Titleimage: Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies

The Institute for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Societies in Bern combines the disciplinary rigour of text-oriented Islamic studies with the expertise of area studies and post-colonial approaches. The institute specializes in historical, sociological and political methods, and looks in particular at gender and sexuality studies, legal history, labour history, research on media and political movements, transnationalism and migration studies. We focus not only on the ‘normative’ aspects of Islam but also on the history, the culture and everyday life in Islamicate societies. Geographically the focus is on the Middle East, chronologically on the modern and contemporary period.

The institute offers a BA program in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and two MA programs, one focusing on the social and cultural history of modern Islamicate societies, and one focusing on Middle Eastern Studies. At the doctoral and post-doctoral levels, the institute is involved in several interdisciplinary and inter-university postgraduate programs. At all study levels we encourage students to view the region from a genuinely post-colonial perspective, transgressing the borders of the widespread and limited European perspective on the area.

We put a strong emphasis on learning the languages of the region, in particular Arabic, Persian and Turkish. Our emphasis on language does justice to the fact that the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is, and has always been, characterized by a high degree of cultural diversity, which is reflected also in the linguistic landscape. The way our institute emphasizes language competence is not grounded in an exclusive concept of language as a mere object of philology. This gives students access to a completely different picture of the Middle East and North Africa.

News and events

SNSF Starting Grant: TraIL. Tracing Labour in Islamicate Legal Traditions

Prof. Dr Serena Tolino has been granted a prestigious Starting Grant from the SNSF for the project “TraIL. Tracing Labour in Islamicate Legal Traditions”. The SNSF Starting grants are transitional measures covering the ERC Starting Grants 2022 as well as the former SNSF funding schemes Eccellenza and PRIMA.

TraIL aims at providing cutting-edge research on the legal history of labour in Islamicate societies in a longue durée perspective (from the 10th to the 20th century), with a special focus on the relation between labour and gender in Islamicate legal traditions. TraIL is the first attempt to write a legal history of labour in Islamicate contexts, systematically bringing together scholarship on labour, gender studies and the study of law in Islamicate societies, and aims at diversifying our understanding of labour while applying methods not yet applied in Islamic legal studies.
The team will include Prof. Dr. Serena Tolino, 3 PhD students, a post-doc, a student assistant and a database developer. All positions will be announced soon here.