“Islam” as an Epistemic Field: Imperial Entanglements and Orientalism in the German-Speaking World since 1870

Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Nils Riecken (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient), Larissa Schmid (FU Berlin/Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin), Research Cluster „Trajectories of Lives and Knowledge” (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Head: Dr. Heike Liebau)
11.10.2018 - 12.10.2018
Nils Riecken

“Islam” is at the center of current societal and academic debates in Germany. These eminently political debates revolve around issues such as the status and rights of refugees, of migrant workers, of women and headscarves, and the question whether “Islam” and “Muslims” belong to a politically and historically constituted entity called “Germany.” They also invoke and put on stage claims about the “Enlightenment,” “secularization” and the historical progress of Christianity and Judaism. Such claims are often contrasted with claims about the inability of Islam to achieve an “Enlightenment,” ”secularization,” or a “Reformation,” that is, to become a full part of the “modern secular” world. Publications and statements about “Islam” that reproduce such historical-political-ethical claims seem to be multiplying daily. “Islam,” so it seems, has become one of the major “problems” in debates about the present and future of German society.

The idea that “Islam” itself poses a major political “problem” for German politics has important historical precedents: at the turn of the twentieth century German publics discussed the “Islamic question” (“die Islamfrage”) and “Islamic policy” (“Islampolitik”) regarding policies in German colonies. “Islam” constituted a “problem” to be analyzed as the influential scholar of Islam (“Islamwissenschaftler”) Carl Heinrich Becker wrote in the first issue of the then newly established journal “Der Islam” (1910). Moreover, “Islam” was invoked in German war propaganda during the first and the second world war. Imperial Germany had not only been concerned with Protestantism and Catholicism in the “culture war” (“Kulturkampf”), but also with Islam, as Rebekka Habermas has pointed out (2014: 252). “Islam” is, one could argue, another unmarked center of what is called German history.

The conference thus pursues two aims:

First, the conference is to further develop a postcolonial perspective on the production of “Islam” as an epistemic field in German-speaking settings since 1870. In our view, imperial entanglements are constitutive for this field. Our interest lies therefore in examining the history of these entanglements and their afterlives up to the present. We thus understand articulations of “Islam” – e.g. in “area studies,” as an object of intervention by the state, in public debates among Muslims and non-Muslims – as moments of a local, but globally entangled history of knowledge production.

Second, the conference asks about the emergence of the epistemic field “Islam” to provide an important methodological contribution to existing interdisciplinary research in this field. In focusing on the epistemologies and the politics that have produced the epistemic field “Islam,” the conference aims at countering the tenacious view of Islam as an “area” sui generis.

In case you wish to attend, please register until 10 October 2018 (islamwissensfeldkonferenz@gmail.com).


9.30 a.m. Arrival and Registration

10 a.m. – 10.30 a.m. Welcome and Introductory Remarks (Nils Riecken and Larissa Schmid)

10.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Panel 1: The Sovereign State, Modern Politics, Religion, and Islam

Chair: Nils Riecken

Ruth Mas, The Muslim Refugee and the Bestial Sovereignty of the State

David Moshfegh, Islamwissenschaft as a Science of Religion

12.00 p.m. – 1 p.m. Lunch Break

1 p.m. – 2.30 p.m. Panel 2: Islam and the German Empire

Chair: Anandita Bajpai

Zubair Ahmad, Managing Muslim Bodies in the Colonies: On the Formation of Germany’s Islampolitik

Jörg Haustein, How the Germans brought “Islam” to East Africa: Colonial Debates and the Politics of Religion

2.30 p.m. – 3.00 p.m. Coffee Break

3.00 p.m. – 4.30 p.m. Panel 3: Transnational Histories of German Orientalism I

Chair: Walid Abd el-Gawad

Nora Derbal, Jews, “Turcos” and the French in North Africa: Heinrich Freiherr von Maltzan’s not so disinterested writings in the Magazin für die Literatur des Auslands (1870-73)

Amit Levy, Islam without Muslims: German-Jewish Scholars and Oriental Studies in Palestine/Israel

4.30 p.m. – 4.45 p.m. Coffee Break

4.45 p.m. – 6.15 p.m. Panel 4: Transnational Histories of German Orientalism II

Chair: Ulrike Freitag

Robert Terrell, The Geopolitics of Islam and Islams in Post-Imperial Berlin, 1922-1928

Dyayla Hamzah, Oriental Professors and German Orientalists in 1930s Berlin: Improbable Communities, Transnational Imaginaries, and Networks

6.15 p.m. Walk to restaurant

7 p.m. Conference Dinner

Friday, 12 October 2018

10 a.m. – 11.30 a.m. Panel 5: “Islam” and Orientalism in the Habsburg Empire

Chair: Heike Liebau

Caroline Herfert, “Enlightening the Orient is Our Agenda […]:“ Orientalist Discourse and the Habsburg Empire's Trade Policy in the Viennese Oriental Museum and its Journal “Österreichische Monatsschrift für den Orient” (1875-1918)

Philipp Bruckmayr, Catholic Revisionism in the Making of “Islam” as an Epistemic Field: the Case of Hermann Stieglecker

11.30 a.m. – 11.45 a.m. Coffee Break

11.45 a.m. – 1.15 p.m. Panel 6: “Islam” in German Politics and Public Debates

Chair: Ergün Özgür

Joseph Ben Prestel, Between Pro-Migrant Activism and Criticism of Religion: Islam and the West German New Left during the 1970s

Iskandar Ahmed Abdalla, Rendering Islam Liberal: Time, Space and The Imperative of Intelligibility

1.15 p.m. – 2.30 p.m. Lunch Break

2.30 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. Panel 7: Rendering “Muslims” Visible, Framing “Islam”

Chair: Samuli Schielke

Alex Konrad, The Hybridization of Muslim Spaces in Germany: A Historical Perspective on the Perception of Muslims

Bettina Gräf, Drone Technology: an (Im)possible Topic of Islamic Studies

4 p.m. – 4.15 p.m. Coffee Break

4.15 p.m. – 6 p.m. Panel 8: Comments on Papers, Concluding Discussion, Publication

Chairs: Nils Riecken and Larissa Schmid

Rebekka Habermas, Comment

Schirin Amir-Moazami, Comment

6 p.m. End of Conference


Nils Riecken
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
Kirchweg 33
14129 Berlin

Mail: islamwissensfeldkonferenz@gmail.com

“Islam” as an Epistemic Field: Imperial Entanglements and Orientalism in the German-Speaking World since 1870, 11.10.2018 – 12.10.2018 Berlin, in: H-Soz-Kult, 24.09.2018, <www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-38233>.