An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: October 16, 2023: Charis Boutieri

The Art of Public Speaking (Fan al-Khitaba al- Amma): The Tunisian Public Sphere after 2011

October 16, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


The dismantling of the police state headed by President Ben Ali in 2011 and the subsequent ratification of the rights of freedom of expression and association marked the end of censorship and silence, which had been the communicative conditions of Tunisian public life since the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1881. The broad institutional transformations that came about in the aftermath of the revolution were reinforced by a plethora of pedagogical undertakings that targeted the Tunisian public. Thus, the emerging civil society benefited from the support of foreign donors to launch training programmes aimed at inculcating the skills of public deliberation among the citizenry.  This talk engages with the unfolding of these programmes as civic trainers navigate the local and historical articulations of liberalism and of democracy. The talk examines the most intensely promoted and widely disseminated civic training programme in post-revolutionary Tunisia: debate training. The talk argues that debate training aims to inculcate liberal glossaries and dispositions for democracy across the social fabric. It places systematic observations on debate training at the intersection of transnational trajectories of international democracy promotion and the legacies of liberalism in pre and post-2011 Tunisia. 

Charis Boutieri teaches anthropology at King’s College London, UK. She is the author, among others, of the monograph Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dreams (Indiana University Press, 2016) and of “The Democratic Grotesque: Distortion, Liminality, and Dissensus in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia” (Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 2021) as well as “Events of Citizenship“. Her current research on the Tunisian public sphere has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust UK (2015) and the British Academy (2021).

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

New Publication

Hajaji (Ahlem) and El Ouerghemmi (Nadia), “Zwischen Geschichte und Erinnerung: Jüdinnen und Juden in der Tunesischen Linken”, in Altieri (R.), Hüttner (B.) and Weis (F.) (eds.), Die Arbeiter*innen-Bewegung als Emanzipationsraum Jüdinnen und Juden in der internationalen Linken (vol.3), Berlin, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, 2023., p.41-47.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Online Lecture

The Video of Nora Lafi’s lecture on “Participation, Deliberation and the Nature of Urbanity in North African Cities of the Ottoman Era” at the “Urbanities: History, Concepts, Uses” Weimar Conference (16-18 nov. 2022) of the Urbrel Programme (Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt) is now online:

Nora Lafi (Berlin): Participation, Deliberation and the Nature of Urbanity – YouTube

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: July 10, 2023: Annegret Roelcke

“Contesting the Redevelopment of Istanbuls Pierre Loti Hill (1980s – 2010s): Cultural Heritage, Religious Places and the Public Interest”

July 10, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

This presentation analyses the contestations around an urban development project for Istanbuls Pierre Loti Hill between the 1980s and the 2010s. In particular, it examines how bureaucratic categories and frames such as the public interest, cultural heritage and religious significance have been mobilised and negotiated among diverse stakeholders in this context. Located next to the Eyüpsultan Shrine in Istanbuls Eyüp neighbourhood, which many regard as Turkeys most sacred Islamic place, the hill attracts numerous tourists due to its view across the Golden Horn. An urban development project from the 1980s aimed to transform the hilltop into a tourist site, but crucially, places attributed heritage and religious significance by different actors are located in the project zone. Based on the analysis of urban development plans, petitions to the municipality and the states heritage protection institutions, media coverage and interviews, the study traces the struggles of an Alevi foundation claiming a Bektaşi religious convent there and of the Pierre Loti Cafés owner to maintain authority over their plots in the context of unequal and changing power structures. It shows that the framing of places as religious or heritage in this context is intimately entangled, often strategic and shifts according to the context.

Annegret Roelcke is a PhD candidate at the Institut für Islamwissenschaft of Freie Universität Berlin and a research affiliate at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient Berlin. Her research investigates urban development, heritage politics, religious places and the politics of identity in Turkey and Lebanon, combining anthropological and historical approaches. Her dissertation project Contesting Eyüp: Heritage, Religious Places and Urban Development in Istanbul analyses republican era urban heritage politics in Istanbuls Eyüp neighbourhood. She studied Arab and Islamic Studies at Leipzig University, Boğaziçi University Istanbul and Freie Universität Berlin, from where she holds an MA in Islamic Studies. In 2016, she received a residency scholarship by the German Orient Institute Istanbul.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: June 26, 2023: Mehmet Osmanli

Deliberation and Autocratic Mentality in State Society: A Reading in İzzet Pacha al-Abed’s Diaries

June 26, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

There have always been different points of view about the nature of Sultan Abdülamid II’s handling of the issue of constitutional rule, but these points of view agree that he suspended the constitution for three long decades, and the argument always put forward by him was that “the people are not prepared for such a constitutional process.” But doesn’t the democratic process come with experience? There is no doubt that presenting criticism of such a situation falls between two complex cases, the first being anachronism, and the second being far from opinions that are closer to his ruling circle.

In this discussion, I seek to present Sultan Abdülhamid II’s personal views on the issues of authoritarianism (Mutlakiyet?) in government and the centralization of decision-making, as well as the autocratic nature and degree of deliberation he envisioned for governance. This will be through dialogues that took place between him and his Kâtib-ı Sâni (second secretary) in the ruling Yıldız Palace, Arap İzzat Holo Pacha. But as an “Ego-document”, how can it be dealt with despite the many “caveats”? What is the degree of credibility of İzzet Pacha in his diaries when he presents this view about this issue?

How did the Sultan see his constitutional functions? And his relationship to the Vükelâ (Representatives/ministers)? And the nature of the secretary’s criticism of him when he goes “home and is alone”? There is no doubt that a source close to the sultan who presented and criticized his views would constitute a new kind of understanding of that era. Either he confirms the research findings of different researchers, denies them, or even adjusts their destination. The view of the rest of the bureaucracy of the system of government and its relation to the Meşrutiyet (constitutional) of governance cannot be overlooked, and it is not only possible to rely on this source for sure as well, but it is a prelude to reconsidering the constitutional issue and its relationship with the ruler and the ruling regime, of course.

It must be emphasized that İzzet Holo Pacha’s diaries was recently discovered (in 2010), and then was printed (as a scanned version of the Ottoman Turkish, not a translation into modern Turkish) in 2019, so it may contain information that may be considered new, and therefore the importance of talking about this subject comes.

Mehmet Osmanli is a PhD researcher in modern Ottoman history at Pamukkale University. He is interested in studies of the philosophy of history and modern historiography. He is also a translator (Arabic, Turkish, Ottoman and English), specialized in the Ottoman bureaucracy and the Ottoman regime during the Tanzimat period. His research activities include studies on the Ottoman bureaucracy as well as on the Iraqi revolution of the twenties and the migration of Jews to Palestine. He translated the book Between Two Worlds: The construction of the Ottoman state by Turkish historian Cemal Kafadar from English into Arabic as well as the diaries of İzzet Holo Paşa al-Abed from Ottoman to Arabic.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

June 20, 2023: Presentation of Nurkan Sever’s book

Nurkan Sever, author of The Mosul Incident of 1909 will present his book at Leibniz-ZMO on June 20, 2023 at 17h00

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: 12 June 2023: Mounir Saidani

Intermediary bodies and the construction of political democracy in Tunisia.

June 12, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

In this study, I attempt to take advantage of a broad theoretical-historical review of the development of the concept of ‘intermediary bodies’ and the contexts in which it has been used to address the Tunisian situation between the end of 2010 and 2022. The questions I pose are as follows:
Has the process of building political democracy in Tunisia seen any specific action on the part of any intermediary bodies? If so, how was this action taken? What direction did this action take in relation to the process of building democracy?
The study focuses on Tunisian associations of a professional nature, operating as representative trade unions and presenting themselves as spokespersons for socio-professional categories belonging to the urban middle social strata: the Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens, the Association Tunisienne des Magistrats and the Syndicats des Agents de la Sécurité.
I propose to implement an analytical model that considers the period under study to be :
On the one hand, a moment of social change which has an impact on the positions of the socio-professional categories in question, in terms of a revision of their social conditions on the basis of a general trend towards the achievement of a certain form of social justice and,
On the other hand, a moment of conflicting political change around a possible democratic transition.
The impact of this dual characteristic of the context on the various socio-professional categories mentioned above requires the intermediary bodies which propose to represent them in relation to the construction of the political democracy. This positioning takes the form of (non-)involvement in the process of constructing political democracy, coupled with specific action in relation to the “structural self-adjustment of the respective professions”, on the one hand, and, on the other, to initiate “a process of internal democratisation within the body” itself.

Mounir Saidani is Research Fellow at CERES Tunis (Centre des Etudes Economiques et Sociales). Among his publications: “Revolution and Counterrevolution in Tunisia: The Forty Days That Shook the Country” (Boundary, 2012); “The University Teacher’s Trade Union in Tunisia” (Omran, 2015).

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: 2023.06.05: Pascale Ghazaleh

“Conflict and Consensus: Decision-Making and Leadership Selection in Cairo’s Guilds, Late Eighteenth / Early Nineteenth Centuries”

June 05, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

The Ottoman courts of Egypt produced abundant documentation, which allows historians to trace some of the social dynamics that animated Cairo, for example, under Ottoman rule. In particular, the craft and trade groups of the Ottoman period appeared in court to resolve and register their disputes and agreements. Here, I look at a specific type of document involving guilds, and examine its implications for what we know of decision-making, state intervention, and autonomy with regard to this social group.

Pascale Ghazaleh teaches Ottoman history at the American University in Cairo. She has published work on craft guilds, merchants, and property in Ottoman Egypt. Her current research concerns conflicts over ownership of the past, competing claims to heritage, and narratives of nineteenth-century history.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: 2023.05.15: Youssef Ahmed Bani Yassin

“Reflections on the experiences of deliberative councils in al-Andalus during the era of the Mulûk al-Taïfa”

May 15, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

This presentation is an attempt to identify and analyse the characteristics of the systems of governance (Anzimât al-hukm) of Andalusian cities at the time of their integration into the Umayyad state (al-dawla al-umawiya) and precisely at the time when this state is described as entering a phase of weakness, or even disappearance, or described as marking the beginning of the establishment of Taifa governance (qiyâm al-dawla al-Ta’ifa). The study focuses in particular on the two cities of Sevilla, at the beginning of the tyrannical governance of the Banni Abbad family and the capital city of Cordoba just before the tyranny of the Bani Jahour family.

These two families sought, at the beginning of their reign, to follow a system of governance called shûra which is described as unique in Islamic history because it does not depend on a system of governance based on the individual, but rather on a governance based on the collective (shûra councils) dedicated to the public. These types of councils (majlis al-shûra) by the Jamâ’a dedicated to public affairs can be analized as seminal moments of institution of deliberative practices.This study will focus on deciphering the elements and motives that allowed this experiment to emerge and try to understand the causes of its failure.

This research paper aims to investigate the role of Jama’a al-mala’a / Ahl al-hall wa al-aqd in Andalusia (Sevilla and Cordoba) regarding the choice of the ruler/caliph: how that role was exercised, and how it resulted in the abolition of the caliphate institution and its replacement with the institution of the Council of the Nobles or the government of the community. 

This is explored in the paper by examining various episodes of the period of the Caliphate’s weakness, which occurred during the late Umayyad Caliphate in Al-Andalus (399-422 H/1008-1030 AD) and the post-Umayyad Caliphate period in Al-Andalus (the period of Taifa Kings). 

The Jama’a al-mala’a (Group of the Nobles)/ Ahl ash-shura (People of consultation) did not directly intervene in the selection of the supreme ruler, the caliph, in the Islamic state, except during the first era, the Rashidun. This was accomplished through the concept of Ahl al-hall wa al-aqd (decision makers) who became the “customary deputies” for the entire nation, and their role at that time was to activate the value of “consultation” as an important principle in building the political system. 

The role of Jama’a al-mala’a did not last long in Islamic history, as hereditary authority emerged with the beginning of the Umayyad state. It was replaced by the Crown Prince system, which restricted the idea of “choice” to the ruling caliph. The role of the group was eliminated and assumed by the ruling Umayyad clan through the hereditary transfer of power to one of its family members. This occurred in Damascus and Cordoba for the Umayyads, and in Baghdad for the Abbasids. 

Youssef Ahmed Bani Yassin is a professor in the History department at the University of Jordan and specializes in the history of Al-Andalus and the edition of Arabic and Islamic heritage books. Among his research works are the book “The Science of History in Al-Andalus until the End of the Fourth Hijri Century/Tenth AD Century,” the articles “Absolute Rule in the Umayyad State in Al-Andalus After the Death of Al-Hakam Al- Mustansir 366 AH/ 967 AD”, “Identity Differentiation: The Andalusian and the Non-Andalusian: A Reading of the Borders and Separating Boundaries between them through Early Andalusian Biographical Literature,” and “Deposition and Opposition: The State of Al-Mansur b.Abi Amir (366 – 392 H/ 976-1001 A.D) as an Example”. See also: Indexing Abu Muhammad Ibn Khazraj.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: 08.05.2023: Sarah El-Bulbeisi

“On taboos and traumatic experiences in democratic societies: Palestinians in Germany and Switzerland”

May 08, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

Although the Nakba is closely intertwined with the history of National Socialism, to this day it is not only not remembered as part of European history, but it is excluded from European collective memory and public discourse, its commemoration is suppressed. In my book, I show how Palestinians in Germany and Switzerland have been dealing with the tabooisation of their experiences of violence. I show how this tabooisation shaped conceptions of the self and the world of different generations of Palestinians and the relationships between them.

Sarah El Bulbeisi is a postdoctoral research associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut (OIB) with a focus on postcolonial studies, gender studies and psychoanalysis. Before joining the OIB, she was a research associate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich and coordinator of the DAAD Higher Education Dialogue “Violence, Forced Migration and Exile: Trauma in the Arab World and in Germany” between Palestinian and Lebanese universities as well as the LMU. She did her PhD at LMU Munich and her licentiate degree at the University of Zurich. Among her publications: Tabu, Trauma und Identität (Transcript Verlag, 2020) and “Palestine in the Imagination of the Imperial German Self” (Jerusalem Quarterly, 82, 77).

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