Research page Samuli Schielke

1 Curriculum Vitae /2 Research projects / 3 Films / 4 Publications / 5 Resources / 6 Contact
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1/6 Curriculum vitae

I am a social and cultural anthropologist working mainly on contemporary Egypt. I was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1972. After finishing school in 1991 I spent some time travelling around Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I tried my luck in journalism but wasn't good at it, and instead went to study Arabic and Islamic studies in Bonn, Germany, from where I graduated in 2000. I did not feel home in the philological world of Orientalism, and changed to the discipline of anthropology with the help of a PhD position at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and in 2006 I received my PhD thesis in social sciences from the University of Amsterdam. I worked as a postdoc at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies in Mainz, Germany and in the University of Eastern Finland, and since 2009, I work as a research fellow at Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, Germany. From 2010 to 2014, I directed the research and exhibition project In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East, which is not about Europe.

The topics of my past and present research include: the contestation of festive culture and Sufi pilgrimages (read more in my book The Perils of Joy); the hopes, frustrations and ambivalence of religious, moral and aspirational lives (much of my new Book Egypt in the Future Tense is about this); the expectation and experience of migration and social mobility under conditions of local and global inequality (In Search of Europe was partly about this); and the motivations and consequences of literary writing in Alexandria, Egypt (I'm currently working on this). I have also written about the January 25 Revolution and its consequences between 2011 and 2014 (see my blog), about religious and political commitment, about nonbelievers, and about love, marriage and intimacy.

I am also an external lecturer in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin where I teach photography and anthropology. I am a keen amateur photographer, and I have been involved in some documentary and experimental films.

2/6 Current research projects

My current research circles around questions about personal trajectories, class and global inequality, morality and religion, as well as the relationship between intimate lives, literary imagination, political economy, and moral strivings. I'm also interested in the relationship between destiny and freedom, and in general I'm curious about contradictions, ambiguities and shifts in humans' social and intimate lives. I'm interested in understanding government from the point of view of the government, and powerful discourses from the point of view of living a life marked by. The concrete topics I am currently looking at include migration, work, love and marriage, religious and political trajectories, the search for a normal life amidst societal and ecological change, and most importantly the following:

Motivations and Consequences of Literary Writing in Alexandria after 2011

Writing poetry, prose and semi-literary texts is a fairly common activity among Egyptians who have received higher education, although the readership of fiction is very low. After 2011, such writing has become much more visible as many people have started writing or have started publishing online what they would have previously kept for themselves. Following the lives and works of writers in different milieus in Egypt’s second-largest city, this research project looks at the practice, social conditions and possible consequences of literary writing from a long-term biographical perspective. Connecting literary works, their themes and their styles with questions of sociality, personal idiosyncrasies, political and social context, livelihoods and economy, the project is also an attempt to develop a non-reductionist understanding of imagination, cultural production, material conditions, relations of production and social change on the same analytical plane. The research, which is based on shared fieldwork with the Alexandrian novelist Mukhtar Saad Shehata, has a strongly collaborative aspect, debating and developing these theoretical directions in dialogue with the writers involved.

You can follow my unfinished research work in process on my blog A Book of Unfinished Theories. For publications of completed research, see below.

3/6 Films

The Secret Capital. With Mukhtar Saad Shehata. 28 min. Egypt, 2013. Watch the film online

The Other Side. With Mukhtar Saad Shehata. 9 min. Egypt and the Netherlands, 2010. Watch the film online

Messages from Paradise #1, Egypt:Austria, About the Permanent Longing for Elsewhere. With Daniela Swarowsky. 44 min. Austria and the Netherlands, 2010. Watch the trailer online

4/6 Selected publications

"The Writing of Lives: An ethnography of writers and their milieus in Alexandria.", by Samuli Schielke and Mukhtar Saad Shehata. ZMO Working Papers 17 (2016). Read online

"In defence of our universal double standards." Allegra Lab 7 December 2015. Read online

Egypt in the Future Tense: Ambivalence, Hope and Frustration in Egypt before and after 2011. Indiana University Press, 2015.
Release date: 5 March. 2015. Buy the book! "Against the backdrop of the revolutionary uprisings of 2011–2013, Samuli Schielke asks how ordinary Egyptians confront the great promises and grand schemes of religious commitment, middle class respectability, romantic love, and political ideologies in their daily lives, and how they make sense of the existential anxieties and stalled expectations that inevitably accompany such hopes. Drawing on many years of study in Egypt and the life stories of rural, lower-middle-class men before and after the revolution, Schielke views recent events in ways that are both historically deep and personal. Schielke challenges prevailing views of Muslim piety, showing that religious lives are part of a much more complex lived experience."

"I want to be committed: Short-lived trajectories of Salafi activism in Egypt." Ricerca Folklorica 69 (2015). Read online

"هل يقدر الشعر على تغيير العالم؟ قراءة أمل دنقل فى 2011." (Can Poetry Change the World? Reading Amal Dunqul in 2011), transl. Amr Khairy, al-Shi'r 155 (2014), pp. 82-89. Read online

"عيد الحب في مصر: قراءة في الجدل الديني والثقافي." (Aymon Kreil and Samuli Schielke: "Valentine's Day In Egypt: A Reading in Religious and Cultural Debate"), transl. Omria Sultani, Marased 7, Bibliotheca Alexandrina 2011. Read online

"There will be blood: Expecting violence in Egypt, 2011-2013." ZMO Working Papers 11 (2014). Read online

"You'll be late for the revolution!" An anthropologist's diary of the Egyptian Revolution and what followed. Read the blog

In Search of Europe? Art and Research in Collaboration: An Experiment. Daniela Swarowsky, Samuli Schielke, Andrea Heister (eds.). Heijningen: Jap Sam, 2013. Buy the book

"The Writing on the Walls of Egypt." With Jessica Winegar, Middle East Report 265 (2012), pp. 13-17. Read online

The Global Horizon: Expectations of Migration in Africa and the Middle East. Knut Graw and Samuli Schielke (eds.). Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven, 2012. Buy the book

Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes: An Anthropology of Everyday Religion. Samuli Schielke and Liza Debevec (eds.). New York: Berghahn, 2012. Buy the book

The Perils of Joy: Contesting Mulid Festivals in Contemporary Egypt. Syracuse,NY.: Syracuse University Press, 2012. Buy the book

"Surfaces of longing: Cosmopolitan aspiration and frustration in Egypt." City and Society 24 (2012), pp. 29-37. Link to journal homepage (subscription required)

"Being a non-believer in a time of Islamic revival: Trajectories of doubt and certainty in contemporary Egypt." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 44 (2012), pp. 301-320. Link to journal homepage (subscription required)

"Living in the Future Tense: Aspiring for world and class in provincial Egypt." In: The Global Middle Class: Theorizing through Ethnography, Carla Freeman, Rachel Heiman, and Mark Liechty (eds.), Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, pp. 31-56.. Buy the book

"Second Thoughts about the Anthropology of Islam, or how to make Sense of Grand Schemes in Everyday Life. " ZMO working papers, Vol. 2 (2010). read online

"Ambivalent Commitments: Troubles of Morality, Religiosity and Aspiration among Young Egyptians," Journal of Religion in Africa Vol. 39 (2009): 2, pp. 158-185. read online

"Being good in Ramadan: Ambivalence, fragmentation and the moral self in the lives of young Egyptians," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Vol. 15 (2009): Special issue 1 (Islam, Politics, Anthropology), pp. S24-S40. Link to journal homepage (subscription required) .

"Policing Ambiguity: Muslim saints-day festivals and the moral geography of public space in Egypt," American Ethnologist Vol. 35 (2008): 4, pp. 539–552. Link to journal homepage (subscription required) .

"Boredom and Despair in Rural Egypt" Contemporary Islam Vol. 28 (2008): 2, pp. 251-270. read online

Georg Stauth and Samuli Schielke (eds.): Dimensions of Locality: Muslim Saints and Their Places (Yearbook of the Sociology of Islam; 8), Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2008. Buy the book. Read the introduction(PDF document).

"Mystic States, Motherly Virtues, Female Participation and Leadership in an Egyptian Sufi Milieu" Journal for Islamic Studies (Capetown) Vol. 28 (2008), pp. 94-126. read online

"Hegemonic encounters: Criticism of saints-day festivals and the formation of modern Islam in late 19th and early 20th-century Egypt" Die Welt des Islams Vol. 47 (2007), number 3-4, pp. 319-355. read online

Review article of Charles Lindholm: The Middle East: Tradition and Change, 2nd ed., Oxford: Blackwell, 2002, in The Muslim World Book Review, Vol. 26 (2006), number 3, pp. 70-72. read online

"Sakralisierung des Alltags und Banalisierung des Heiligen: Religion und Konsum in Ägypten" Working Papers of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz Vol. 69. read online

"On Snacks and Saints: When Discourses of Order and Rationality Enter the Egyptian Mawlid" Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions vol. 135 (2006), pp. 117-140. (This is a revised version of the article first published in the edited volume Archeology of Sainthood.) read online

"Mawlids & Modernists: Dangers of Fun" ISIM Review 17 (Spring 2006), pp. 6-7. read online

Review article of Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, Histoire d'un pélerinage légendaire en Islam: Le mouled de Tantâ du XIIIe siècle a nos jours, Paris: Aubier, 2004, Die Welt des Islams Vol. 46, Number 1, 2006, pp. 105-107. read online

"Habitus of the Authentic, Order of the Rational: Contesting Saints Festivals in Contemporary Egypt" Critique. Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 12 (Fall 2003), Nr. 2, pp. 155-172. Link to journal homepage (subscription required)

" ما الشعبى فى المعتقدات الشعبية ؟ " (What makes popular beliefs popular - in Arabic) Fusul, transl. Ibrahim Fathi, Vol. 60 (summer-autumn 2002), pp. 166-176. read online

Review article of Marco Schöller: "Methode und Wahrheit in der Islamwissenschaft" (in German), DAVO-Nachrichten 15 (Juni 2002), pp. 114-115. Read online

"Pious Fun at Saints Festivals in Modern Egypt", ISIM Newsletter 7 (2001), p. 23. Read online

"Johdatus yleiseen sikailuun. Sikailuteoreettinen perspektiivi filosofiaan sekä politiikkaan narratiivisen struktuurin kreatiivisen destruktion kontekstissa" (A travesty of the history of philosophy and political theory. Deconstructs just about everything. In Finnish. Sorry.) In cooperation with Harri Juntunen. Originally published 1997 and 1998 in various Finnish student magazines. read online

5/6 Resources

Practical introductions for students of Arabic into scientific transcription of Arabic, Arabic and Orientalist standard literature, dictionnaries, quoting, and writing papers. Originally written for a tutorial course for first-year students of Arabic and Islamic studies in Bonn, 2000. All in German. In cooperation with Jasmin Khosravie, Philipp Reichmuth and Tibor Haunit. The same page contains also useful links on transcription software for Windows and Macintosh applications. Here's the link.

OI-Beyrut, Courier Beyrut and Times Beyrut Roman: True type fonts for the scientific transcription of Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish in Windows applications. OI-Beyrut has a very beautiful typeface. Click here to download the fonts, and here for an introduction how to use them (PDF file, 74 KB) (in German, but it will make sense even if you know no German).

Ulli Meybohm's Phase 5 HTML editor. Free, text-based and good. German user interface. Link to download page.

6/6 Contact: s c h i e l k e @ r o c k e t m a i l . c o m

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Copyright 2001-2014 by Samuli Schielke / Link to the unscientific section