About us



Mission statement

About us

Organizational Chart of the GWZ

Advisory committee

Friends of ZMO


Annual reports








History | Research programme | Networking and Cooperation | Publications | Events | Knowledge Transfer | Library



The Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) emerged from the ‘History of the Developing Countries’ section of the Institute of General History in the German Democratic Republic’s Academy of Sciences. This field of work goes back to a department of the Prussian Academy of Sciences through several intermediate departments, including the “Institut für Orientforschung” from 1947 to 1968. This department was originally established in 1912 as the “Orientalische Kommission”. Following German reunification, ZMO was founded in 1991 as "Forschungsschwerpunkt Moderner Orient" under the patronage of the Max Planck Society. In 1996 it was established as a non-university centre for historical, cultural, and social sciences. The umbrella organisation for ZMO is the Berlin Centers for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren Berlin e.V.), whose membership includes, among others, Berlin universities and several German academies. The core scientific programme was initially funded by the Senate of Berlin, the German Research Association DFG, and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. On 1 January 2017, the Centre joined the Leibniz Association (see also Joachim Nettelbeck in the FAZ on 21.09.2016). It is located in Berlin-Nikolassee in the Mittelhof, designed by Hermann Muthesius and built between 1914 and 1918.

Research Programme

The Centre, headed by the Middle East historian Prof. Ulrike Freitag, is the only research institution in Germany to study the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia from an interdisciplinary and historically comparative perspective. The research programme, “Muslim Worlds – World of Islam? Conceptions, Practices and Crises of the Global” (2008-2019) explores a broad spectrum of historical and contemporary dynamics within and between Asian and African societies since the 16th century, as well as their connections to Europe. Approximately 35 employees currently work in four research fields:

I Progress: Ideas, Agents, Symbols

II Politics of Resources

III Trajectories of Lives and Knowledge

IV Cities as Laboratories of Change


All research fellows work in accordance with the Rules for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice.

Networking and Cooperation

The director of ZMO is at the same time a professor of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Teaching activities by ZMO research fellows at university faculties in Berlin, throughout Germany, and abroad contribute to a close connection between teaching and research. Partnering with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, ZMO is the only non-university research institution involved in the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS) at the Freie Universität Berlin.
ZMO is a member of the Forum Transregionale Studien at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, a research organisation focused on the internationalisation of humanities and social sciences. Each year, ZMO hosts up to three scientists in the context of “Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East in Europe” (EUME), a research programme at the Forum. Ulrike Freitag and Nora Lafi lead the EUME research field Cities Compared: Urban Change in the Mediterranean and Adjacent Regions.
The ZMO is also involved in a long-term, DFG-supported project, “Modern India in German Archives, 1706-1989 (MIDA)” (2014-2026). Within the scope of this project, the Centre cooperates with the Institute for Asian and African Studies (IAAW) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) at the Georg-August Universität Göttingen. In addition, ZMO regularly hosts guests from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the DAAD, and leading German and European foundations. If you are interested in working with us, please consult our website.
The Centre has a long-standing network of scientific contacts at home and abroad, as well as a variety of formal and informal connections. The Leibniz Centre cooperates with a number of universities and non-university institutes in joint collaborative projects. A cooperation agreement exists with the Freie Universität Berlin. Apart from FU Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Centre’s most important partners for scientific cooperation are the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (SOAS); the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (EHESS); the universities of Utrecht, Cairo, Rabat, Mekelle, Delhi, Lahore; Bosporus University of Istanbul; the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin; and the institutes of the Max Weber Foundation abroad (especially the German Orient Institutes in Beirut and Istanbul and the German Historical Institute London). ZMO is part of the Leibniz Research Alliance “Historical Authenticity”. Cooperation agreements also exist with the University of Dohuk in Iraq, the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Saudi Arabia, the Institut Francais de Recherche en Afrique in Ibadan, Nigeria, and the Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur la Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local in Niamey, Niger.


The ZMO refereed series Studien publishes results from individual research projects, conference proceedings, and selected monographs that complement the research profile of the Leibniz Centre. In addition to ZMO’s own series, brought out at Klaus Schwarz Verlag, fellows publish monographs and articles nationally and internationally. The peer-reviewed online series ZMO Programmatic Texts and ZMO Working Papers, reflect conceptual essays and discussions related to research projects at the Centre. Furthermore, the Orient Bulletin is published twice a year and an Annual Report informs on the events of the research year. The ZMO series Arbeitshefte, published between 1993 and 2003, is freely accessible on our website.


ZMO regularly holds public colloquia. Here, local and international colleagues discuss their research. ZMO also organises workshops and international conferences. To facilitate the sharing of knowledge, events on current scientific and political topics are offered in cooperation with national and international organisations. Event information as well as subscriptions to ZMO’s monthly newsletter can be found here.

Knowledge Transfer

ZMO research findings are prepared for public discussion and made available in a variety of formats, including:

  • Established academic and scientific publications;
  • The ZMO Monthly Newsletter;
  • Press releases and background statements;
  • Virtual press kit
  • Meetings with academic, media, governmental, and non-profit organisations;
  • Open House Day;
  • Film Day;
  • Public events and cooperation (with intermediary organizations, adult education centers, political foundations, etc.)
  • Knowledge transfer about the Islamic world for schools;
  • Cooperation with curators and artist collectives;
  • Internet services at www.zmo.de.


The library of the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient is public. It is designed as a special collections library for the research interests of ZMO. It houses approximately 50,000 volumes and has 90 current journals. Holdings are available for in-house use only. Contact and opening hours can be found here.

Last revised: 16.2.2017