Europe and the Middle East

Birgit Schäbler

Three research projects were generated within this framework during the last year. First, concerning my recent book Moderne Muslime. Ernest Renan und die Geschichte der ersten Islamdebatte 1883, which brought together the issues of 19th century transregional reform movements in the Muslim world/Islam and Orientalist discourses, an English translation of the book is in the making. A trans- lation into Arabic was commissioned following the suggestions of colleagues after my inaugural public lecture given at the OIB. Most of the original texts of the book are not known at all in the Arab world. Apart from these projects, Ernest Renan and his exploits in Lebanon are still on the research agenda, as are global Islamic reform movements.

The second project concerns relations of knowledge and the space they create. It is well known that tens of thousands of students from the Middle East went to study in the former Eastern Bloc. The Eastern Bloc is a space created by a common ideology, an "ideoscape" (Appadurai). The project Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc (1950s–1991) traces and studies the complex relation- ships which were forged through the mobility/migration of students from the Middle East and North Africa to these countries (PPR, CSSR, GDR, USSR). These relation- ships have often been highly persistent, far beyond the end of the Cold War. The political topicality and high relevance of such a relationship is in some cases obvious today. With the opening of the archives in Russia and other countries of the former Eastern Bloc, research is now possible alongside private archives and oral history
in the countries of the Middle East. An application was submitted as part of a larger research project of the Max Weber Foundation.

Third, the topic of neighborhood–neighborliness is an especially apt topic for the quarter in which the OIB is located, Zokak al-Blat, as well as for Beirut and Lebanon at large. Neighbourhood relations differ from other kinds of relations in that they are primarily defined by space. It is spatial closeness which defines neighbours and neighbourhoods. What is more, the spatial relation is more or less an enforced one – in most cases neighbours are not chosen but already there when people move and
newly arrive. The concept of "neighborliness" captures both the social and the spatial aspect perfectly and has not been studied much. It can very fruitfully be analyzed in transregional and global perspectives, with a special focus on encounters with Europe.


Prof. Dr. Birgit Schäbler​​​​​​​ (