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Jens Hanssen

Jens Hanssen is an Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History. He received his B.A. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Durham University. His M.Phil. in Oriental Studies and D.Phil in Modern History are both from Oxford University. He joined the University of Toronto in 2002. He has held positions at the American University of Beirut, the Orient Institute in Beirut, and the Universities of Erlangen, Marburg and Göttingen, as well as  grants and fellowships from the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), DAAD (Germany), Thyssen Foundation (Germany), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. As a public historian Hanssen strives to decolonize the curriculum, defends academic freedom and debates German, Israeli and Palestinian entanglements.

Toronto (Auswahl):

Introduction to Middle Eastern History

Intellectuals of the Arab World

Colonial Urbanism in the Muslim Mediterranean

Islam & Modernity

International Relations in the Middle East

The Modern History of Palestine

North Africa and Western Asia Before World War I


Göttingen (Auswahl):

Zur Hoffnung verdammt‘:  Kulturgeschichte Syriens seit 1920

Einführung in die Quellenarbeit: Der arabische Nationalismus – Quellen, Hintergründe und Bedeutung

Orientalismus & Okzidentalismus

Islamwissenschaftliches Kolloquium: Talal Asad and his interlocutors

Genderforschung und Frauengeschichte im Nahen Osten

Jens Hanssen is fascinated by productive intersections: time and space; urban and intellectual history; material culture and discursive formations; disciplinary knowledge production, the critical potential of transnationally inflected area studies and translation as method and metaphor. His current research interests include late Ottoman history; the Middle East and North Africa at the global fin de siècle; secularism, religion and sectarianism; the Arab Left; and German-Jewish echoes in modern Arab thought; as well as the challenge of writing contemporary history in revolutionary times.He is currently writing his overdue second monograph for OUP and aims to conduct more research for his next major research project while in Berlin. The monograph, tentatively entitled Spectres of Degeneration – Discourses of Regeneration: a Cultural History of the Middle East and North Africa before World War Iexplores the tensions between growing public anxiety and ubiquitous morality discourses on the one hand and the increasing social and physical mobility during “the white-water moment” (Blom) that was the global fin de siècle. The 1870s witnessed Ottoman and Egyptian state bankruptcy, and the 1877-78 Russo-Ottoman war unleashed the “great unweaving of populations” in the Balkans. In Algeria the genocidal French conquest in the 1840s made Ottoman policies in Eastern Anatolia thinkable later. Settler colonial expansion in fin de siècle Algeria soon fueled the Zionist imagination for Palestine. Meanwhile, Armenian revolutionary activities and the Japanese defeat of Russia in 1905 inspired constitutional revolutions in Iran and the Ottoman empire before an Anglo-Arab military alliance out of Arabia turned the tide of World War I. The challenge of this project is to tell this history through a cast of relatively marginal characters (performers, slaves, converts, soldiers, migrants, refugees, exilic intellectuals and itinerant Muslim reformers) whose interlocking life stories hopefully produce a phenomenological, or experiential, approach to the larger socio-economic transformations and political developments in MENA four decades before World War I.The second project interrogates the historically fraught, but intellectually productive, German-Jewish-Arab intellectual entanglement since the early 20th century. The project’s conceit is that however much each of the three traditions have disavowed their two counterparts, however fraught the chimera of civilizational enmity has been, only by treating all three traditions as mutually constitutive can we begin to decolonize past conceptions of alterity and political responsibility, and overcome the stifling “epistemic injustice” (Fricker 2007) around the question of Palestine in general and in Germany in particular. To this end the project investigates the German-Jewish philosophical echoes in contemporary Arabic thought by close-reading and translating a selection of texts and by situating their authors in their political contexts. Conversely, we reread contrapuntally the canon of 20th-century German literature and theory in order to establish an inventory of Middle Eastern and Islamic cultural traces in a selection of writers, including Nietzsche, Luxemburg, Kafka, Benjamin, Arendt, Bloch, Marcuse and Habermas.

The Empire in the City: Arab Provincial Capitals in the late Ottoman Empire (Beirut: German Orient Institute, 2002)with T. Philipp and S. Weber (eds.).

Fin de Siècle Beirut; the Making of an Ottoman Provincial Capital (Oxford: OUP-Historical Monograph Series, 2005).

History, Space and Social Conflict in Beirut; The Quarter of Zokak el-Blat (Beirut: German Orient Institute, 2016, 1st. ed. 2005), with R. Bodenstein et al.

Arabic Thought Beyond the Liberal Age: Towards and Intellectual History of the Nahda (Cambridge, CUP, 2019, hb. 2016), with Max Weiss (eds.). Arabic translation F. ‘Abd al-Muttalib: al-Fikr al-‘arabi ba‘d al-‘asr al-librali: nahu tarikh fikri lil-nahda (Rabat: Dar Mu’minun bila Hudud, 2019); reviewed in al-Quds al-’Arabi long-listed for the Shaykh Zayid Book Award, translations from English.

Arabic Thought Against the Authoritarian Age: Towards an Intellectual History of the Present (Cambridge, CUP, 2019, hb. 2018)with Max Weiss (eds.).

A Clarion for Syria: A Patriot’s Call Against the Civil War of 1860 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019), with H. Safieddine.

Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African History (Oxford: OUP, 2021)with A. Ghazal (eds.).

Reaching the People