Cultural Mobility in Near Eastern Literatures

The project Cultural Mobility in Near Eastern Literatures focuses on the diverse processes of transfer, exchange and interaction that exist between the literatures of the Near East and other world literatures. Dr. Friederike Pannewick (University of Oslo) directs this project which is associated with yet further research activity at the Wissenschaftskolleg that will begin in 2003/4 and will be supervised by Steven Greenblatt (Harvard).

In this project, Studies of Near Eastern Literatures are considered as a constituent part of Comparative Studies, that, until now, have usually been confined to the literatures of Europe and North America. The project aims to foster interdisciplinary cooperation between scholars in the fields of different world literatures. It will offer them an opportunity to conduct research on modern and classical texts from the Near East in the context of world literatures. Moreover, it will allow them to test concepts and methods on a non-European, hitherto marginalized paradigm.

Ideally, the project will breathe new life into the concept of world literature, which, instead of simply perpetuating a canon of exemplary works, will now aim to establish a genuinely reciprocal discussion and exchange between literatures and cultures. Based on the concepts and methods of literary studies, the object of the project is to explore new approaches to discourses, texts, performative speech acts and medial representations, taking into account their interconnectedness and cross-border wanderings. The assumption is that - more than any other cultural area - literature can help us understand the depths of human experience and behaviour. Thus, on a broader sweep, the project may indeed help contribute to a literary anthropology.

During the three-year project (2002-2005), a wide range of issues raised by literary scholars in the Near East will be addressed, including: "the perception of the Other", transcultural interactions, travel literature, themes that raise questions relevant to postcolonial studies, as well as problems associated with diaspora, exile and minorities, and facets of multilingualism. Issues touching on poetics and intertextuality will play a fundamental role in this project, as well as literary canonization and the performativity of religious texts.

The first phase of the project in 2002 focuses on the theme of "Transgression - Sacrifice - Testimony". It will deal with various phenomena such as martyrdom and/in modernity, the para-religious appropriation of sacral processes and experiences, and the dramatisation of bodies in pain, seen in the context of cultural memory, medial transfer processes, and the critique of discourses.

The project Cultural Mobility in Near-Eastern Literatures is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the Working Group Modernity and Islam at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Members of the project group currently include:

- Professor Dr. Thomas Bauer (Universität Münster
- Professor Dr. Beatrice Gründler (Yale University)
- Dr. Stefan Guth (Universität Bern)
- PD Dr. Verena Klemm (Universität Würzburg
- Sonja Mejcher (FU Berlin)
- Professor Dr. Angelika Neuwirth (FU Berlin)
- Dr. Friederike Pannewick (University of Oslo)
- Andreas Pflitsch (FU Berlin)
- Christian Szyska (Universität Bonn)
- Prof. Dr. Sigrid Weigel (Zentrum für Literaturforschung, Berlin


Minutes and Reports

When love kills
Workshop, 01.-02. Juli 2003

Cosmopolitanism in Pre-Modern Islamic Literature
Workshop, 26. April 2004

Literature and Borders. Delimitations. Transgressions
Sommerakademie, 29. August - 8. September 2004

Image Creation as a Problematic
Workshop, 28. - 29. April 2005