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Start-Up Professorship Transcultural Studies - Humanities

Coordination: Daniel König

Thematical Focus

World map in the kitāb Rūjar by al-Idrīsī (d. ca. 560/1165) - Wikimedia Commons

In a pre-modern age still awaiting the invention of aviation, the telephone and the internet, intermediate and transit regions played an enormous role in facilitating, filtering, and occasionally even obstructing flows connecting Asia and Europe. The great Eurasian landmass between Western Europe and Central Asia on the one hand, the Mediterranean sphere on the other hand thus play an important role in a cluster of excellence dedicated to the dynamics of transculturality between Asia and Europe.

The Start-up Professorship (Humanities) is dedicated to the history of the Euromediterranean in the period between Late Antiquity and the Early Modern Age (ca. 300-1700) with a special focus on relations between Western Europe and the Arabic-Islamic world.


Seminars taught within the Master for Transcultural Studies will deal with various aspects of Euromediterranean history and their interpretation in Western and Arabic historiography. The main aim is to present the Euromediterranean as an area of high-density cultural interaction between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and to highlight the role played therein by transcultural actors, including interpreters, translators, missionaries etc.


The aim of the main research project to be conducted during the next few years is to write a social history of linguistic entanglement between Latin and Arabic in a period ranging from Antiquity to the 20th century.

For more than a millenium, Latin and Arabic have been of paramount civilizational and cultural importance for the history of the Euromediterranean. Linguistic interaction between both linguistic spheres saw premature beginnings after the Roman Empire’s expansion into the Nabatean sphere at the dawn of the Common Era, but only evolved into full-scale entanglement in the wake of the Arabic-Islamic expansion into the western Mediterranean in the late 7th century. In the Middle Ages, the interaction of Romance and Arabic speakers left its imprint on both linguistic systems and repeatedly led to the creation of hybrid linguistic phenomena. Translations from Latin to Arabic between the 9th and 10th centuries, and from Arabic to Latin between the 12th and the 16th centuries, led to a diffusion and reception of various lexemes in the written records produced in both linguistic spheres.

Already in the High Middle Ages and even more so in the Early Modern Age, Arabic became an object of serious study in Western European scholarship. Due to Latin’s status as the language of intellectual endeavours in early modern Europe, Latin and Arabic continued to be practiced side by side in various academic milieus up to the verge of the 19th to the 20th century when Latin was irrevocably supplanted by the modern vernaculars. Vice versa, Latin never gained the same status in an Arab world mainly and increasingly confronted with European, especially Romance vernaculars. In the Early Modern Age, Latin mainly seems to have played a role among Middle Eastern Christians involved in papal efforts to subject various eastern churches to the rule of Rome. To Arab Muslims, Latin only seems to have become of limited importance when the impact of European colonialism and imperialism incited the wish to create an academic system inspired by western standards. Today, at the preliminary (?) end of this long history of entanglement, Latin and Arabic mainly seem to meet within an academic framework, both in Europe and the Arab world.



Shupin Lang, M.A.

Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400
Room 108
69115 Heidelberg

Phone:  +49 (0) 6221 54 4344
Fax:      +49 (0) 6221 54 4012