Birgit Schäbler is one of the Principal Investigators of the overall project ‘Knowledge without Borders’ which brings together several subprojects and institutes of the Max Weber Foundation. She leads the project ‘Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc, 1950’s to 1991’ and is interested in the Lebanese Shia in the Eastern Bloc.
Birgit Schäbler holds the Chair of History of West Asia at the University of Erfurt from which she is on leave to be the director of the Orient-Institut Beirut. She has held positions and fellowships at Erlangen University, Duke University, Harvard University and Georgia’s Public Liberal Arts University between 1997 and 2002, before returning to Germany. Her research focuses on the History of the Middle East and its relations to Global History in modern times with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. She became interested in Middle Eastern students studying in the Eastern Bloc during her fieldwork in Syria. Her publications include Aufstände im Drusenbergland: Ethnizität und Integration einer ländlichen Gesellschaft vom Osmanischen Reich bis zur staatlichen Unabhängigkeit, 1850-1949; Globalization and the Muslim World: Culture, Religion, and Modernity (co-ed.); and Moderne Muslime. Ernest Renan und die Geschichte der ersten “Islamdebatte” 1883. Relating to the project see also her blog entry 2nd of June 1967 – a German-Iranian-German Event, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/7758
Ala Al-Hamarneh holds a PhD degree in Social and Economic Geography from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev (1994). He joined the project ‘Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc’ in 2019 as Research Coordinator and is responsible for the yearly report of the overall project “Knowledge without Borders” to the BMBF. His research focuses on the Soviet/Russian Alumni Associations in the Arab world and the Jordanian students in the former USSR.
During his 20 years of affiliation with the University of Mainz as assistant professor he taught courses in human geography with regional focus on the Arab World, Germany, Emilia Romagna/Italy and the USA-Northeastern metropoles. He was senior researcher at the Center for Research on the Arab World (CERAW). He was a visiting professor for sociology at the University of Sharjah/UAE teaching classes on “Modern Arab Society” and “Emirati Society”. Ala has published on migration, tourism, globalization of higher education, neoliberal urban development and Arab culture production. His last publications include the co-edited volumes “Neoliberale Urbanisierung” (2019, transcript) and “International Tourism Development and the Gulf Cooperation Council States” (2017, Routledge).
Rima Ibrahim holds a dual-subject Bachelor in Arabic and Islamic Studies and Islamic Theology and a master's degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Münster, Germany. Her master thesis focuses on the comparison between Sunni and Shiite interpretation of the Qur’anic term ahl al-bayt (family of the house), using the examples of the Qur’an commentaries of Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad al-Ṭabarī and Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī, both Islamic scholars of the 10th and 11th centuries. She is Research Assistant at the OIB and works with Birgit Schäbler on Lebanese Shia students in the Eastern Bloc.
Zaur Gasimov joined the Department of East European History at the University of Bonn in 2019. Previously, he was a research fellow at the Leibniz-Institute of European History in Mainz (2009-13), and at the Orient Institute Istanbul (2013-19). He holds degrees in East European History from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (MA, PhD) and in International Relations from the Baku State University (BA).
Gasimov works on Russian and Polish entanglement with Turkey and Iran throughout the 20th century. Other topic of his special interest is the contemporary history of the Caucasus. His dissertation (2009) examined the misuse of history by the late Soviet and Polish military. It obtained the special award of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Gasimov (co-)edited two volumes on russification in Eastern Europe and on the international reception of Spengler’s philosophy. In 2018, he authored “Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan. A New Edition”. In addition he has published in the “European Journal of Turkish Studies”, “Osteuropa” and “Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung”.
His research under the title "Knowledge, Entanglement and Relationships between Iran and Eastern Europe: “Tudeh”-Members in Polish and Hungarian Exile” focuses on the political exile and education of the members of the Soviet-backed Iranian “Tudeh-Party”. Two persons, the Tehran-born Kaweh Pur Rahnama (1937-2012) and Tabriz-born Hászán Bidzsári (1923-2011), embody this relationship, let us trace the trajectories of lives of the Middle Eastern intellectuals who left their region due to political reasons as well as for education purposes towards Communist-ruled Eastern Europe and provide a good insight into transnational Ideoscapes. While Rahnama escaped from Iran and studied initially theater studies in Sofia (Bulgaria), and then in Łódź (Poland), Bidzsári read law and philology in Baku (USSR), then moved to China as a member of a Maoist group within “Tudeh”. In the 1960s, Rahnama resettled to the Polish capital and joined the Oriental Studies Department at the University of Warsaw, and Bicari moved to Budapest and started to work at the Oriental Studies Department at the Eötvös Lorand University. Both Rahnama and Bidzsári published extensively on Persian and Turkic linguistics, prepared textbooks of these languages in Polish and Hungarian. Additionally, Rahnama authored several prosaic novels in Polish.
Constantin Katsakioris earned his PhD in international history at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 2015 and worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies and the Collaborative Research Center 1199 in Leipzig.
Katsakioris’ research within the framework of the project focuses on the Algerian graduates of humanities, social sciences and art in Eastern Bloc. He researches the political, cultural and economic relationships between Africa, the Middle East and the socialist countries during the Cold War. His main focus has been on the training of students from African and Arab countries in the Soviet Union and on the creation of educational institutions in Africa and the Middle East with Soviet and Eastern Bloc assistance. Parts of his research have appeared in the Journal of Global History, the Journal of Modern European History, the Cahiers d’Études africaines, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History and other journals.
Dr. Mikuláš Pešta is a research and teaching fellow at the Institute of Global History at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. He completed his PhD in 2017 with the thesis “German and Italian Left-Wing Terrorism in the 1970’s in a Transnational Perspective”. Since then, he worked as a post-doctoral research associate in the “Socialism Goes Global” project at the University of Exeter.
In his PhD thesis, he investigated the transnational terrorist network in Western Europe, the interconnectedness of individual militant organizations, mutual ideological influence, and the import of the ideas of irregular fight from the Third World. Beyond the history of European extra-parliamentary left, the left-wing terrorism and political violence in the 1960s-1980s, he focuses on the contacts between Czechoslovakia (Central Eastern Europe) and the African and Asian countries and national liberation movements in the field of education (students and military personnel both in Czechoslovakia and in the Third World), cultural diplomacy, ideology, or secret services.
Mikuláš is conducting research within the framework of the project on the Arab personalities and political activists affiliated with the Prague-based pro-Soviet international organizations during the Cold War.
Mustafa Switat is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences of the University of Warsaw (Poland). He gained his PhD degree in sociology based on the dissertation “The Arab Community in Poland. The Old and the New Diaspora” after graduating in psychology at the Palacký University (Czech Republic). His research interests focus on cultural transfer, sociology of migration, anthropology and multiculturalism. He is the author of a number of articles on broad cultural contacts and migration, including: “Arab travelers about Poland. The image of Ibrahim Ibn Yaqub and the image of the Slavs”; Romano-Arabica, XVIII/2018; „An “Alien”, or a Stranger Indeed?”, Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Social Analysis, no. 7/2017 and monograph “The Arab Community in Poland” honored in the ACADEMIA 2018 competition for the best academic and scientific publication.
Within the framework of the project, Mustafa is conducting research on knowledge exchange in the field of Plastic Arts (painting, sculpture and graphics) between the People's Republic of Poland and Arab countries in the period from the late 50’s to the period of Polish transformation (1989). The analysis of biographies of former students of the Academies of Fine Arts is based on archival materials, ego-documents and in-depth interviews. With this material and representatives of the Art world he focuses on the question of their active participation and impact on the development of artistic life in their countries and the Arab world.
Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska joined the research project ‘Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc’ in May 2019 from the side of the German Historical Institute of Warsaw. She holds degrees in Arabic studies (BA) and sociology (MA) from the University of Warsaw and a PhD in social sciences from the Polish Academy of Sciences. Her PhD thesis focused on the relation between identity and place in the context of protracted exile, based on ethnographic study of a Palestinian refugee camp. In addition to several book chapters, Dorota published in Political Geography, Anthropological Forum, Journal of Refugee Studies and International Review for the Sociology of Sport. She is interested in forced migration, urban anthropology, local governance and knowledge production with geographical focus on the Middle East.
Within the framework of the project, Dorota aims to explore knowledge relations between Poland and Iraq with the thematic focus on architecture and urban planning. The project aims to explore the Iraqi-Polish knowledge relations in the field of architecture and urban planning from the late 1950s to the fall of communism in Poland in 1989. It focuses on two key frameworks through which these relations were fostered: student exchange programs that allowed Iraqis to study in Poland and expert contracts for Polish academic staff to work at Iraqi universities. The knowledge relations formed through academia have not developed in vein, but rather against the background of multi-dimensional cooperation that grew between Poland People’s Republic and Iraq following the 1958 revolution. The project draws on social anthropology and history, combining the archival research in Iraq and Poland with in-depth interviews with actors and witnesses of these interactions. It aims to trace the genealogies of knowledge relations, the process of their formation, expansion and change, as well as to understand how they fed into the Ideoscape stretched between Iraq and the Eastern Bloc.
Elmin Aliyev joined Ankara University as a PhD student in 2007. He holds degrees in Islamic Philosophy from Marmara University (MA) and Baku State University (BA). In his dissertation, Aliyev analyzes the dynamics of 13th century Islamic moral and political thought through the works of Siradj al-Din al-Urmawi. He examines several concepts such as the circle of justice, statute, legitimacy, authority, and power in the triangle of ethics-politics-law. Beside his researches on Islamic philosophy, logics and physiognomy tradition, Aliyev also conducts research on the modernization process in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran during the 20th century. In addition to the various translations from Arabic, Persian and Ottoman languages, he has published in the Journal of Islamic Studies and the Journal of Ottoman Studies and presented at conferences in Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
Within the framework of the project, Elmin analyses the knowledge relations between Iran and Turkey from one side and the Eastern Bloc on the other side with special focus on the former USSR and GDR. The research draws on history, philosophy and political activism, combining archival research in Ankara, Baku and Moscow with interviews with former students in the Eastern Bloc.
Stella Kneifel joined the University of Erfurt as a PhD student in history in 2018 and the project in March 2019. She holds degrees in Sociology and Education from the University of Jena (B.A.) and in Middle Eastern Sociology and History from the University of Erfurt (M.A.). Her Master thesis explores the history and sociology of Lebanese small entrepreneurs by exemplifying the taxi drivers of Beirut.
By co-creating an exhibition with Birgit Schäbler and Syrian and German students at the University of Erfurt that compares the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989 and the short Syrian spring of 2011 during her master’s studies, Stella Kneifel encountered the theme of the interdependence between the GDR and the Arab states. Since autumn 2018 Stella has been deepening this theme by working on her dissertation. She examines within the framework of the project the complex relationships between the GDR and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which could be established by allocation of scholarships to students of social science and teacher exchanges. She is especially interested in the emerging discipline of sociology and the students and teachers active in it. The main object of investigation are relationships that could arise through the exchange of knowledge, which under certain circumstances still have an effect today.
Olga Nefedova is an art historian; she holds a degree in orientalism from the Russian State Academy of Fine Arts (Research Institute of Art Theory and History) with the thesis subject “Franco-Flemish artist Jean-Baptiste Vanmour: XVIIIth century European Orientalism – theory and practice”.
Olga Nefedova is a former director of the Orientalist Museum in Doha, Qatar. She has worked for many years with private and government collections and museums in the Far East, the South Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf countries (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia). Currently she is an associate professor at the National Research University HSE, Moscow.
Her current research within the framework of the project “Art and Artists Crossing Borders: The Early History of Art Education for Arab Students in the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1979” focusses on the early history of art education of students from Arab countries in the USSR. The research has been supported by the Orient-Institut Beirut: in 2018 Olga Nefedova was awarded a Hans-Robert Roemer Fellowship for Visiting Scholars.
Parang Niakan is a PhD candidate in West Asian History at Erfurt University in Germany. She received her MA in Cultural Studies from Allame Tabatabee University, Tehran, Iran. Her Master’s thesis is about the relationship between Government, Family and civil society in Iran after revolution 1979.
Her dissertation project focuses on Kurdish and Persian female students in the GDR (1950-1991). Parang argues that life experience of Kurdish and Persian women in East Germany could be unique within the context of relations in ideoscape: Women from patriarchal societies who lived in a country claiming Marxism as a state ideology and emphasizing gender equality. The dissertation focuses on knowledge relations and life experiences within the framing of Marxism feminism and equality, and also the contradiction between theory and practice in GDR. Another goal of research is to examine the impact of the former female students in their homeland’s societies after their return within the concept of knowledge circulation and knowledge relations.
Ekaterina Vasileva joined the Orient-Institut in Beirut as a PhD student in 2019. She graduated from the Moscow State University of International Relations (BA in International Journalism), the University of Erfurt and Université de Saint Joseph in Lebanon (double-degree MA in History and Sociology of the Middle East in Global Perspective).
Ekaterina writes her PhD thesis in the framework of the project "Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc (1950’s to 1991)”. She works on the history of media relations between the Arab countries and the Soviet Union. Her dissertation discusses and analyses the life experiences of the Arab students of media in the USSR and places them in the broader context of the cultural ties and knowledge relations between the two regions. The dissertation is based on the assessment of the archival evidence of the academic life of the students and the process of their socialization. The role of the Arab students of journalism is studied through the analysis of their media products that the Soviet Union used to connect with the potential readership abroad.