|IIS Seminar and Lecture Content|
German Orientalism and the Study of Islam, Professor Jacques Waardenburg, The University of Lausanne, Switzerland 26 July 1983
This video is a 44 minute recording of Professor Waardenburg’s lecture delivered in 1983 at the IIS on ‘German Orientalism and the Study of Islam’. The talk was part of a seminar series centered on the theme of ‘Orientalism and the Study of Islam’.
Professor Jacques Waardenburg is currently Dutch emeritus professor of Science of Religions at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Member of the Board of Advisors of Arab-West Report (AWR). He is a well-known expert on Islam and the study of religion.
Professor Waardenburg’s lecture presents a survey of the development of Islamic Studies in Germany as a branch of Oriental Studies in the second half of the 19th century when it was recognised as an independent academic discipline. He makes the observation that Islamic Studies in Germany comes under the humanities and not under theology or religious studies.
Professor Waardenburg discusses at length a number of systematic stages, from study of the Arabic language to Islamic religious ‘phenomena’, in the development of Islamic Studies in Germany. He emphasises how these stages follow a certain logic.
Professor Waardenburg also provides a categoric account of the names of pre-eminent scholars of Islamic Studies in Germany and discusses their writings. This oral bibliography provides an invaluable resource for scholars and students.
The lecture includes an exploration of the distinguishing characteristics of German Islamic Studies as compared to other Western European countries highlighting the sanctity of scholarship in Germany and the freedom and support given to scholars and academics. Professor Waardenburg suggests that fact-finding and identifying immediate connections between facts are the ideology of Orientalism and indeed Islamic Studies in Germany. Discussions are of a very technical nature, because facts are relied on more so than theories. He then goes on to discuss the drawbacks of such an approach.
Professor Waardenburg concludes the lecture with his own interpretation of Islam as a subject for study not as ‘thing’ but a ‘meaning’ with complexity and aspects. In the study of Islam, he does not recommend using general terms derived from Western parlance such as ‘religion,’ ‘worldview,’ ‘ideology’ and even ‘faith’. Providing examples, he presents the idea of Islam as ‘a network of signs,’ which he believes best differentiates it from Western ideologies. This analysis of German Orientalism is replete with resources for students, scholars and academics alike to draw from.
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