Berlin Project

Arab Berlin: Dynamics of Transformation


As one of Europe’s megacities, Berlin is a vibrant hub where new activities, possibilities and lifestyles as well as experimental spaces open up. Here, an Arab intellectual community has established a diverse new scene in Berlin that can no longer be ignored and that also has its repercussions in the respective societies of origin. The dynamics, dimensions and effects of its transformations are diverse and at times also ambivalent. 

Berlin as a global centre of Arab intellectual life

Arab political scientists recently described Berlin as capital of Arab exile which has become one of the global centres of Arab intellectual life. This is reflected, for example, in the increased visibility of Arab academic, cultural and economic productions as well as meeting places in Berlin, such as the Mozaik Cultural Centre – Festival of Arab Heritage, the bookstore and cultural hub Khan Aljanub, the ALFILM Festival, or the initiative ‘So that Berlin remains our home’. 

In the eyes of the beholder: Shifting perspective 

However, transformation processes – both in the Arab world and elsewhere – are still all too often researched in Europe. To date, numerous scholarly publications have focused on transformations in Arab countries in the context of Arab uprisings and regime changes in the fields of politics, economics, governance and security as well as society, media and culture. The research project by AGYA member Dr. Nahed Samour and AGYA alumna Dr. Hanan Badr instead shifts this Eurocentric perspective by investigating transformations in and emanating from Berlin from Arab-German perspectives. 

Processes of change unfold at a macrosocial level, but are often initiated and driven by individual actors and initiatives. Especially the latter, their relevance for social change, and their outreach were in the focus of investigations here. The particular change of perspective likewise shifts Arabs from their role as ‘objects’ studied in Western academia to ‘subjects’ of transformation processes themselves. As such they actively initiate and shape sustainable change in their Berlin communities, which in turn also have an impact back to their societies of origin.

How are Berlin and its processes of change perceived by researchers in Arab countries? How are they experienced by Arab residents and fellow citizens in Berlin themselves? How did Arab scholars, intellectuals, and artists in Berlin contribute to transformations within the academic, political or cultural landscape? And what changes are having an impact far beyond the city borders? How do Arab communities in Berlin shape future city life in the 21st century?

First-of-its-kind book publication inviting to a much-needed conversation

The results of this innovative and pioneering research project are collected in the academic book publication Arab Berlin: Dynamics of Transformation. In this first study to zoom in on the thriving metropolis from a decisively Arab perspective, scholars together with artists, activists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals and journalists illuminate the dynamics of transformation in the spheres of politics, society and history, gender, demographics and migration, media and culture, and education and research, some of which are highlighted below.

Berlin as a political laboratory

AGYA member and Co-president Dr. Amro Ali, for instance, illuminates in his essay how Berlin became the exile capital of the many who have left the Arab world, and why the Arab intellectual community in Berlin needs to acquire a name, shape, and a mandate of sorts. He explains and discusses why this may include a school of thought, political philosophy or even an ideational movement – all cross-fertilized through a deeper engagement with the Arab world.

Berlin is not just a city. It is a political laboratory that enforces a new type of beginning.

Dr. Amro Ali, AGYA member & Co-President

Berlin as new Arab media city

Also, the mobile news platform Amal, Berlin! is showcased in the book publication. For more than five years now, the local daily newspaper with about ten journalists in exile is reporting about local and federal political and cultural news in Arabic and Dari/Farsi. With their journalistic work, Amal, Berlin! contributes to a well-informed new Arab public in Berlin, because they are aware that being informed creates civic engagement of Arab publics. In their contribution to the book at hand, Amal, Berlin! shares the challenges and peculiarities that sometimes come with reporting to a diverse Arab public in Berlin and beyond. They further explore why international Berlin has few non-German media outlets and what steps are being taken to make Berlin a new Arab media city.

An Arab-German kaleidoscope of Berlin

The kaleidoscopic character of the volume, embracing academic articles as much as essays, interviews and photo contributions, reflects not only critical encounters in Berlin but also the diverse character of the metropolis. Arab Berlin brings together both Berlin-based and international authors from diverse fields and backgrounds such as philosophy, sociology, history, Arabic and Islamic studies, linguistics, journalism and media studies, political science, medicine and science communication, and invites the readers into a much-needed conversation on contemporary transformations. The publication thus fills a knowledge gap and enriches the discourse with new prospects.

Arab Berlin: Dynamics of Transformation is about to be published by the renowned publishing house transcript in the series ‘Urban Studies’. It will be made available to the academic community and an interested public in open access format to generate a wide outreach in the long term. The publication will be released in September 2023.

Book Cover

AGYA/transcript Verlag

Disciplines Involved
Law, Communication & Media Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, History, Arabic and Islamic Studies, Linguistics, Journalism and Political Science
Cooperation Partner
Humboldt University Berlin
Funding Partner
Berlin Senate Department for Science, Health and Care
Affiliated Projects
Global Berlin in the 21st Century
About Health and Happiness in Cities – AGYA Podcast Happyopolis
Towards A Sustainable Mobility Future
Papyrus to Twitter: Museum Presentations in a Digital Age
Project Title
Arab Perspectives on Transformation in Berlin
Funding Scheme
Berlin Project
Countries Involved
Bahrain, Egypt, Germany, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen
AGYA Publication
Arab Berlin: Dynamics of Transformation