News from Mar 22, 2018
Esmail Nashif’s research focuses on Palestinian children’s literature. The cultural anthropologist investigates how political problems have been addressed and mediated in children’s books since the 1970s.
Time and again, a distinct motif emerges: A bird leaves its nest and does not find its way back. Already in Greek antiquity, poets elaborated on tragic incidents. Tragedy knows neither geographical nor cultural borders.
In the context of a newly established academic cooperation between Freie Universität Berlin and the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI), Esmail Nashif discussed his work on the concept of tragedy at a workshop held in Doha on “Critical Concepts in the Humanities and Social Sciences” (February 18-20, 2018).
Jointly funded by the Doha Institute and the Center for International Cooperation of Freie Universität (CIC), the aim of the explorative workshop was to reflect upon concepts, their use, and translatability across various fields of humanistic inquiry.
The workshop was organized by Ayman El-Desouky, a professor of comparative literature at the DI, and Islam Dayeh, assistant professor of Arabic studies at Freie Universität Berlin and coordinator of the newly established partnership between the two institutions.
Over the course of three days, scholars from both institutions and from a variety of disciplines presented concepts they had chosen from their own fields of research: they discussed concepts such as democracy, South, Asia, gesture, archive, and state of exception.
For El-Desouky and Dayeh, concepts are fundamental for our way of thinking about the world: “Approaching the same concepts from different disciplines, languages, and cultures is very exciting. On the surface, concepts may merely be words; throughout the workshop we took a closer look at what we make of these words.”
The concept of fairness, for example, presented by Gunter Gebauer, a professor of philosophy at Freie Universität, plays a significant role in international politics, sports, and the economy.
The Doha Institute for Graduate Studies is a young institution: it was founded in 2014 with the aim of promoting the humanities and social sciences in the Arab world. Islam Dayeh appreciates the cultural and professional diversity on campus. He says, “At the Doha Institute there are people from all over the Arab world. You can hear Arabic dialects from all countries, from Iraq, Sudan, Algeria, and of diverse political views and social backgrounds.” The Institute attracts scholars and students from Arab countries such as Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Egypt.
“With the Doha Institute, Freie Universität is expanding its already strong network of universities in Arabic-speaking countries,” says Florian Kohstall from the Center for International Cooperation. The DI strives for closer cooperation with American and European institutions, which will also be beneficial for Freie Universität.
As Florian Kohstall says, “Our scholars are interested in carrying out joint research projects based on reliable institutional partnerships, and students benefit from exchange programs. Freie Universität has a unique research focus on the Middle East that needs to be developed further with colleagues from the region.”
In many Arab countries, the situation is currently too unsafe or uncertain to send students there without being concerned. This is another reason why cooperating with the DI is so valuable, explains Kohstall.
During the 2018-19 winter semester, seven students from different disciplines at Freie Universität will be able to study at the Doha Institute. Knowledge of Arabic, the main language at the institute, is a prerequisite. In the mornings, the students will strengthen their language skills, while in the afternoon, they will have an opportunity to choose courses offered by the various departments.
The study conditions are appealing: a small institute with almost 300 students from all disciplines, high-ranking scholars from all over the world, a newly built campus with student accommodation, gardens, a library, sports facilities, and a swimming pool. Students will receive a partial scholarship, which will cover the tuition fees and accommodation.
“We hope that our students will be good ambassadors for Freie Universität and will encourage their fellow students in Doha to come to Berlin to pursue a doctoral degree,” concludes Islam Dayeh. “The workshop was a great success on both the human and the academic level. Many of the German participants, whose visit to Doha was the first ever to an Arab country, were surprised at how global, diverse, and intellectually stimulating the DI proved to be.”
by Anne-Sophie Schmidt/Katharina Kloss