Research Unit Politics

Ignaz Goldziher’s Reception among Arabic Scholars from Syria and Egypt (1873–1948)

This project focuses on the Hungarian Jewish orientalist Ignaz Goldziher (1850–1921), who is regarded in the European history of the field as the founder of modern Islamic scholarship and who, in the predominantly Muslim world, was moreover held in extraordinarily high esteem by comparison to his European colleagues. While research on Goldziher’s biography, work, and impact has to date focused on the European context, his reception in the Arabic world has hardly been sufficiently examined. One can therefore justifiably speak of a near-forgotten voice of the »Orient« in this regard. This project is therefore dedicated to how Goldziher was perceived by his Arabic correspondents: What did Arabic scholars and statesmen make of Goldziher as a person, a scholar, a European, and a Jew?

The project follows from the debate instigated by the book »Orientalism« by the literary scholar Edward Said (1935–2003) concerning the discourse of oriental research and the assessment of knowledge produced in this area. The incisive impact of this controversy extended far beyond the boundaries of the discipline itself and continues to resonate today. The contributions of European and especially German-speaking Jewish orientalists have been assessed in a number of studies, yet they still represent a disputed issue in research. This also applies to Ignaz Goldziher. This study intends to make a contribution to this debate by including the forgotten voice of the »Orient.« It also aims to bolster the scholarly recognition of Goldziher’s transnational impact and to cast a new light on Jewish-Muslim relations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This project will examine Goldziher’s estate, especially his correspondence with scholars from Syria and Egypt as well as appertaining texts by Goldziher and his Arabic peers. Special attention will be paid to diaries and travel reports. The timeframe of the project begins with Goldziher’s journey to the Orient and ends with the foundation of the State of Israel. Geographically, the project is limited to Syria and Egypt, where Goldziher spent the most time during his journey to the Orient and where he maintained numerous contacts with important Arabic personages that are relevant to this project.