NEW RESEARCH PROJECT: Relations in the Ideoscape: Middle Eastern Students in the Eastern Bloc (1950s to 1991)

The political post-war order in the wake of the Second World War, the division of the world into the so-called Western powers led by the USA and the so-called Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union can also be seen as an international “order of knowledge”. The Cold War and the East-West conflict have so far been mostly examined as a political and potentially military conflict between the US and the SU. Yet, the “system competition” has always also been a “knowledge competition”, and not only in the field of military technology. Competing paradigms in world history, for example, stood against each other, classes and their struggles on the one hand, the history of civilizations on the other, to name just one striking example. Sociological and political studies and aesthetics in the broadest sense were other fields where East-West competition regarding fields of knowledge was strong. It follows that the relations forged within the two blocs were of great importance.

The manifold and complex relations within the blocs, especially those within the Eastern Bloc, which were shaped also as relations of knowledge within its metropolises and between these and numerous countries of the so-called Third World, have so far remained largely unexplored. Above all, the Eastern Bloc is a space created by a common ideology, an “ideoscape” (Appadurai). The complex relationships which were forged through the mobility/migration of students from the Middle East and North Africa to the Eastern Bloc 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 (Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, GDR), research is now possible on the high number of mostly Arab, but also Iranian and Turkish students who received scholarships between the 1950s and 1991 to study in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Relations with the so-called Third World consisted largely not only of “educational development aid” but were also fed by mutual interests that went beyond a one-sided transfer of ideology and education. In many cases this was also evident in the student movements of that time, the Iranian, Palestinian and others, which mobilized in the West, i.e. in West Germany and other states. The students who went back to their home countries brought back not only newly acquired knowledge and expertise but also relations or rather a web of relationships. What did they do with their knowledge and their relationships? How did these work to constitute (or challenge) the ideoscape of the Eastern Bloc? Which shifts and turns did they take throughout their lives? The last witnesses to these times need to be interviewed, their life stories recorded.

For Africa and Latin America research has already begun. This project will focus on the knowledge mobility and knowledge relations of students from the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, we will focus on the humanities and social sciences (history, oriental studies, political sciences/international relations/international law, sociology, art/painting, ballet, opera). 

The OIB cooperates in this project with the historical institutes of the Max Weber Foundation in Warsaw and Moscow.

Birgit Schäbler OIB

External event: Workshop on Arabic manuscripts in Cairo

From 11 to 13 December 2017, the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo (IFAO) is hosting a workshop on Arabic manuscripts. The workshop has been initiated by Élise Franssen (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, Università Ca’ Foscari) and is being co-organized by Mathieu Eychenne, currently visiting postdoctoral fellow at the OIB. Research Associate Torsten Wollina is participating in this workshop.

The event will be accompanied by a public lecture by Konrad Hirschler (Freie Universität Berlin and BTS Advisory Board Member) entitled “In the Margins and between the Lines: Towards a Social History of Medieval Arabic Manuscripts” (11 December, 6pm).

At the Deutscher Orientalistentag (DOT) in September

From 18 to 22 September 2017, the 33rd Deutscher Orientalistentag (DOT) is taking place in Jena/Germany. The DOT is the largest professional meeting of Oriental Studies in Germany, and generally takes place every four years. The OIB is participating at the DOT with a range of panels. Continue reading

Relaunch of the OIBlog

After the OIBlog Mish ma32ool (“unbelievable”) was first launched in late 2012, we are now relaunching it with a number of changes in structure, focus and content, which will be introduced in this and the following post. This serves two connected aims: to highlight current research at the OIB and to improve the accessibility of different types of information on the blog. This post will concentrate on introducing the structure, while the next post will give an overview over research activities at the OIB and how we are planning to introduce them on this blog. Continue reading

CfP: Contextualising the Art Salon in the Arab Region

Cover image of the Sursock Museum’s 8th Salon d’Automne Catalogue

Symposium in Beirut, 27-28 October 2017

Call for Papers: Abstracts due by 5 June 2017

The Orient-Institut Beirut and the Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum are organizing a symposium on 27-28 October 2017 that aims to contextualize the art salon in the Arab region. The symposium, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, brings together researchers and curators, artists and critics to discuss the emergence of the art salon in the region in the colonial and post-colonial context, reflect on knowledge circulations between Europe and the Middle East, and analyse the function of the art salon in relation to collecting practices and the public. To disseminate the research findings, a publication will be prepared to be published in time for the Sursock Museum’s next Salon d’Automne in November 2018. Continue reading

CfP: The Avant-garde and its Networks: Surrealism in Paris, North Africa and the Middle East from the 1930s

Date: 14-15 November 2016
Venue: Orient-Institut Beirut
Organizers: Orient-Institut Beirut/Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte Paris

Group exhibition Cairo

Invitation card for the third exhibit of “Free Art”, Cairo 1943 (repro. in Samir Gharib, 1986)

Continue reading

CfP: Rethinking Social Movements in the Digital Age: Activism, Dissent and Rebellion in the Post-Arab Spring

International Workshop

Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB)

July 29, 2016

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Laila Shereen Sakr
Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

The pivotal and unprecedented role that digital technology has played in instigating, as well as documenting the Arab Spring has without a doubt renewed the interest in social movements beyond the traditional realm of the “physical”. As the revolution in digital technology is slowly revolutionizing the way people communicate, debate existing norms and are exposed to other social and cultural practices and forms of governance worldwide, it is also providing new means for coordination and mobilization. In the advent of the Arab ‘Spring’ revolts throughout the region, digital technology has successfully pushed its way into politics: allowing people across borders, class, and formal venues of associations to debate, coordinate, and transform the ‘digital’ into the ‘physical’. Continue reading

CfP MESA 2016 panel: “The Art Salon in the Middle East: Migration of Institutional Patronage and its Challenges”

We invite paper proposals for participation in a panel on The Art Salon in the Middle East: Migration of Institutional Patronage and its Challenges that we are submitting to MESA for this year’s annual meeting in Boston, MA, 17-20 November 2016. Continue reading

CfP: The “State” of Lebanon: Concepts of Political Order in Crisis?

International workshop

Orient-Institut Beirut, 15-16 October 2015

Though this be madness, yet, there is a method in’t.

Shakespeare, Hamlet II, 2.

The Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) of the Max Weber Foundation invites paper proposals for an international workshop on “The ‘state’ of Lebanon: Concepts of political order in crisis?” to be held in Beirut from 15-16 October 2015. The workshop aims at examining the explanatory value of various classical and new approaches towards political order in understanding the fragility/stability of state and society in Lebanon. Continue reading

CfP BRISMES Panel: “Pushing the Status Quo: Liberation in art and cultural practices in the modern Middle East”

We invite paper proposals for participation in a panel on “Pushing the Status Quo: Liberation in art and cultural practices in the modern Middle East” that we are submitting to BRISMES for its forthcoming conference in London, 24-26 June 2015 (

Cultural production often challenges existing norms and practices, pushing the boundaries of the status quo. This panel explores the relationship of artists and cultural players to authority in the Middle East in the 20th and 21st centuries. It deals with processes of transformation of existing aesthetic, political and social orders, as well as with the dissolution of linear modes of perception, such as for instance in the historical avant-garde. The self-liberation of art and the artist from a rigid academism, clinging to out-of-date aesthetic ideals, is the result of a complex reflexive and emancipatory process: the dissociation of the artist from aesthetic and moral norms leads to an emancipation from and rebellion against the status quo. This rebellion does not always go in one direction, that is the liberation from institutional structures and policies. Rather, when the status quo provides little institutional support to artists, they seek these structures and policies. What makes artists move away from authority and institutional settings? And what makes them look for these? How do the latter impact on the artist’s autonomy? How do we define liberation and emancipation in relation to artists as actors in specific national or transnational contexts? This panel will examine these multi-layered processes. The agency of the artist or cultural player is here in the foreground, positioning him within his time and space.

Abstracts of 250 words and a short bio should be sent by 15 February to Dr Monique Bellan ( and Dr Nadia von Maltzahn (

Conference: Where is the Middle East heading? Ethno-religious minorities between persecution and self-determination

Flyer Konferenz Wohin treibt der Nahe Osten_finale Version-page-002International conference in Berlin, 30 November – 2 December 2014:

The Orient-Institut Beirut – in cooperation with Lepsiushaus Potsdam, the Moses Mendelssohn Centre at Potsdam University and the European Academy Berlin – is organizing an international conference on the situation of Middle Eastern minorities after the “Arab Spring” entitled “Where is the Middle East heading? Ethno-religious minorities between persecution and self-determination” (Wohin treibt der Nahe Osten? Ethno-religiöse Minderheiten im Nahen Osten zwischen Verfolgung und Selbstbehauptung).

Since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” in December 2010, complex and dramatic transformations have taken place in the Middle East. Up to now, it remains difficult to assess their impact on the people, societies and governments in the region.  Previously stable forms of government, politico-territorial boundaries, and the entire Middle Eastern state system established after World War I are destabilized under the pressure of large mass movements, escalating violence, humanitarian catastrophes, and the bitter competition between national and transnational players and powerful international alliances.

One central seismographic component of this process is formed by the region’s numerous ethno-religious minorities who are facing an uncertain future and must reorient themselves in an extremely fluid and fragile socio-political environment. In a situation of decaying order, incompatible claims to power and a high level of manifest and latent violence, ethnic and cultural diversity is rarely understood as an opportunity to create overall shared social and cultural growth, but is rather seen as a security risk.

Depending on local interests and the power resources available, the various religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East are trying to deal with this contradictory and threatening situation at different levels and with different strategies.  Besides a trend of increased individual emigration, there are attempts to support the old regimes, create alliances with other minorities, and find secularist partners willing to engage in talks within the majority population, or defend the interests of their own community with arms if necessary.

The conference will explore and compare the conditions, political dynamics, survival strategies, and international networks of different ethno-religious minorities in the Middle East in the framework of the historical development spanning the end of the Ottoman Empire, the European Mandate period and the era of Arab nationalism up to the present.

Convenors: Orient-Institut Beirut, Lepsiushaus Potsdam, Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum Potsdam

Date: 30 November – 2 December 2014

Venue: Europäische Akademie Berlin, Bismarckallee 46/48, D-14193 Berlin-Grunewald

For full PDF-programme click here.

Frank Walter Steinmeier zu Besuch am OIB

Außenminister Frank Walter Steinmeier und Stefan Leder, Direktor des Orient-Instituts Beirut

Außenminister Frank Walter Steinmeier und Stefan Leder, Direktor des Orient-Instituts Beirut

Der deutsche Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier und Mitglieder seiner Delegation sprachen am 30. Mai 2014 im Orient-Institut Beirut mit libanesischen Gästen über die desolate Lage in Syrien und ihre Auswirkungen auf den Libanon. Der Libanon war das erste Ziel auf Steinmeiers Reise durch Nahen Osten, die er am vergangenen Freitag antrat.

Die libanesischen Gesprächsteilnehmer machten sehr deutlich, dass konfessionelle Polarisierung, Gewalt und Angst das Zusammenleben zwischen Christen und Muslimen erschweren und gefährden würden. Christen sähen aber weiterhin ihre Heimat und Zukunft in der Region. Dass die religiöse und kulturelle Vielfalt im arabischen Osten dringend erhalten werden müsse, darüber waren sich alle Seiten einig. Die Zivilgesellschaft vor Ort und die internationale Gemeinschaft könnten gemeinsam dafür eintreten. Von libanesischer Seite hieß es, auf ein Einlenken der Konfliktparteien in Syrien könne man nicht hoffen, solange das Geschehen durch einen komplizierten Stellvertreterkrieg bestimmt sei. Für diesen müsse zunächst eine politische Lösung mit den in Syrien kriegführenden Staaten gefunden werden. Um politische Veränderungen anzustoßen, seien zivilgesellschaftliche Initiativen und Entwicklungen wichtig, die im Libanon, unter Beteiligung der geflohenen Syrer und vereinzelt weiterhin auch in Syrien selbst auf Verständigung hinarbeiten müssten.

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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Stipendienausschreibung 2015/2016

Das Orient-Institut Beirut, ein Forschungsinstitut der bundesunmittelbaren Max Weber Stiftung, vergibt Stipendien für herausragende Forschungsvorhaben, vorzugsweise für Doktorandinnen und Doktoranden.

Voraussetzung für die Bewerbung ist ein abgeschlossenes Studium (Diplom, Magister) in Fächern, die der Orientalistik zuzuordnen sind oder einen eindeutigen Regionalbezug aufweisen. Es muss erkennbar sein, inwieweit der Forschungsaufenthalt am Institut oder in der Region für das Vorhaben förderlich ist.

Gute Arabischkenntnisse in Wort und Schrift werden vorausgesetzt. Erwartet wird aktive Teilnahme an den internen Kolloquien und thematisch einschlägigen wissenschaftlichen Veranstaltungen. Der Arbeitsort ist Beirut, Forschungsaufenthalte außerhalb des Libanon in der Region sind mit der Institutsleitung abzusprechen.

Das Stipendium beträgt € 1200,– monatlich. Gästezimmer können unter Umständen für zeitlich eng begrenzte Aufenthaltsdauern zur Verfügung gestellt werden (hierfür werden vom Stipendium € 300,– monatlich einbehalten). Für die Reisekosten bewilligen wir eine einmalige Reisekostenpauschale in Höhe von € 600,–.

Stipendien stehen ab 2015 zur Verfügung. Die Stipendiendauer beträgt maximal 12 Monate.

Die Bewerbungen müssen die folgenden Unterlagen enthalten:

  • Anschreiben
  • Lebenslauf
  • Beschreibung des Promotionsvorhabens (3-5 Seiten)
  • Empfehlungsschreiben eines Hochschullehrers
  • Kopie des Magisterzeugnisses bzw. des Diploms
  • Nachweis der Sprachkenntnisse

Die Bewerberin / der Bewerber wird gebeten, ihre Bewerbung bis zum 27.07.2014 zuzusenden an den

Direktor des Orient-Instituts Beirut

Herrn Prof. Dr. Stefan Leder

P.O.Box 11-2988

Beirut / Libanon

per E-Mail an

Stellenausschreibung: wissenschaftliche/r Mitarbeiter/in

Beim Orient-Institut Beirut, einem Forschungsinstitut der bundesunmittelbaren Max Weber Stiftung, ist die Stelle

einer wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeiterin  / eines wissenschaftlichen Mitarbeiters

ab dem 01.06.2014 zu besetzen. Die Stelle ist in Vollzeit auf drei Jahre befristet. Eine Verlängerung um höchstens zwei Jahre ist möglich. Dienstort ist Beirut.


  • Promotion im Fächerspektrum von Arabistik, Islamwissenschaft, Geschichte, Geographie, Gesellschafts- bzw. Politikwissenschaften oder in verwandten Fachgebieten mit Regionalbezug (Vorderer Orient/Nordafrika).
  • Gute Kenntnisse des Arabischen und Forschungserfahrung mit arabischsprachigen Quellenmaterialien.
  • Post Doc Projekt, das gut vernetzt ist und in der Region Ausstrahlung entfalten kann.
  • Bezüge zu Forschungsschwerpunkten des Instituts sind von Vorteil.


  • Anteilige und verantwortliche Mitarbeit an Vorhaben des Instituts (Publikationen, wissenschaftliche Veranstaltungen, Projektbegleitung, Unterstützung lokaler Forschungsgruppen).
  • Projektbezogene Kooperation in der Region.
  • Erarbeitung und Veröffentlichung von Forschungsergebnissen.

Professionalität in der Tätigkeit für das Institut und ein hervorragendes, auch interdisziplinär anschlussfähiges wissenschaftliches Profil werden erwartet.

Die Max Weber Stiftung ist ein familienfreundlicher Arbeitgeber, dem die Vereinbarkeit von Beruf und Familie besonders am Herzen liegt. Gleichzeitig setzen wir gleichstellungspolitische Ziele und Vorgaben um, indem wir versuchen, bei Stellenbesetzungen bestehende Ungleichgewichte auszugleichen. Wir wägen in unseren Auswahlverfahren die individuellen Belange aller Bewerberinnen und Bewerber sorgfältig ab und besetzen die ausgeschriebene Stelle bei gleicher Eignung, Befähigung und fachlicher Leistung nach Maßgabe des Bundesgleichstellungsgesetzes und bei Schwerbehinderten nach Maßgabe des SGB IX.

Die Vergütung erfolgt nach Vergütungsgruppe TVöD 13 zuzüglich Auslandszulage und Mietzuschuss nach den Bestimmungen des Bundes.

Bewerbungen mit den üblichen Unterlagen (Lebenslauf, Zeugnisse, Schriftenverzeichnis etc.) samt Gutachten zweier Hochschullehrer und einer Projektbeschreibung (max. 3 Seiten) sind bis zum 30.04.2014 per E-Mail zu richten an das:

Orient-Institut Beirut, Rue Hussein Beyhoum 44, Zokak El Blat, P.O.B. 11-2988, Beirut / Libanon

Herrn Prof. Dr. Stefan Leder


Call for Applications: Summer Academy

Closing Date for Applications: 15 April 2014

Call for applications, conditions and procedures can be found here.

This International Summer Academy is jointly organized by the Orient-Institut Beirut and Forum Transregionale Studien, and will take place in Beirut from 11 to 19 September 2014.

Entitled Language, Science and Aesthetics – Articulations of Subjectivity and Objectivity in the Modern Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, this Summer Academy offers early-career scholars an opportunity to follow up on the debates about modernity, its preconditions and its aftermath by focusing on the multifarious processes and often unique ways in which societies outside Europe have adopted, translated, rejected or produced the global, the modern and tradition since the seventeenth century. It places a specific focus on the notions of subjectivity and objectivity, the individual and the subject, as key  notions of modernity, and addresses systems and practices of knowledge production, communication and authority as they developed in the region that extends from Morocco to Indonesia. The Summer Academy engages with the debates on the writing of a more global history by paying particular attention to changing textual and aesthetic practices and language policies.