The Potential of Arabic Literary Studies: (Re)Situating the Field Between ‘Systematic’ Disciplines and Area Studies in Western Academia

Published: 2022
Blog for Transregional Research


If the humanities in general are commonly perceived as less apt to address actual challenges or produce ‘utilizable knowledge’ than the social, natural and life sciences, this is even more so for disciplines dealing with fictional works and aesthetics. In our field – Arabic, Islamic or Middle Eastern studies –, students tend to choose topics related to political Islam, social movements or Islamic law, as those seem more likely to provide job opportunities. The broader public discourse, too, is mainly focused on these kinds of topics. In the last twenty years, the number of professorships that are dedicated to the philological discipline ‘Arabistik’ (Arabic studies) has considerably decreased at German universities, with only one professorship currently dedicated to modern Arabic literary studies, to the benefit of ‘Islamwissenschaft’ (Islamic studies), a discipline that mainly uses methods from history, religious studies or social sciences.