The guiding idea of Europe in the Middle East —The Middle East in Europe (EUME) is to explore the historical, political, religious, social and cultural interconnections and borderlines in and between Europe and the Middle East. In contrast to thinking in terms of opposites and dichotomies, the aim is to focus on the diverse processes of reception and translation, shared historical legacies, and the mobility of people and ideas, a shared present and future.
EUME was founded in 2006 as a joint research program of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and follows in the tradition of the Arbeitskreis Moderne und Islam (AKMI), which was funded from 1996 to 2006 by the State of Berlin and the BMBF. Since September 2011, EUME has continued as a program at the Forum Transregionale Studien. EUME integrates research fields and topics that start at fault lines of national, religious or cultural pre-understandings. From different disciplinary perspectives (anthropology, Islamic studies, philology, history, literary studies, political science), EUME aims to highlight the importance of research on non-European cultures and societies for the differentiation of the humanities and social sciences under the conditions of global interdependence and fragmentation.
— Mobile Traditions: Comparative Perspectives on Middle Eastern Literatures (Friederike Pannewick and Samah Selim) is a literary studies-oriented research field and examines Middle Eastern literatures in terms of national-philological canon formations and literary interconnections with the literatures of other regions.
— Urban Comparison: Governance, Consultative Mechanisms, Pluralism (Ulrike Freitag and Nora Lafi) aims to contribute to debates on pluralism, migration, citizenship, and civil society from the perspective of Mediterranean cities and adjacent regions.
— Tradition and the Critique of Modernity: Secularism, Fundamentalism, and Religion from Middle Eastern Perspectives (Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin) is designed to think through key concepts of modernity within the horizon of Middle Eastern experiences in order to contribute to inclusive conceptions of politics and society.
— Political thought, an archaeology of the present, social change, and the processes of transformation in the Middle East are other areas of focus that have emerged in recent years and are represented by several College members and Fellows (including Cilja Harders, Friederike Pannewick, Rachid Ouaissa).
Currently, two research projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC) are being carried out by EUME Fellows at the Forum Transregionale Studien:
— The Prison Narratives of Assad's Syria: Voices, Texts, Publics (SYRASP) is a project that EUME Fellow Anne-Marie McManus has been pursuing under an ERC Starting Grant for five years since April 2020. The project is concerned with the analysis of Syrian prison narratives from the 1970s to the present, oppositional and survival narratives that have particular significance for the political culture of Syria and its diaspora.
— Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge (BEYONDREST) is an interdisciplinary research project led by EUME Fellow Banu Karaca. It is funded under a 5-year ERC Consolidator grant and started at the Forum in July 2022. Against the backdrop of ongoing debates on the decolonization of museums, BEYONDREST takes restitution as a starting point, rather than an end point, to explore what kind of loss expropriated artworks generate and how this loss has shaped the production of knowledge about cultural heritage.
These research fields and themes form the framework of EUME, which centers on a postdoctoral program that invites fellows each year, especially from the Middle East but also from the United States, Africa, South Asia, and other European countries, usually for the duration of an academic year, to Berlin to work on their research projects. In recent years, scholars have increasingly come to the Forum for longer periods as EUME Fellows, through fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation, the Minerva Foundation, the Doha Center, or other sponsors.
The EUME Fellows are associated with the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School for Literary Studies, the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, the Center for Global History, the Institutes of History, Islamic Studies, and Political Science, and the Seminar for Semitic and Arabic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin or the Institute for Slavic Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Some of them are employed as research assistants at the Forum.
A joint Berliner Seminar brings to the fore the interdependencies of the fields of research as well as the political and social issues involved in the scholars' efforts to find a new language for culture, politics, and society that unites rather than divides. Specific topics can be explored in depth in working discussions, workshops, and summer academies.
Since the beginnings of the Arbeitskreis Moderne und Islam (AKMI) in 1996, more than 350 postdocs have conducted research in Berlin for at least one year as fellows of AKMI or EUME. International workshops contributed to the expansion of scholarly contacts. Complementary to the activities in Berlin, summer academies and workshops were held regularly in the region starting in 1996.
Since then, the program has brought together more than 2000 researchers: from Germany, Europe, the United States, and Arab and Muslim countries and Israel, scholarly debates on concepts of law and order, demarcations in religious traditions, on the coexistence of people of different social, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds in the cities of the Mediterranean region, canonization processes in literature and historiography, questions of hermeneutics, demarcations between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the significance of exile and return in Palestinian and Israeli discourse, the role of art and culture in the political process, the relationship between archive, power, and public sphere, and the mobility of people and ideas. Nearly all of the former Fellows and Summer Academy participants have gone on to hold assistant professorships or professorships at universities. The majority are working at institutions in the Middle East.
EUME is managed by a board of trustees that currently consists of Ulrike Freitag (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient), Cilja Harders (spokesperson of the board of trustees; Freie Universität Berlin), Nora Lafi (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient), Rachid Ouaissa (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Friederike Pannewick (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin (Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva), Samah Selim (Rutgers University), and Stefan Weber (Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin).