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Underpinning Research

Islam across German History, 1770 -1918

Since 2009 I have been conducting research into representations of Islam in German culture, be it literature, theology and philosophy, scholarship, political discourse, travel writing, visual culture and journalism. I am a leading figure in international school of thought that re-considers representations of the so-called Orient shifting the focus from 'otherness' to less binary and oppositional terms than those suggested by established postcolonial criticism.

The transformative message of my work is that Islam’s represented ‘otherness’ is actually determined as much by West’s collective fear of its underlying theological connections with and cultural ‘similarities’ to Christianity and Western culture – similarities and parallels which are often only thinly veiled and continually surface in culture, albeit with politically ambivalent outcomes. My work also focusses on how especially literary texts sought to think and re-think the political, cultural nature of Western-Islamic encounters, ascribing at least in imaginary terms, a degree of cultural agency and voice to representations of Muslims. This allows not only for idealized representations of dialogue, but also imaginative empathetic forays by which writers can try to move beyond the dialogical, assuming new perspectives and temporarily 'become' the other. Although always fraught with the possibility of cultural appropriation and narcissism, such writing allows us to imagine the possibility of de-polarized relationships between cultures and their agents.

Key publications underpinning this project are: