Professor of History, Head of Department, Central European University, Budapest
(September – October 2014)
Borders of Faith: Religion and Modernity in the Mediterranean Region
My research project ‘Borders of Faith: Religion and Modernity in the Mediterranean Region’ seeks to explore the relationship of spaces, religions, and cultural transmissions involved in the advent of modernity in the Arab World and its multi-confessional societies, comprising Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities. The historical framework deployed considers the Mediterranean littorals and their related hinterlands, Bilad al-Sham and Iraq, from which cultural and religious contact and exchange are explored during the long nineteenth century. Based on selected examples, the study introduces a transversal, entangled history of systemic transformations that occurred in the religious and cultural fields across the Eastern Mediterranean, against a background of complex political and colonial developments. The focus on local changes within a global context of individual and institutional networks and transfers opens avenues for a close mapping of influences, exchanges, and transformations both objective and deliberately pursued, and movement across the Ottoman Empire and its successor states both in South-Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and across the whole Mediterranean region and Europe. In light of the most recent outbreak of sectarian violence in the Middle East, these issues acquired a hightened sense of concern and require us to revisit these questions in a multidisciplinary manner.