The Working Group Modernity and Islam


The Working Group Modernity and Islam

From 1996 to 2006 the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin has hosted the Working Group Modernity and Islam, a Berlin-based interdisciplinary research network of scholars working at various universities and extra-university institutions on the questions of Modernity and Islam. The Working Group has been committed to fostering a deeper understanding of Muslim cultures, their histories, and their social structures with the two-fold aim of revealing their complexities and of offering deeper insights into the phenomena of ‘modernity’ and ‘modernization’, which should be of interest to scholars well beyond the fields of Islamic studies.

The project Modernity and Islam was launched in 1995 with the support of the Körber-Foundation in Hamburg. From 1996 on, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Land Berlin have financed the scholarly program.

The Working Group was initiated under the impression that in Germany, indeed in Europe as a whole, the level of scientific and intellectual interest in Islam neither reflects its growing political importance nor its role as a reference for modern and post-modern criticism. Whereas traditional Islamic studies methodically started to embrace the social sciences, history, and economics, representatives of the latter were seen to persist in delegating the study of Islam to regional experts. A ‘survey of the social and cultural studies on the Muslim world in the Federal Republic of Germany’, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education, gave empirical evidence of the need for additional effort to overcome the ‘dual marginalisation’ of Islamic studies.

In a second phase, from 2001 to 2006 the Working Group Modernity and Islam put a new emphasis in trying to tie area studies more closely to other disciplines. In several independent projects, the attempt has been made to expand the horizon of Europe’s history, its present, and its culture, which still bear the shape of the national borders of the 19th century.

The activities of the Working Group Modernity and Islam merged into the five-year multi-disciplinary research program “Europe in the Middle East; the Middle East in Europe” (2006-2011), of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. It builds upon the previous work of the Working Group Modernity and Islam and seeks to rethink key concepts and premises that divide Europe from the Middle East.

Source: Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin

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