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).

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Presentation of HISDEMAB in ZMO Bulletin

A paper by Nora Lafi presenting the research programme was published in ZMO-Bulletin 2023 n.2.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Podcast: Cilja Harder’s talk in the seminar

The politics of the poor in Egypt – analytical reflections and empirical findings Online, February 20, 2023

Audio Podcast HERE. Video HERE (with password  #n2kh&g+)

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: March 6, 2023: Gabriel Doyle

Collective decision-making and foreign interference in the Latin community of Ottoman Istanbul

March 06, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

In the Ottoman governance of religious plurality, no Latin Catholic millet was ever proclaimed despite thousands of inhabitants of this denomination living in Ottoman lands until the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. Roman Catholics, also called Levantines in the historiography, were supposed to be directly linked to foreign state authorities, namely the papacy, but also national governments in Paris, Vienna and Rome. Furthermore, within this religious denomination, the social, ethnic, linguistic and national diversity was so strong that it seemed even more difficult to establish a homogenous community with a clear authority than for other non-Muslim groups. These observations have often led historians to associate Latin Catholics to foreign protection and exclude them from the Ottoman pluralist system although many were in fact Ottoman subjects. This paper studies various projects led by Latin Catholics in Istanbul in which, on the contrary, an attempt to create a community with collective decision-making processes was taking place in the 19th century. Whether it is a charitable association, the administrative task of the Latin Chancellery or the attempt to create a millet after the 1908 revolution, the paper highlights various possibilities of creating a community based on collective decision-making. Moreover, various examples show that this population also carried with them a (distorted) memory of civic institutions from Genoa and other Italian city-states of the Middle Ages. Along the way, the political projects of local Latins, influenced by civic republicanism, Ottoman reforms and the 19th century surge in associations, were interrupted by the interference of representatives of the Vatican, of the Quai d’Orsay and European missionary congregations.

Gabriel Doyle, works as a lecturer at SciencesPo. He holds a Masters in History from EHESS Paris (2015) and a double Bachelor in History and Political Science from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (2013). He obtained his PhD in 2021 at EHESS Paris (under the supervision of Nathalie Clayer) with a thesis on the urban and spatial aspects of relief in late Ottoman Istanbul. Among his publication: “Le missionnaire aux 40 clés” (in Social Sciences and Missions, Brill, 2020)

Next session:

March 27, 2023: Claudia Gatzka (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg), “Democracy as Local Practice. Citizens, Politics and Elections in West Germany and Italy (1945-1976)”

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: February 27, 2023: Çanay Șahin

“Decision-Making Processes in Samsun and Trabzon: Land Dispute and Claiming Justice (1847-1857)”

February 27, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

This presentation will look at the local government and justice mechanisms as seen through the case of land dispute in the mid-19th century Samsun. Although it concentrates on a specific historical moment of the inclusion of Trabzon province into Tanzimat (Reordering and centralization policies), it will discuss the articulation of old and new forms of government and justice. The ownership dispute over the land reveals not only the agency wide range of actors such as notables, peasants, local judges and müftis but also several institutions and practices such as petitions, district and regional councils, supreme council of judicial ordinances, centrally appointed inspectors, foreign consuls, and the representatives of Greek Patriarchate. By following the steps for the conflict resolution, this presentation will address the alliances of local and central powerholders, the shortcomings of the domination of old notables in newly established provincial councils and corruption due to the abuse and lack of local information.

Çanay Șahin is a research fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. She helds a Ph.D. in History, (“The Rise and Fall of an Ayan Family in Eighteenth Century Anatolia: The Caniklizades (1737-1808)” from Bilkent University, Ankara (2004) and was from 2005 to 2017 Assistant Professor at Yıldız Technical University (Department of Economics, Economic History) in Istanbul. Among her publications: “The Economic Power of Anatolian Ayans of the Late Eighteenth Century: The Case of the Caniklizades”, International Journal of Turkish Studies, 11/1-2, 2005, 29-49.

Next Session:

March 6, 2023: Gabriel Doyle, “Collective Decision-Making and Foreign Interference in the Latin Community of Ottoman Istanbul

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: February 20, 2023: Cilja Harders

“The politics of the poor in Egypt – analytical reflections and empirical findings”

February 20, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

In my talk, I present findings and observations grounded in almost 20 years of qualitative research engagement in Egypt and with marginalized communities in Cairo. I sketch the diverse „politics of the poor“ in the framework of authoritarian social contracts, looking into formal and informal ways of participation. I will speak about the role of the urban poor in the uprisings of 2011 building on S. Ismail and my own work. I argue that poor people use manifold ways of engaging the state and its institutions, carving out new spaces between resistance and accommodation.

Cilja Harders is Professor at Freie Universität Berlin, where she heads the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics. Among her publications: “The Politics of the Poor in the Middle East and North Africa. Between Contestation and Accommodation” (in Roel Meijer, Zahra Babar, James Sater (ed.) 2020: Routledge Handbook on Citizenship in the Middle East and North Africa, Routledge, 2020); Staatsanalyse von unten: urbane Armut und politische Partizipation in Ägypten, Hamburg, 2002.

Next session: February 27, 2023: Çanay Șahin, “Decision-Making Processes in Samsun and Trabzon: Land Dispute and Claiming Justice (1847-1857)

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

2023.02.13: Doctoral Seminar

This seminar gathered online all the doctoral students of the HISDEMAB research programme. Presentations by PhD students (40mn + 20mn discussion) were dedicated to an overview of their advancement in the dissertation writing process. The discussion was conducted by Nora Lafi, in the presence of the supervisors of each doctoral work.

10.00-11.00                Elisabeth Kimmerle

11.00-12.00                Robin Schmahl

12.00-13.00                Marianne Dhenin

13.00-14.00                Lunch break

14.00-15.00                Abdelqader Amer

15.00-16.00                Ahlem Hajaji

Presentation guidelines:

  • Debriefing of the archival field research: what was found (and not), how it corresponds to the expectations, how it relates to the general questionings of the dissertation (5mn)
  • Debriefing of how each PhD student situates him/herself with respect to the bibliographical state of the art. How the work is inspired by existing methods, how it relates to contemporary questionings, what the work will bring to academic debates in the field (10mn)
  • Justification and explanation of the logic of the table of contents with regard to the problematization (5mn)
  • Presentation of how single chapters tackle the mains questionings of the thesis (10mn)
  • Reflection on the writing process and on the formal construction of the thesis as an object (narrative style, general tone, graphical dimension…). Precise presentation of what is already written and time-table of what remains to be written (5mn)
  • Main points of the contribution of each doctoral thesis to the HISDEMAB research project (5mn)
An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: February 6, 2023: Malte Fuhrmann

“From Empire to Dromocracy. Building the Infrastructure State in Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, 1839-1908”

February 06, 2023. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

“Infrastructures are critical locations through which sociality, governance and politics, accumulation and dispossession and institutions and aspirations are formed, reformed, and performed” (Appel, Anand, and Gupta, 2018, 3). In particular, roads have developed such a strong influence on society that Dimitri Dalakoglou speaks of “dromocratic society” (society ruled by roads). However, as especially Jo Guldi has shown, the transformative power of infrastructure is not only a product of our times, but has changed politics since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the case of the Ottoman Empire and its breakaway provinces that after 1878 became Bulgaria, the new role of the state as provider of infrastructure was initially planned as a participatory process. However, due to the systematic failure of the Tanzimat state, its administrators either sought to fulfill their infrastructural promise to the subjects by means of multinational capitalism (Âali P.) or statist, but dictatorial means (Midhat P.). After 1878, Midhat’s statist developmental policy was adapted and perfected (Halil Rifat P.), but to serve the Hamidian system and its mistrust of the subject. While the Bulgarian state initially continued Midhat’s infrastructural policy, Bulgarian society managed to more strongly intervene in decision-making concerning road and railroad policy. The process however led to a harsh rivalry between the regions for connectivity and finally hindered the creation of a coherent rail network. The presentation will revisit key moments of road and railroad development policy in both countries to understand the impact of infrastructure on political culture from the reform era to the age of nation states.

Malte Fuhrmann is a historian of the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Europe, and Turkey in the modern era. He is the author of Port Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean. Urban Culture in the Late Ottoman EmpireCambridge: University Press, 2020, and Konstantinopel – Istanbul. Stadt der Sultane und Rebellen, Frankfurt/M.: Fischer 2019.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

New Publication:

Naïli (Falestin) (guest ed.), Jerusalem’s Interrupted Futures, Special Issue of Jerusalem’s Quarterly, 92, 2022. Introduction: “Reclaiming the Past, Disrupting the Present” (p.5-9).

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