The History of the Chair of Middle East Politics and Society

The professorship for Politics and Contemporary History of the Middle East was established in 1984 with the generous fund of the Volkswagen Stiftung. Prof. Dr. Alexander Schölch (1943-1986), a renowned scholar in Germany and beyond, was the first head of the Chair and succeeded within two years to turn Erlangen into a notable center in the field of Middle Eastern Politics. From 1988 on, Prof. Thomas Philipp, Ph.D. (1941-2015) had a strong influence on the profile of the Erlangen Middle East research by further shaping its interdisciplinary orientation. Especially his historical approach to questions in political science, his humor and sober way of explaining the irrationalities of the history of the Middle East and its protagonists are kindly remembered. He continuously inspired his colleagues and students with his extensive knowledge going far beyond his own research fields, his familiarity with the Middle Eastern literature, and his capability of speaking six languages fluently.

On February 1, 2009, subsequent to Prof. Philipp’s retirement, Prof. Dr. Christoph Schumann acquired the professorship (1969-2013) who arrived at FAU following his position as Assistant Professor for Islamic Studies at the University of Bern. As a political science, Islamic studies and history scholar, he left his marks on the Erlangen Middle East research and teaching within his four years in office. To answer contemporary questions, Schumann focused on different approaches in political theory and the history of ideas; he stood for an interdisciplinary approach of research contexts and was involved in the successful introduction of the Master’s degree program “Middle East Studies”. His presence at the FAU was very much appreciated by his colleagues as well as his students, and he is therefore deeply missed not only as a scholar but also as a true friend.

After one-year interim professorship (2014-2015) by Prof. Dr. Omar Kamil on October 1, 2015, Prof. Dr. Thomas Demmelhuber became the head of the Chair of Politics and Society of the Middle East.