An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: May 27, 2021: Esther Möller

Claims for humanitarian sovereignty, forms of political participation and the question of democracy in 20th century Egypt

May 27, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


The presentation discusses humanitarian aid as a form of political participation in 20th century Egypt. By stressing Egyptian humanitarian groups as active players and not only passive recipients of aid during the many crises the country had to face, it is argued that this also contributed to the political engagement of different groups and for different reasons and thus to further negotiate the question of democracy in Egypt. The main argument is that the claims for humanitarian sovereignty that these groups expressed were not only an expression of Egyptian self-determination towards external forces, but also of anti-colonial solidarity in the region and finally a response to popular movements within the country.

Esther Möller is a German historian presently teaching as a professor of the Cultural History of North Africa at the Universität der Bundeswehr, München.  From 2010 to 2020 she was a researcher at the Leibniz-Institute of European History in Mainz where she recently completed her habilitation thesis about the history of humanitarian aid in Egypt and the Arab world in the 20th century. In 2011, she received a PhD in Intercultural Humanities from Jacobs University Bremen with a thesis on French cultural politics in Lebanon in the 20th century. Her recent publications include Red Cross and Red Crescent (Europäische Geschichte Online, IEG, 2020); Gendering Global Humanitarianism. Practice, Politics and the Power of Representation,(Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, edited with J. Paulmann und K. Stornig); The Power of Giving. Foundations and Philanthropy in the Eastern Mediterranean from Christian, Islamic and Jewish Perspectives, Guest Edited Issue (with Z. Chitwood) of Endowment Studies, 4 (2020); Challenges for Humanitarianism from a Non-Western Perspective: Examples and Reflections from 20th Century India and Egypt, in ZMO Working Papers, 2019 (together with Maria Framke); The Suez Crisis 1956 as a Moment of Transnational Humanitarian Engagement, in: European Review of History 23/1-2 (2016), 136–153.

Next session: June 10, 2021: Prof. Dr. Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University, New-York) “Anti-colonial Movements in the Middle East and the question of democracy”

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

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