An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Falestin Naili guest of the Podcast “Jerusalem Unplugged”
An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Video-lecture: Nora Lafi in Tunis

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: July 8, 2021: Holger Nehring

Theoretical Reflections on Social Movements: contestations of liberal democracies and laboratories of democratic practices

July 08, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time) Registration:


With some exceptions, sociological research first conceptualised social movements as a specific response to the perceived demise and collapse of what Martin Conway has called ‘the West European model of democracy’. Other more historically-orientated works has focused on the broader ‘dynamics of contention’ (Charles Tilly) in which social movements were just one parameter. More recent work in political science, sociology and history has considered the role of social movements within the field of democracy and democratic practices. This talk seeks to visit and revisit some of these conceptual and theoretical debates and explore where a historical sociology of social movements in the context of democracy might go. It will emphasise the historicity of conceptualisations of ‘social movements’ and ‘democracy’ and thus emphasise the need for reviving a historical sociology of social movements.

Holger Nehring is Professor of Contemporary European History at the University of Stirling, UK. He has published widely on the history of social movements, especially peace movements. Together with Stefan Berger co-edits the book series Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements. Among his latest publications: “Challenging the Myths of the Scottish Sixties” (in Moving the Social, 2020); “Remembering War, Forgetting Hiroshima: “Euroshima” and the West German Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movements in the Cold War” (in Ikenberry GJ & Gordin MD (eds.), The Age of Hiroshima. Princeton, 2020); “Grenzen der Demokratie?” Bundesdeutsche Friedensbewegungen und die Westarbeit der SED im Übergang von den 1950er zu den 1960er Jahren” [“Limits of Democracy?” West German peace movements and he SED’s Western Department from the 1950s to te 1960s], In: Berger S., Dietz B. & Muller-Enbergs H. (eds.), Das Ruhrgebiet im Fokus der Westarbeit der DDR (Essen, 2020); “Energy and War. Debates about Nuclear Energy in early-Cold War West Germany” (Groniek, 2020); The History of Social Movements in Global Perspective (ed. with S. Berger, Palgrave, 2017); Politics, Symbols and the Public Sphere (2005).

Next session: November 2021 (Programme to be announced in September 2021)

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

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Seminar Session: June 24, 2021: Falestin Naili

“Colonial contingencies: the political marginalisation of the municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate”

June 24, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


During the transition from the end of the Ottoman period to the instauration of the British Mandate rule in Palestine, the sphere of urban governance in Jerusalem underwent a major transformation. Ottoman civic institutions such as the municipal council were slowly stripped off their power in favor of confessional representatives and British “experts”.

Under British military rule, many powers originally vested in the municipality, such as town planning, were transferred to the Pro-Jerusalem Society, a non-governmental organization established by Governor Robert Storrs. Once the mandate was officially established, these powers were given to the Town Planning Commission. The municipality thus lost much of the influence and importance it used to have during the late Ottoman period.

Whereas the composition of the Ottoman municipal council had been determined by the condition of Ottoman citizenship, population statistics and the censitary suffrage system, during the Mandate period, confessional identity became a structuring element of this level of governance. In fact, the mayor had to be Muslim, one deputy mayor Jewish and the other Christian.

Municipal elections were the only ones more or less successfully organized by the British mandate authorities in Palestine, since the attempt of holding legislative elections failed due to massive Arab boycott. So in the absence of political representation on the level of the country, municipal councils were the only government-sanctioned space for representation.

The Municipal Corporations Ordinance of 1934 was supposed to revise the legal basis on which the municipal council had continued to function after the end of Ottoman rule. The elaboration of the bill, hotly debated both in London and in Palestinian cities, was lengthy and difficult. The analysis of its drafts, as well as the comments and petitions received, shed light on the conditions under which Arab political representation and organization occurred during this period.

Falestin Naili is a historian associated with the Institut français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Amman and the Laboratoire de Recherches Historiques Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA) in Lyon. She specializes in the social history of the late Ottoman and Mandate Palestine and Jordan and has focused much of her recent research on local governance and politics, particularly in Jerusalem. Through her interest in collective memory and oral history she often reaches present-time issues, including the politics of heritage and folklore.

She was a core team member of the ERC project Opening Jerusalem’s Archives before joining Ifpo Amman as a researcher and head of office between 2017 and 2020.

Her Ph.D. thesis (“La mémoire et l’oubli à Artâs : un élément de l’histoire rurale de la Palestine, 1848-1948“), defended in Aix-en-Provence in 2007, deals with the history of the village of Artas south of Bethlehem in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century and with the collective memory of this period among villagers and descendants of Europeans who settled in the village. It will be published in 2022 under the title  La Palestine entre Patrimoine et Providence : régimes d’historicité et mémoire au village d’Artâs au XIX et XX siècles.

In her other publications, Falestin Naïli has dealt with urban governance in Jerusalem, millenarist settlement and missionary projects in Palestine, forced migration in the contemporary Middle East, early ethnographies of Palestine, and collective memory and heritage issues in these contexts.

Among her publications:

The DeMunicipalization of Urban Governance Post-Ottoman Political Space in Jerusalem” (2018); (with A. Muhtadi) « Back into the Imperial Fold: The End of Egyptian Rule through the Court Records of Jerusalem, 1839-1840 », in Angelos Dalachanis & Vincent Lemire (ed.), Ordinary Jerusalem 1840-1940, Leiden, Brill, 2018, p. 186-199; “Chronique d’une mort annoncée* ? La municipalité ottomane de Jérusalem dans la tourmente de la Première Guerre mondiale” (2017); (with Y. Avci & V. Lemire), « Publishing Jerusalem’s Ottoman Municipal Archives (1892-1917): A Turning Point for the City’s Historiography », Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 60, 2015, pp. 110-119; « Memories of Home and Stories of Displacement: The Women of Artas and the “Peasant Past”», Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 152, Summer 2009, p.63-74; « Les déplacés de 1967 : des réfugiés en devenir ? », in A. Signoles/ J. Al-Husseini (eds.), Les Palestiniens entre Etat et diaspora. Le temps des incertitudes, Paris : IISMM/ Karthala, 2012, p. 67-94

Next session: July 8, 2021: Holger Nehring (University of Sterling) “Theoretical Reflections on Social Movements: contestation of liberal democracies and laboratories of democratic practices

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: June 10, 2021: Rashid Khalidi

Anti-colonial Movements in the Middle East and the question of democracy”

June 10, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


Rashid Khalidi will examine in this lecture the issue of democracy in the Palestinian liberation struggle, over three periods: 

1. The Mandate, when there were few avenues allowing a democratic movement to emerge, and the still dominant elites were clientelist and patriarchal rather than democratic in orientation. 

 2. The period of the revived national movement, 1950’s-1980’s, when the political groups enjoyed a measure of internal democracy, and the PLO broadly represented sectors of the Palestinian people, but the leadership was often not responsive to the base or democratic in its inclinations.

3. The Oslo era, until the present, saw a brief period of formal democracy for the minority of Palestinians, which was soon abandoned in favor of authoritarian governance under overall control by the occupation.

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New-York (Department of History).  He received his BA from Yale in 1970, and his D.Phil. from Oxford in 1974. He is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993. He is author of: The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917- 2017 (2020); Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013); Sowing Crisis: American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle East (2009); The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2006); Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004); Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (1996); Under Siege: PLO Decision-Making During the 1982 War (1986); British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine, 1906-1914 (1980); and co-editor of Palestine and the Gulf (1982) and The Origins of Arab Nationalism (1991), and The Other Jerusalem: Rethinking the History of the Sacred City (2020).

Next session: June 24, 2021Falestin Naili (IFPO Amman) will present her research on “Colonial Contingencies: the Political Marginalisation of the Municipality of Jerusalem under the British Mandate

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

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

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Habib Kazdaghli: Interview on Diwan FM

Hisdemab Senior member Prof. Habib Kazdaghli was interviewed this week by Diwan FM Tunis on the theme of Democracy, the Constitution and Parliamentarism:

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: April 29, 2021: Selda Tuncer

“Women and Public Space in Turkey. A Gendered History of Modernity, Urban Experience and Everyday Participation”

May 06, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


One of the foundational claims of the Turkish modernization process was to increase women’s access to the public sphere and their use of public space, promoting the equal participation of women and men in public life. Ever since the establishment of the Republic in 1923, in the context of powerful narratives on urban public culture using a perception of the Western/European model of modernization as a reference, new gender assigned codes of public behaviour for the citizens emerged. A paradoxical outcome of this process is that discourses on the increasing presence of women in public space went hand-in-hand with their strong affiliation with domestic life. Although women’s participation in urban public life was enhanced through new forms of education and professional employment, the relationship between women and public space was precisely controlled and regulated by different notions of domestication, especially in the micro-politics of daily life. Based on a critical feminist understanding of the Turkish modernity experience, this lecture focuses on the period between 1950 and 1980, a more mature phase of the Turkish modernization process. Selda Tuncer analyzes how middle-class women of different generations participated in new forms of everyday public life in the modernizing capital city. In contrast with trends of the scholarship on women and public space in the region focusing on veiled women, S. Tuncer devotes her attention to women struggling in their daily life in a society both predominantly Muslim society and organized according to secular principles. The lecture will thus explore how women’s urban experience and everyday participation were shaped by patriarchal traditions as well as social and moral codes of public behaviour that are intrinsic to both religious and secular ideologies.

Selda Tuncer is an assistant professor of sociology at Van Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey. She worked as a research assistant at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, where she also completed her PhD. As a doctoral fellow, she also studied at Humboldt University and Edinburgh University. Her dissertation was published in 2018 by I.B. Tauris with the title of Women and Public Space in Turkey: Gender, Modernity and the Urban Experience.

Working at the intersections of sociology, geography and history, she has published in both Turkish and English on issues relating but not limited to gender and space relations, urban culture and everyday life in Turkey. As a feminist academic, she has been closely involved in feminist and women’s politics both within and outside the academy. In 2019, as a Swedish Institute fellow, she was a guest postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University. She has been recently working on the gendered transformation of public space and its effects on women’s relationship with both public and private spaces in today’s authoritarian conservative regimes.

Among her publications: “The home as a field: researching women’s public experiences in the domestic sphere“, Families, Relationships and Societies, 2019, 8-1, p. 167-171; “Evden Kaçmak’tan Eve Kaçma’ya: Kamusal Endişenin Gölgesinde Ev ve Kadın” [From Running From Home to Running Home: Home and Woman in the Shadow of Public Anxiety], Dosya , 2018, 41, p.33-42; “Beşeri coğrafyaya feminist itirazlar” [Feminist Challenges to Human Geography], Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri, 2012, 4-1, p.79-90; “Fotoğrafın Gör Dediği: Aile Fotoğrafları Üzerine Bir Analiz Denemesi” [What Photographs Tell: An Analysis on Family Photographs], Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri, 2017,9-1, p.1-11;

Kadınların Kent Hakkı: Bütün Köşebaşlarını İstemek”, [Women’s Right to the City: Claiming for All Corners] in TESEV Değerlendirme Notları (2018)Forthcoming: “Leaving Home, Claiming the Street: Exploring Women’s Challenges in Turkey’s ’68 Movement”, with İnan Ozdemir Tastan (March, 2021, Turkish Historical Review).

Next session: May 27, 2021: Esther Möller (Professor of Modern Cultural History of North Africa, Universität der Bundeswehr, München) “Claims for humanitarian sovereignty, forms of political participation and the question of democracy in 20th century Egypt

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: April 29, 2021: Hedwig Richter

“Historicizing Democracy. Inclusion and equality in the long 19th century”

April 29, 2021. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


When we look at the history of democracy, aspects of democracy come into view that are often overlooked. These include, for example, the interests of elites in democracy or the ambivalent relationship between revolutions and democratization processes.​ An important point concerns the history of democracy. It is interesting that most European countries do not tell their history as a history of democracy until the second half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, there was already a decisive change around 1900: with mass politicization, it became more and more self-evident that political legitimacy had to be based somehow on the “masses” respectively on the “people”.

Hedwig Richter is Professor for Modern History at the Bundeswehr University Munich since 2020. Before that, she held positions at the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, at Greifswald University and Bielefeld University.  Her research focuses on European history, history of the United States, democracy, elections, gender, migration, and the history of religion. She studied history, German literature and philosophy at Heidelberg University, Queen’s University (Belfast) and the Freie Universität of Berlin. She is a regular columnist for newspapers like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the taz, die ZEIT and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Among her publications: Aufbruch in die Moderne Reform und Massenpolitisierung im Kaiserreich [The Emergence of Modern Reform and Mass Politicisation in the German Empire] (Suhrkamp, 2021); Frauenwahlrecht : Demokratisierung der Demokratie in Deutschland und Europa (with Kerstin Wolff) (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung 2019); Kultur und Praxis der Wahlen : Eine Geschichte der modernen Demokratie [The culture and practice of elections : a history of modern democracy] (ed. with Hubertus Buchstein) (Springer, 2017); Moderne Wahlen : eine Geschichte der Demokratie in Preussen und den USA im 19. Jahrhundert [Modern Elections : a History of Democracy in Prussia and the USA in the 19th century] (Hamburger Edition, 2017). In English: “Transnational Reform and Democracy: Election reforms in New-York City and Berlin around 1900“, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 2016, 15-2, p.149-175.

In 2020, she published Demokratie. Eine deutsche Affäre (C.H. Beck).

Next session: May 6, 2021: Selda Tuncer (Yüzüncü Yıl University, Van) “Women and Public Space in Turkey. A Gendered History of Modernity, Urban Experience and Everyday Participation”

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Habib Kazdaghli: Exhibition and Conference in Tunis

Hisdemab Senior member Prof. Dr. Habib Kazdaghli just published an article about the conference and exhibition on the Centenary of the Communist movement in Tunisia (1921-2021) that he organized at the Cinémathèque de Tunis.

More info: Centenaire du mouvement communiste en Tunisie, Leaders, 25.3.2021

Poster of the conference

From the article:

“Since Tuesday 23 March and throughout this week (23-26 March 2021), a great event is taking place at the beautiful Cité de la Culture in Tunis (Avenue Mohamad V) and more particularly at the Cinemathèque under the sign of the history, memory and heritage of a century of struggles for equality, freedom and dignity. A history of the Tunisian left-wing movements in the diversity of their contributions and the multitude of their sacrifices. This is a scientific initiative proposed by the Laboratoire du Patrimoine, a research unit founded 22 years ago at the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities of Manouba University in Tunis. The initiative is done in close cooperation with the Office of Academic Cooperation of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and has found support and encouragement from several associations of civil society: Association Perspectives-Amel Tounisi, Hassen Saadaoui Foundation for Democracy, Lam Cheml Association, Mountada Ettajdid, Ahmed Tlili Foundation etc…

In the space overlooking the main entrance hall, the exhibition retraces this century of workers’ and political struggles that began in an organised manner in March 1921 with the birth of the first communist organisation, just a few months after the birth of the Destourian party in 1920. Photos and archival documents from the early days are on display, some of them first-hand, shown for the first time to the general public. Alongside the first Manifesto of Communism in Tunisia, (La Brochure Rouge), the first popular poems praising anti-colonial communism and the social liberation of workers, poems by Abderrahmen el-Kéfi in their original edition.

The early figures of communism were plural, multiracial and international. But the first local militants are visible through the figure of Mokhtar Ayari, both a trade unionist and a journalist, who was the first ally of Mohamed Ali Hammi during his founding trade union experience of Tunisian trade unionism. Like him, he was exiled for a long time in Alexandria after the famous colonial trial against the leadership of the CGTT in 1925 and only returned to Tunisia after Independence, .

The history of the Tunisian Communist Party traces the epic moment of the anti-colonial struggle and the resistance of the Tunisian people and its workers against social and national oppression. What emerges from the exhibition: singular itineraries, forms of new sociability, barriers and walls that are breaking down between communities and ethnic and social groups: for the first time in this country, Muslim and Jewish Tunisians are organising and fraternising in the same political and trade union space with French, Italians and Maltese to build a single family with common ideals and the same motto: to liberate people wherever they are in the name of a common social and philosophical ideal. A true universal and romantic epic. At times, Tunisia became a place of exile, refuge and combat for Italian anti-fascists, Spanish Republicans and French Gaullists.

This history is also one of successive resistances and endurances. Alongside the Destourians, the communists were also seen filling prisons and places of exile, condemned and hunted down. Throughout its existence during the colonial period, the Tunisian communist party lived in hiding, banned and rarely tolerated during the Popular Front or the post-war period.

But this story continues after Independence under different conditions. Faced with the national state being built under the hegemonic leadership of a Destourian party that emerged victorious under the direction of a haloed and charismatic leader: Habib Bourguiba. The militants of the communist party, followed by the young people of the “new left”, wanted to make their contribution to the construction of the new Tunisia, both through criticism and critical support, and through radical opposition, which cost them years of imprisonment and banishment in their own country. Despite attempts to adapt to the new national context, it was a real crossing of the desert that began for the communists following the banning of their party in January 1963. It was also the birth, alongside and often in competition with the Tunisian communist party, of new movements from the new university elite: the “Perspectives” movement and the famous first political trials of the left in 1968. Then came the era of pluralism of the left and its successive mutations and evolutions. The communist ideal is reformulated by more than one group: El-Amel Attounsi, Watad, POCT, from trial to trial and from resistance to resistance tells the story of student protest in its own way.

The meeting which is currently taking place (23-26 March), is divided into panels led by talented journalists (Amel Chahed, Selma Jlassi, Adel Kadri, Hassen Ayadi, Mourad Zghidi, Leila Bourogaa, Soufiane ben Hmida etc.). It approaches with serenity and method under the sign of appeasement and historical distancing, the major themes of this past and its memory, from the birth to the present initiatve of historical assessment of one century of communism with historians of more than one generation and multiple actors.
The cinemathèque, partner of the event, has reserved for the public a series of emblematic Tunisian and international films, including “Terre tunisienne”, “L’homme qui escalada la montagne” (The man who climbed the mountain), “Les Sabots en or” (The golden clogs) by Nouri Bouzid, the famous “Sacco et Vanzetti” (Sacco and Vanzetti) and “Aouled Lenine” [The Children of Lenin] by Nadia El Fani, etc. ….

From an object of political struggle, marked by decades of passions, divergences and controversies on university campuses, the history of Tunisian communism (in the multiplicity of its contributions) is invited, by the Laboratoire du Patrimoine, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the first communist nucleus, to become, also, a field of historical research, an object of reflexion, of comprehension of the meanderings of the past. A theme of high cultural and memorial value, which will continue to be discussed through meetings already planned in several regions until the end of 2021: Gabes, April 10, Siliana, May 21, Bizerte, July 19, Sousse, October 2021, will mark the anchoring of Tunisia in modernity and its attachment to universal thought”.

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