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Provincializing the Social Sciences

International Workshop June 4–6, 2015, at Freie Universität

№ 159/2015 from Jun 03, 2015

The three-day workshop departs from the insight that the much lamented "crisis" of area studies has to be understood and coupled with as a larger "crisis" of the social sciences. Postcolonial critique has shown that the social sciences, in spite of having claims to universality, are based on the experiences of European modernity. "The conference will take up this criticism and go a step further," said Schirin Amir-Moazami, a professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

Following Chakrabarty’s call to "provincialize Europe," the conference organizers deploy the notion of "provincializing the social sciences" as a point of departure for fostering a critical conversation on the interface of area studies and social sciences. The workshop thereby aims not only to foster reflection about false claims to universality and tendencies to marginalize "other" knowledges in the social sciences, but also to work toward a more political and theoretically reflective formulation of area studies.

The workshop participants will discuss three main topics:

1. Genealogical considerations of the emergence of disciplinary divisions between "major" and "minor" subjects in different historical and political contexts

2. Approaches that question the epistemic primacy of social sciences while integrating largely unnoticed epistemologies of "other" parts of the world in the social sciences

3. Area studies perspectives that challenge the established epistemologies especially with regard to the theoretical categories of gender and religion.

The conference was organized in cooperation between the Center for Area Studies (CAS) and the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS). The organizers see it as the initial event of a long-term exchange that would lead to a broader research project at Freie Universität.

Further Information

Time and Location

  • Thursday, June 4, through Saturday, June 6, 2015
  • Henry Ford Building, Freie Universität Berlin, Senate Assembly Hall, Gary Street 35, 14195 Berlin; subway station: Thielplatz (U3)
  • The workshop language is English. The workshop is open to anyone interested, but advance registration is requested by email (

Workshop Program


  • Prof. Dr. Schirin Amir-Moazami, Institute of Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-55865, Email: 
  • Ruth Streicher, DAAD PRIME Fellow UC Berkeley/Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 755-40798, Email:

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