Research Project: SCRIPT // Source Companion for Research on Islamic Political Thought

As a tool for understanding how the heritage of political thought in the Middle East developed during its intellectually most productive periods, SCRIPT will offer access to a vast and varied literature, in Arabic and Persian, which flourished in the Islamic world from Andalusia to India from the 12th to the 16th centuries. Addressing local sovereign rulers or referring to local sovereign rule, this literature conceptualises legitimate rule and discusses the structure and ideal organisation of the polity. The online publication platform SCRIPT collects entries in English and Arabic (English translations are provided), exploring the historical context and conceptual significance of 65 source texts on political philosophy, political advice and administration. Continue reading

Research Project: Higher Education and Citizenship in Egypt // An anthropological critique of the crisis narrative

Emtpy classroom, October 6 University, Egypt, in 2012. ©Daniele Cantini

This project looks at the configurations of society, legitimacy, knowledge and power in Egypt, from the vantage point of the higher education sector, which Daniele Cantini has been researching since 2007. It focuses on the university as a fundamental institution in the contemporary configuration of knowledge and power – what universities are for, how they will be funded, what they will produce – in combination with the recent anthropological interest in global assemblages, in this case higher education as a ‘glocal’ technology of governance. Continue reading

Cluster: Processes of Transformation in Urban and Rural Societies

A miller in Nahr Ustuwan, Lebanon © Stephen McPhillips

The projects in this research cluster share a focus on the effects of change, transformation and long-term development in both urban and rural societies of the Middle East since 1500. They aim to shed light on the constitutive fabric of urban-rural relations in the political, administrative, economic and cultural life of Middle Eastern societies. With a particular emphasis on often overlooked and marginalised groups and settings, such as the Bedouin or rural areas in general, we counter the widespread neglect of a wide range of non-urban and non-elite actors in scholarly research as well as in political analysis. Continue reading

Cluster: Power and Legitimacy

Anonymous Venetian orientalist painting. The Reception of the Ambassadors in Damascus, 1511 (Louvre Museum, public domain)

The convergence of power and the legitimacy of rule or order of the state and society is an ubiquitous phenomenon. As such, it has occupied political actors as well as authors continuously throughout history. Authority and political order also rely on discursive strategies for the generation of their legitimacy, and thus are intricately intertwined with knowledge production more generally. Continue reading

Cluster: Higher Education as the Subject and Object of Critical Discourse

Billboard in Cairo, 6th October Highway © Daniele Cantini

The importance of universities can hardly be overestimated. Their numbers have grown massively, as have the number of the people enrolled in them relative to the total population worldwide. They exert multiple functions in the production and dissemination of knowledge. Moreover, they are ascribed the role to evaluate and certify knowledge in
the form of professional and scholarly status, curricula, as a basis for policies and more.
As universities themselves have a share in the definition and proclamation of social
problems and goals, they can easily turn into contested terrain in the claim for the right
interpretation of social phenomena and the right ways to address them. Unrest on university campuses, dense security regimes and long closures in the aftermath of political change in several Arab countries testify to that, as well as the continued control over teaching and research activities. Continue reading

Cluster: Culture, Art and the Public Sphere

Monique Bellan (right) and Nadia von Maltzahn (left) in the “Salon Room” of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 2016

Projects in this cluster share an interest in the political character of innovation in cultural
production, of forms of articulation and of publicness. In particular, this cluster deals
with processes of transformation of existing aesthetic, political and social orders, as
well as with the reflection, and possibly the theorisation, of artistic practices. The role
of institutions in shaping identities – and be it by rejecting the institution – is central to
the analysis. Continue reading

Research at the OIB

Researchers at the OIB, 2016

How is research at the OIB organised?

The OIB conducts and supports research on (and in) the Arab region and the wider Middle East. Research addresses historical and contemporary matters, and shares the commitment to a systematic study of primary sources, regional agents, local conditions, discursive contexts and methodology. This provides a common conceptual framework for the work in and between the academic disciplines represented at the OIB, such as the history of the Middle East, Islamic studies, Arabic studies, social sciences, anthropology and cultural studies. Continue reading