Newsletter 27, October 2021
We are delighted to see our vibrant research community steadily growing. Not only did we receive two new research associates recently, but also six new doctoral and post-doctoral fellows. Besides that, we are preparing the festivities of the OIB`s 60 year's anniversary from 2 to 4 December, which is a perfect opportunity for us to look back at the early years of the Institute and its history. We will celebrate the anniversary with a workshop on Hans Wehr, who helped shape the founding phase of the Institute, with a panel on the history and state of the art of Quranic Studies in Germany, and a panel discussion on the relationship between Islamic Studies and Islamic Theology. The latter is closely linked to the current research profile of the OIB ("Relations"). Please check our website for the program. Another great pleasure was the OIB`s presence in Berlin where it took part in the Max Weber Stiftung’s (MWS) conference „Contested Knowledge in a Connected World” in September. The conference engaged directors and researchers from different MWS research institutes abroad as well as German public intellectuals in inspiring discussions on the important contributions of the Humanities to society.
MWS Connecting Themes Conference
Berlin, September 16 - 17, 2021
The OIB took part in the Max Weber Stiftung’s conference „Contested Knowledge in a Connected World” in Berlin in September. The conference brought together institutes of the Max Weber Foundation and their researchers from the large-scale research project “Knowledge Unbound”.
OIB-Director Birgit Schäbler, one of the principal investigators of the project, and the research group “Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc” played a prominent role during the conference. In two panels – “Relations in the Ideoscape: Entanglements of Knowledge between the Middle East and the Eastern Bloc” and “Challenges in the Socialist Ideoscape: Experiences and Perspectives of Middle Eastern Students” –, they presented their research and discussed the overall ramifications of the project in two discussion panels. The OIB partners in this endeavor with 2 sister institutes, the German Historical Institutes in Moscow and Warsaw, which makes the project transregional in scope, anchoring the Middle East in the history of global issues with high local and regional relevance. Throughout the project different media, exhibits as well as podcasts and public panel discussions, were utilized, too, in an attempt to share the results of the project with a wider audience. In his keynote address well-known public intellectual Herfried Münkler called upon the Humanities to actively engage in what he called Gesellschaftsberatung, i.e. advise society and be active at the science-society interface, as opposed to the science-policy interface of the political and social sciences. In this vein he discussed the need for so-called inter-discourses to be added to the specialized discourses of academia. Max Weber’s writings were mostly such discourses at the science-society interface – and their legacy to the Humanities today could be seen as providing the kind of ‘deliberative and critical knowledge’ needed to counterbalance the practical and partisan knowledge usually produced in politics.
Public Film Screening
Berlin, October 11/12, 2021
Arabic as a Living Language: Challenges & Horizons
Thursday, September 9, 2021, 6pm
On the 9th of September 2021, OIB held a discussion session with Professor Mahmoud Al-Batal, Professor of Arabic Studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a specialist in language pedagogy and his research focuses in particular on the theories and practices of Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL). He has published in the areas of Applied Linguistics, Discourse Analysis and Pragmatics, and is a co-author of Al-Kitaab Arabic textbook series. His recent publications include an edited volume titled Arabic as One Language: Integrating Dialect in the Arabic FL Curriculum, published by Georgetown University Press. The session was titled, “Arabic as a Living Language: Challenges & Horizons,” and was moderated by Dr. Abdallah Soufan, Research Associate at the OIB. The discussion was centered around three themes: (1) issues related to teaching Arabic as foreign language, given the long experience that Prof. Al-Batal has in teaching Arabic and in designing Arabic textbooks; (2) issues related to challenges that face teaching Arabic in the Arab World; (3) and issues related to the future of Arabic in an increasingly globalized world.
Relationships in the Cold War –
Films Between North Africa and the Eastern Bloc
In cinema, the Cold War is often presented in the context of espionage and other such operations. The relationships between the Global South and the two Cold War power blocs, however, were also marked by non-alignment, anti- and post-colonialism, wars of liberation, and individual interpretations of socialism and communism.
The research project of the Orient-Institute Beirut (OIB) “Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc 1950-1991” elaborates these themes and examines the knowledge relations between the Middle East and the Eastern Bloc. The research project included an element of outreach to the wider public. The OIB successfully conducted the event series “From Cairo to Carl-Marx Stadt: Studying During the Cold War” (June 2021 – October 2021), the last part of which was a two days film festival in cooperation with Cinema Arsenal in Berlin under the title “Relationships in the Cold War – Films Between North Africa and the Eastern Bloc”.
The festival program on the 11th and 12th October 2021 included mainly films made by North-African directors who studied in the Eastern Bloc and addresses personal and social conditions and at times a clash of ideologies.
The movie “Ahdath Sanawat al-Djamr/Chronicle of the Years of Embers” by the Algerian director, cameraman and script writer Mohamad Lakhdar-Hamina who studied at the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague at the behest of the National Liberation Front, demonstrates that the beginning of the Algerian War in 1954 was the culmination of a long battle for independence that started with the French landing in 1830. The crew of the movie includes well-known European anti-fascists such as Italian cameraman Francesco Gatti, Greek actor Yorgo Voyagis and French actor François Maistre. This movie is an example of the anti-colonial knowledge relations between individuals and societies in the Eastern Bloc, Western Europe and North Africa. The movie won the Golden Palm in Cannes 1975.
“Al Nil wal Haya/ Once upon a Time … the Nile” by Youssef Chahine from 1969, rejected by both the Soviet and the Egyptian authorities, is the only Soviet-Egyptian coproduction in which actors and crews from both countries worked side by side, with a soundtrack by Aram Khachaturian, script by Nikolai Figorovsky and Abdelrahman el-Sharqawi. The coproduction of Mosfilm and Cairofilm was to highlight the Egyptian-Soviet cooperation, culminating in the construction of the High Dam, but Chahine's film interprets human relations and social and political issues in both societies.
The short graduation movie “Hunting Party” (1964) by Sudanese director Ibrahim Shaddad, graduate of Eastern German Academy for Film Art Potsdam-Babelsberg is an early scream against racist violence staging the hunt for a black man within within rural community.
The Sudanese director Suliman Elnour studied in the 1970s at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow (WGIK). “Africa, The Jungle, Drums and Revolution” (1977) is dedicated to ideas of Africa, based on Soviet archive material and interviews. His graduation film “It still Rotates” (1978) led him to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, where he portrayed everyday life in a school in a remote Bedouin community, showing the fundamental significance of education in building the new state.
The Second Evasion
Film Screening and Discussion
Monday, September 27, 2021, 8pm
The unanswered questions of justice for the victims of the Beirut Port explosion were the topic of the discussion which followed the screening of the film “The Second Evasion” directed by Diana Moukalled and produced by Daraj. The Beirut Port explosion once again put the ability of the Lebanese people to achieve accountability to the test and raised new concerns with regard to impunity. After the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990, accountability was avoided by a general amnesty law, which allowed previous war lords to govern the country through a sectarian power sharing system. According to the speakers it was thereby normalizing impunity. This event which was hosted by the OIB constituted the third session of the “Ten Years Together gatherings of the 2021 MINA Forum: Artistic Ports and Passages” and was organized jointly by Ettijahat – Independent Culture and the independent digital media platform Daraj.
New Research Associates
Ahmed Abd-Elsalam has been working as a research associate at OIB since October 2021. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. His research focused on social and legal changes in Muslim societies in the past and modern times. Abd-Elsalam works at OIB on socio-theological issues of Abrahamic interdependence in relation to marriage and divorce and on issues of human production of theological and religious knowledge. His project addresses legal issues related to marriage and divorce in Jewish communities in Egypt and Iraq in the first half of the 20th
century and their relationship to other transregional and transreligious communities.
Christian Thuselt has been at OIB since October 2021. He studied in Tübingen and earned his PhD at Roskilde University in Denmark. His dissertation, "Lebanese Political Parties: Dream of a Republic," focused on Lebanese political parties as part of a global modernity. Drawing on primary sources, the thesis traces how essential elements of the normativity of modernity characterize these parties but nevertheless fail as a utopia of a unified Lebanese nation. Christian Thuselt's post-doctoral project explores conflicting political-territorial designs of Iraqi statehood using an interpretive-constructivist approach, in particular drawing on political geography.
New Post-Doctoral Fellows
Rosy Beyhom holds a PhD in musicology from the WWU Münster. She is an active member of the CERMAA research center (http://foredofico.org/CERMAA/cermaa‐membres), an international musicology hub based in Lebanon that promotes awareness via non-biased approaches to the analysis of music. She is a permanent co-editor of the NEMO-Online (http://nemo‐online.org/academic‐board) peer-reviewed journal.
Her current post-doctoral research emanates from many observations of lacunae in the history of Arabian music, noticed during the research undertaken for her dissertation. During her stay at the OIB, she will focus mainly on al-Wāfī bi-l-Wafayāt by Ibn Aybak aṣ-Ṣafadī as an under estimated repository for musical matters and issues directly related to the history of music in the Arab world.
Ennio Napolitano is a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Orient Institute Beirut (OIB). He received his PhD in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the University of Bamberg with a dissertation on Arabic inscriptions and pseudo-inscriptions in Italian Art funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. He holds an MA degree in Islamic Studies and a BA degree in Transcultural studies, both from the University of Naples "L'Orientale".
His current research focuses on the cross-cultural dynamics of Arabic scripts in border areas, especially in their disguised form. His publications include articles on recurring themes concerning the interpretation of Arabic inscriptions and the transmission of debased Arabic and pseudo-Arabic inscriptions in the European medieval cultural contexts, in painting, sculpture, and ceramics.
New Doctoral Fellows
Abdallah El Ayach
Abdallah El Ayach is a researcher of Modern Philosophy and Critical Theory. He holds a Master’s degree from the department of Anthropology at the American University of Beirut. His Master’s thesis, entitled Structures of Trust, is about contemporary political normative relations in Beirut. He has also worked at developing Naqḍ, a database for Arab critical thought. His current research is on Arabic translations of German Idealism viewed within the wider context of the problematic of the “impossible Arab modern philosopher”. Within the scope of translation, Abdallah has also written an article on the problem of “Translating the Subject into Arabic”.
Zachary Davis Cuyler
Zachary Davis Cuyler is a PhD candidate at New York University. His dissertation examines how transnational infrastructures of oil shaped the political economy, built environment, and national scale of Lebanon from the 1920s through the 1970s. His work has appeared in Historical Materialism, the Arab Studies Journal, Middle East Report, and Labor History.
Hussein Ibrahim is a Doctoral Candidate in Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. His dissertation project concerns practical philosophy and epistemology in Islamic East with a special focus on Miskawayh (d. 421/1030), Ibn Sīnā (d. 427/1037), and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī’s (d. 672/1274). He holds an M.A. in Islamic Studies from McGill University and an M.A. in Philosophy from the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Jakub Jajcay is a PhD student in History at the American University of Beirut. He studies the Lebanese city of Saida in the period before the Lebanese Civil War, with a focus on the social conditions and organizations that later facilitated political violence. He also conducts historical research for a number of NGOs in Lebanon that work to prevent violence by raising awareness among young Lebanese on the history of the Civil War. He got his BA in Arabic and Politics from SOAS and his Master's from the University of Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic.