Thu 17 Mar 2022

ERC Consolidator Grant “Beyond Restitution” at the Forum Transregionale Studien

The anthropologist Banu Karaca comes to the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin with a prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant with her research project “BEYONDREST – Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)possession and the Politics of Knowledge”. Another ERC grant goes to Islam Dayeh, head of the research program Zukunftsphilologie at the Forum. This was announced today by the European Research Council (ERC).

Press release (PDF in German)

Banu Karaca

BEYONDREST: Beyond Restitution: Heritage, (Dis)Possession and the Politics of Knowledge

On the backdrop of ongoing debates to decolonialize museums, BEYONDREST asks if the return of looted art can be regarded as a closure of historical wounds. The project probes the focus on restitution that inadvertently casts dispossessed art in terms of contested property. Instead, BEYONDREST explores what kind of loss dispossessed art engenders, and how this loss has shaped the knowledge production on heritage. It focuses on the interlocution between Western Europe, the Near and Middle East, and North Africa, mapping relationships between people and “things” that have largely been left out of current debates. The project starts in the mid-19th century, which witnessed the rise of the museum in its modern form as well as violence unleashed by imperial and colonial projects and dispossession. Innumerable objects made their way into international collections, categorized mostly as “Islamic art,” or as the “universal heritage of humankind” that nonetheless symbolically and proprietarily belongs to the “West.” BEYONDREST tackles dispossession not as a loss to be mended but a means to transform knowledge through inquiries into absence. The interdisciplinary research group will employ a wide methodologically matrix, including ethnographic interviews, visual analysis of exhibitions, archival research, and textual analysis of the laws governing cultural assets to capture the proprietary stakes in the interplay of epistemic remembering and forgetting. BEYONDREST takes risks by centering on what is absent, rather than present, on what is lost, rather than found. It argues that the dispossession of art is not merely a problematic of colonialism or empire, that is of the past, but an ongoing process that is constitutive for the governance of heritage in its national and transnational formations. BEYONDREST’s working hypothesis is that the dispossession of art and cultural heritage is not an aberration, but a precondition for the ways in which art and cultural assets circulate.


Islam Dayeh

KNOW - Polymathy and Interdisciplinarity in Premodern Islamic Epistemic Cultures

KNOW is the first comprehensive study of polymathy and interdisciplinarity in premodern Islam. The project sets out to write a history of knowledge that takes the interaction between disciplines as its primary subject. The project’s historical framework is the post-formative period, 1200-1800 CE, which saw the rise of new institutions of learning, the proliferation of libraries, the formation and integration of disciplines and curricular texts, and an increase in academic travel, facilitating interdisciplinary cooperation, competition and conflict. Despite its significance, our knowledge of this period remains rudimentary. The project promises to transform our understanding of the intellectual dynamics of this period by applying the lens of polymathy and interdisciplinarity. The project’s interdisciplinary methodology draws on the history of science, interdisciplinary studies and polymathy studies. The PI will be supported by an interdisciplinary team of three postdoctoral researchers covering, together, the intersections between philology, theology, exegesis, law, medicine, logic, algebra, and geometry in premodern Islamic epistemic cultures. KNOW will make significant contributions to interdisciplinarity and polymathy studies, as well as the emergent field of the history of knowledge.

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