he had held for decades. Yet, at this moment in time, in the heyday of colonial modernity, they did not go unanswered any more. Intellectual opposition flared up passionately in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in Russia, Egypt and India – in short, all over the Islamicate world, as well as in Paris itself.


The lecture will analyze the controversial position of Ernest Renan and the intellectual responses of his counterparts in this transregional debate, in which many of the arguments on both sides are still with us today - after more than 130 years.




Short biography:

Birgit Schäbler holds the only chair in Middle East History in Germany at the University of Erfurt. Since October 2017 she is the director of the OIB. She studied History, Islamic Studies and Political Science at the universities of Würzburg, Erlangen and Berkeley, USA. She has held positions and fellowships at Erlangen University, Duke University and Harvard University. In 2008 she founded the first trans-regional research platform at the University of Erfurt. Her research interests include currently the relations between the Middle East and Europe, between Area History and Global History, the research paradigm of “relations” in general, as well as the history of Orientalism and Oriental Studies and the modern history of Middle Eastern societies.