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Muslim Worlds - World of Islam? (BMBF-sponsored) | Joint Research Projects | Single Projects


Thinking through Translocal Entanglements: Perspectives from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East

ZMO's new research programme is entitled ‘Thinking through Translocal Entanglements: Perspectives from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East’. It is initially envisaged to last from 2020-2024 (with a probable second phase). It examines the history and present of dynamic socio-economic and cultural trends, and resultant local and translocal practices against the backdrop of globalising networks from the perspective of Muslim regions and societies from the 16th to the 21st centuries.

ZMO Research Programme 2020-2024 PDF


Muslim Worlds - World of Islam?
Conceptions, Practices, and Crises of the Global

(Phase II, 2014–2019)

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)

In its main BMBF-funded research programme, the Centre currently comprises four interdisciplinary project groups, with twenty-two researchers working on different historical and cultural aspects of the "Islamicate World" since the 18th century. Building on ZMO’s preceding programmes, Abgrenzung und Aneignung in der Globalisierung (1996-2000) and Translokalität (2000-2007) - the first phase (2008-2013) of the current programme, Muslim Worlds – World of Islam?, tracked the global condition of Muslim life worlds in a more differentiated manner.
Substantial contributions to academic debates have come out of this (see ZMO’s Programmatic Texts as well as Freitag/von Oppen 2005).
From such a perspective, which understands itself as part of an on-going critique of Eurocentrism, the current research programme studies Conceptions, Practices and Crises of the Global in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Through empirically based and conceptually engaged projects, it explores specific themes within the wider field of tension between Muslim worlds, understood as the life worlds of Muslims or members of other communities in Islamicate contexts, and the world of Islam, constructed by a religious tradition with unifying claims but diverse interpretations and practices.
Our current research agenda includes capturing the flows and dynamics of transregional interaction and connectivity that have characterised Muslim worlds in recent historical periods and under diverse conditions – while also including the ruptures, conflicts and crises that these processes entail. This allows us to trace the tensions between global concepts and lived practices, which may emphasize very different sets of norms, and to investigate, where necessary, concrete and diverse empirical settings in their relation to overarching normative demands upon Muslims in different political, social, and economic contexts.
The second phase (2014-2019) of ZMO’s research programme, Muslim Worlds – World of Islam?, starts from here. By way of four interlaced research fields, we will explore themes and issues that have emerged as relevant and particularly promising in the discussions of the previous research phase. The four fields investigate

  • Progress: Ideas, Agents, Symbols;
  • The Politics of Resources;
  • Trajectories of Lives and Knowledge, and
  • Cities as Laboratories of Change.


Progress: Ideas, Agents, Symbols

PD Dr. Katrin Bromber: Progressive Citizen Bodies: Sports and Modernity in Ethiopia 1920-1974  

Dr. Franziska Roy: The Corporeal Nation, Anthropogenesis and the Science of History in British India in the First Half of the Twentieth Century (until September 2014)

Dr. Franziska Roy: Independent and Non-Aligned? South Asian Youth and Student Groups Negotiating the Cold War World



Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye: Islam, Youth Religiosities and Sermon Practices in Contemporary Niamey, Niger   

Dr. Paolo Gaibazzi: Diamonds, Dollars and Dynasties. A West African Muslim Trade Diaspora in Angola’s Boom Economy

Kyara Klausmann: A Global History of Political Thought at Kabul University, 1964-1992

Dr. Sophia Hoffmann: Learning Intelligence: The Exchange of Secret Service Knowledge between Germany and the Arab Middle East 1960 - 2010 (Freigeist-Fellowship of the Volkswagen Foundation)



The Politics of Resources

Dr. Jeanine Dağyeli: The Moral Economy of Land and Water in the Bukharan Emirate (until December 2018)

Dr. Erdem Evren: Bulldozer Capitalism: Dispossession and Agency along the Coruh River, Turkey





Dr. Katharina Lange: Revaluations of Land in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq

Dr. Ali Nobil Ahmad: Ideology and the Politics of Ecology in Pakistan’s Peripheries 

Patrick Schukalla: The Politics of Uranium in Tanzania – The making of a resource?

Joseph Désiré Som I: Rural Youth Employment and Agricultural Dynamics in Africa: Mobilities, Politicization and Radicalization

Dr. Judith Scheele: Circulation and Containment: Region Formation in the Sahara (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, until August 2019)

Dr. Jeanne Féaux de la Croix: Activists for a Better Future: A Comparison of Muslim Missions, Late Soviet and Contemporary Development Work in Kyrgyzstan (bis Februar 2014)



Trajectories of Lives and Knowledge

Feras Krimsti: From the Province to the Centre: Translocal Perspectives and Representations of Istanbul in Arabic Travelogues of the 17th and 18th Centuries (until October 2016)

Dr. Ali Raza: A Future in Question: Literary, Cultural and Political Debates in Pakistan, 1947 to 1977 (until August 2018)

Dr. Samuli Schielke: Motivations and Consequences of Literary Writing in Alexandria after 2011



Dr. des. Nils Riecken: Arab Actors from a Global Historical and Epistemic Perspective: Shared Histories of Modernity and Islam

PD Dr. Norman Saadi Nikro: Edward Said: Intersecting Pathways, Knowledge and Biographical Inventories in a Geographical Register

Dr. Heike Liebau: Missionaries, Scholars, Politicians and Journalists: Life Trajectories and World Views of the Brothers Kheiri    

Thiago Pinto Barbosa: »Race« and Science between Berlin and India: the Circulation and Transformation of Racialized Knowledge by anthropologist Irawati Karvé

Britta Frede: Out of Nouakchott: Female Scholars As Mediators of Islam in Contemporary Mauritania (until December 2017)

Tika Ramadhini: Jawah Women between South East Asia and Mecca: Networks of Knowledge in the 19th and 20th Century

PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz: Muslim »Globalities«: Another world? Global Interaction by Islamic Groups and Movements from South Asia with the Muslim World (until July 2019)

Regina Sarreiter: The Epistemic Lives of an Ethnological Collection between South Africa, Germany and Tanzania (until December 2018)

Larissa Schmid: Objects, Bodies and Agents of Knowledge: Colonial North African Prisoners-of-War in Germany during the First World War (until September 2017)

Antía Mato Bouzas: Emerging Transnational Spaces: Migration and Development Networks between North-Eastern Pakistan and the Gulf (DFG)


Cities as Laboratories of Change

Dr. Sanaa Alimia: Contesting Modernity in Urban Pakistan: Street Politics, Moral Lives and Transnationalism

Dr. André Chappatte: Odienné by Night

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag: An Urban History of Jeddah, ca. 1850-1947



PD Dr. Nora Lafi: The Ottoman and Post-Ottoman City as a Laboratory of Change:  Urban Integration and Disintegration in the Margins of Aleppo, Cairo and Tunis

Claudia Ghrawi: Damascus 1946-1963: From the Reinvented City to the Populist Authoritarian State

Fatemeh Masjedi: Tabriz between Political Violence, Imperial Violence and Socio-political Struggles (1900-1920) (until February 2016)

Annegret Roelcke: Religious Tourism in Eyüp. Constructions of an Islamic Place in Istanbul

Joint Research Projects

Normality and Crisis: Memories of Everyday Life in Syria as a Chance for a New Start in Germany

Normality and Crisis: Memories of Everyday Life in Syria as a Chance for a New Start in Germany is a joint research project based at ZMO with civil society partners from Berlin and Brandenburg. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for a period of three years (February 2018 - January 2021).

Directorate: Dr. Katharina Lange
Coordination: Benjamin Vrucak (until February 2019)
Researcher Fellows: Veronica Ferreri, Lisa Jöris, Inana Othman


Religion, Morality and Boko in West Africa: Students Training for a Good Life (Acronym: 'Remoboko')

Remoboko is a study of religiosity and how it affects secular education (boko, in Hausa) in West Africa. It focuses on the presence, competition and conflict between secularism, Salafism and Pentecostalism on two campuses (Université Abdou Moumouni, Niamey, Niger, and University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria). The project is funded by resources of the Leibniz Competition. It runs from June 2018 until May 2023.

Directorate: Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye
Research Fellows: Adejoke Rafiat Adetoro, Vincent Favier, Bello Adamou Mahamadou


Domestic Servants in Colonial South Asia

This three year project (2015-18) is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and is led by Dr Nitin Sinha as the principal investigator, with Dr Nitin Varma, a postdoctoral candidate based at Re:Work, Humboldt University, Berlin.

More information as well as regular updates concerning the progress of the project can also be found on its official blog:

Blog: Servants Pasts - European Research Council Funded Project 2015-18



Modern India in German Archives, 1706-1989 (MIDA)


Long-term programme (Nov. 2014 to Oct. 2026) supported by the German Research Council (DFG) with the participation of Prof. Dr. Ravi Ahuja, University Göttingen, Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS), Dr. Heike Liebau, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Berlin, and Prof. Dr. Michael Mann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften (IAAW)

Dr. Anandita Bajpai: Materializing Visibility, Preparing Recognition: The 'Cultural' Politics of GDR-India Relations, 1952-1972

Stefan Tetzlaff: ‘To Help is to Benefit?’ European Technical Aid and ‘Modernizing’ Approaches to India’s Industrial Sector, c. 1945-1973 (until September 2018)

Reyazul Haque: Movements and Concepts: Production of Images of India in GDR Newsreels



Spaces of Participation: Topographies of Political and Social Change in Morocco, Egypt and Palestine

spaces of participation

Spaces of Participation is a joint research project with partners in Morocco (Mohammed V University-Agdal/Rabat), Egypt (Prof. Randa Abou Bakr) and Palestine (Birzeit University). The project is funded by VolkswagenStiftung for the period of three years, starting in October 2014.




Liminal Spaces as Sites of Socio-Cultural Transformation and Knowledge Production in the Arab World

Liminal Spaces is a joint research project with partners in Morocco (Mohammed V University Rabat), Egypt (Prof. Randa Aboubakr) and Palestine (A. M. Qattan Foundation).

The project is funded by the VolkswagenStiftung
for a period of three years from January 2018 to
December 2020.



Habitats and Habitus: Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World Making (until March 2017)

with Prof. Birgit Meyer, in Cooperation with University Utrecht

Hanna Nieber: Scripture Practices on Zanzibar

Murtala Ibrahim: Sensation, Sight and Sound of Nigerian Movements



Crossroads Asia (until December 2016)


The Crossroads Asia competence network is an interdisciplinary research project conducted at several German universities and institutes and coordinated at Bonn University. Over a period of six years, 2011-2016, the project will study the interaction between emerging and evolving social 'figurations' (Norbert Elias) and mobility in and between the neighbouring regions of South and Central Asia. ZMO participation emphasises cross-regional aspects between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Kashmir region and post-Soviet Central Asia.

funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Just Boedeker: The Baloch Borderlands: The Conflict of Tribe and State in a Globalized World (until December 2014)

Dr. Antía Mato Bouzas: "Rebordering" in Kashmir: Negotiation of Spaces and Statehood in Contested Border Regions

Dr. Aksana Ismailbekova: Conflict Dynamics, Local Strategies and Trans-local Ties in the Fergana Valley (until December 2014)

PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz (board member) : In and Out of South Asia: Transnational Community-Building in Religious and Ethnic Networks (until December 2014)



Phantom Borders in East-Central Europe (until January 2017)


Competence network with Centre Marc Bloch Berlin, MLU Halle, HU Berlin

Dr. Florian Riedler: Mobility and Transport Infrastructures in Southeast Europe: From the Ottoman Orta Kol to the Pan-European Transport Corridor (from February 2015 on)

Dr. Florian Riedler: Urban Borders in post-Ottoman Cities of South-Eastern Europe. Edirne and Niš from a comparative perspective (until January 2015)



Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals and Belligerents during the First World War (CEGC), funded by Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) (until November 2016)


International collaborative research project with King’s College London, United Kingdom, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

Associated non-academic partners:
Eye Film Institute Netherlands (Amsterdam), Imperial War Museum London, Lautarchiv der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, In Flanders Fields Museum Ypres, Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Berlin), deBuren bureau (Brussels), Deutsches Literaturarchiv (Marbach)

Larissa Schmid: Cultural Encounters with and among ‘Colonial’ Prisoners of War (POWs) during the First World War



Europe in the Middle East - the Middle East in Europe


A collaborative research programme of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Since 2011 EUME is continued as a project at the Forum Transregionale Studien.

Dr. Himmat Zoubi: Culture Spaces and "The Right to the City": Palestinians in Israel as a Case Study


Transforming Memories: Cultural Production and Personal/Public Memory in Lebanon and Morocco


Dr Sonja HegasyTransforming Memories: Reparation, Media and Historiography in the Aftermath of the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission

In Cooperation with UMAM D&R, Beirut, sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (until March 2014)

In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East / ISOE Exhibition

(until October 2014)

sponsored by German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

"In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East" is an interdisciplinary research project based at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orientfrom 2010 until 2014. The research team consists of four regular and two associated researchers, who are combining anthropological and historical approaches. The project aims to gain an interdisciplinary, empirically grounded and theoretically reflective understanding of the ways people in Africa and the Middle East engage the idea of "Europe" as a metonymy of possibilities, both in its affirmative and in its critical forms. The images they present of Europe are far from unified.

Dr. Bettina Gräf: Public debates in transcultural space: The concept of Islam as a system (nizam) at the beginning of the Cold War (bis April 2014)

Vanessa Díaz: Europe and the Image of one's own in the contemporary art of Mozambique

Leyla von Mende: "Today's neighbour - yesterday's subject": The Balkans between Ottoman Empire and Europe from the perspective of Ottoman travellers, 1870-1918

Dr. Samuli Schielke: Engaging the World between Egypt and Europe - Reasons to Write after 2011

Daniela Swarowsky: Curator of exhibition project "In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East"


Dr. Knut Graw: Picturing Europe in Migration and Diaspora

Dr. Aïssatou Mbodj: Spaces and temporalities of West African immigration to France: Parisian foyers as lieux de mémoire?


Single Projects

Dr Rana von Mende Altaylı: Gender roles and their outer appearance in courtesy and etiquette books of the late Ottoman period and the early Turkish Republic (DFG, until March 2019)