The Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) is an independent academic research institute, belonging to the Max Weber Foundation. It is mainly funded through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. It conducts interdisciplinary research on the Arab world and the region of West Asia and North Africa at large. Its research community comprises long-term research associates from Germany and short-term visiting fellows from all over the world, who represent the major disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, including Islamic and Arab studies, history and anthropology of the Middle East, as well as sociology and political sciences. The OIB’s current research profile centres on “Relations”, a framework broad enough to provide a conceptual matrix allowing researchers to develop institutional links and projects and join the conversation.
The OIB is also a long-standing partner of academic institutions in Lebanon and the region at large. It aims to foster academic relations across the MENA region and increasingly conducts its research in transregional perspectives.
One of the great academic treasures of the OIB is its public research library, which holds important collections of books, journals and newspapers. It comprises around 140,000 volumes. The OIB publishes two major book series (BTS and BI) and additional titles through OIS and extra series (see Publication page). The institute engages with a larger academic community through regular research seminars, lecture series, international conferences and workshops. Local and international partnerships are crucial in designing and funding the institute’s projects. In particular, the OIB is at the forefront of facilitating research collaborations between institutions in the Arab world and institutions in Germany and Europe. It thereby seeks to encourage innovative academic perspectives on the region.
Founded in 1961, the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) was initially established as a base of German Oriental Studies abroad 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.