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.