„Invitation to Discourse – Normative Concepts in Transformation in the Arab Spring and Beyond“

The Young Academics Workshop “Invitation to Discourse. Normative Concepts in Transformation in the Arab Spring and Beyond,”  held from 16th until 24th of November 2013 at Freie Universität Berlin, came to life as a joint effort of Freie Universität Berlin, Cairo University and the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. The aim of this one-week workshop was to create a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere for young academics, professionals and activists from Germany and Egypt to discuss and exchange knowledge and experience on normative ideas (freedom, justice, dignity) in rapid social, cultural and political transformations from an interdisciplinary and intercultural perspective with a main focus on the Egyptian experience since 2011 and the German experience since 1900.
The main partners of the workshop were the Institute of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin (Prof. Schirin Amir-Moazami), the Department of English Language & Literature at Cairo University (Prof. Shereen Abouelnaga) and the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (Aletta Diefenbach, MA & Dr. Mahmoud Bassiouni). The project was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office (AA).

The workshop brought together a multidisciplinary group of young intellectuals, researchers and analysts – 15 from Germany and 10 from Egypt and a film maker from Morocco. The workshop functioned as a forum to exchange knowledge, concepts, ideas, methods and perspectives. Senior researchers and experts joined the discussions by giving conceptual insights into their respective fields.
The workshop was divided into an introductory block on theory and five thematic blocks which addressed core elements of the Egyptian transformation. The block on theory provided a common understanding on how to discuss the workshop´s overall topic as well as the thematic blocks. Some of the thematic blocks were explicitly framed in a cross-cultural comparison and included media, democracy, secularity and art & culture.
To ensure active involvement by all participants, the program was composed of six types of activities: reading sessions, paper sessions, guest lectures  and excursions to important sites in Berlin such as the German Historical Museum, the German Bundestag and the Stasi Museum. Furthermore, we watched at the public evening event titled "Visions of the Unfulfilled: How and Where Does Protest Culture Push the Arab Spring?" a documentary on the Arab Spring and the Moroccan youth movement “20th February” together with one of the producers. This was followed by a podium discussion between the film maker, another participant from Egypt and two organizers of the workshop.
Overall, the workshop provided a fruitful experience for all researches, academics and activists involved. Besides the many in-depth analyses on the normative transformation in contemporary Egypt, the workshop fostered civic education, enhanced cultural and academic relations and networks among the young academics and activists, building and strengthening the links between the Arab-European partners involved.
Lectures were held by:

•    "The Birth of Gender Subjectivity through Art" by Prof. Dr. Shereen Abouelnaga (Department of English, Cairo University)




•    Prof. Dr. Schirin Amir-Moazami (Institut für Islamwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin)

•    "The Value of Liberty in Arab Thought and Uprisings" by Prof. Dr. Moustafa El-Sayed (Department of Political Science, Cairo University)




•    "Neutrality and Tolerance" by Prof. Dr. Stefan Gosepath (Institut für Philosophie, Freie Universität Berlin)


•    "Re-Negotiating the Informal Social Contract" by Prof. Dr. Cilja Harders (Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin)




•    "Modern but not Secular: Egypt as a Case Study" by Prof. Dr. Gudrun Krämer (Institut für Islamwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin)




•    "Reality meets Normativity: How Media Relate to Democratic Transformation" by Prof. Dr. Carola Richter (Arbeitsstelle Internationale Kommunikation, Freie Universität Berlin) and Anja Wollenberg (Dipl.Psych.; Media in Cooperation and Transition gGmbH – MICIT International, Berlin)




The workshop was organized by Aletta Diefenbach, MA (Frankfurt/M.); Mario Carl, Dipl-Soz.(Berlin), Prof. Shereen Abouelnaga (Cairo); Prof. Schirin Amir-Moazami (Berlin); Dr. Mahmoud Bassiouni (Frankfurt/M.); Markus Dressel, MA (Hamburg/Berlin); Nadia El Ouerghemmi, MA (Darmstadt/Frankfurt/M.).











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