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World Science Café

In a new event series, fled and threatened scientists offer insights into their research

In the winter semester 2016/17, the ZAK, in cooperation with the International Scholars & Welcome Office (IScO), will be hosting a new series of events in the scope of which refugees give an account of their scientific work. In line with the title-giving café concept, a brief outline will be followed by a discussion about the state of academia in the speakers’ country of origin, in dialogue with a partner who is familiar with the situation in the respective country. What are the consequences a society faces when scientists are unable to continue research in their own country? How can threatened scientists be enabled to continue their work in Germany? How do they enrich and amplify the academic world and German society? The new format is part of the KIT’s activities within the framework of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, which was launched by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation together with the German Federal Foreign Office. It enables universities, universities of applied science, and independent research institutions to grant threatened researchers fellowships for research stays in Germany. The initiative has been made possible through generous support from the Federal Foreign Office, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Stiftung Mercator.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016, 6 pm 
Prof. Dr. Hussein Almohamad (Syria), Anthropogeography
Institute of Geography, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen

Wednesday, 01 February 2017, 6 pm
Prof. Dr. Ammar Abdulrahman (Syria), Archeology
Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), Eberhard Karls University Tübingen
In cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017, 6 pm
Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Turkey), Institute of Sociology
Institute of Sociology, Goethe-University Frankfurt



Opening Lecture: Foreign Involvement in the Syrian Conflict: Status Quo and Prospects

Wednesday, 30 November 2016, 6 pm, Venue: Foyer of the Presidential Building (Adolf Würth Building, bldg. 11.30), Ehrenhof, Engelbert-Arnold-Str. 2, KIT Campus South - Campus Map (pdf, approx. ca.1 MB)


Prof. Dr. Hussein Almohamad

Prof. Dr. Hussein Almohamad (Syria)

Guest Professor, Anthropogeography, Institute of Geography, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen

In 2011, in the early stages of anti-government protests, various groups of the population were involved in the revolution, which finally escalated into armed conflict. Since then, a number of further religious and ethnic conflicts have arisen: with the flow of money and weapons from abroad, and the involvement of mercenary groups, the conflict increasingly takes the form of a proxy war in Syria and the Middle East. After five years of war, four major conflict parties are emerging: the Assad regime, the Islamic State (IS), the autonomous Kurdish region “Rojava”, and the rebels. By now, more than 80,000 foreign fighters have been involved in the conflict. The lecture will analyse the phenomenon of foreign volunteer fighters, their motivations for getting involved in the Syrian conflict, as well as the prospects of this involvement.

Prof. Dr. Hussein Almohamad studied geography in Damascus and then took up a position as an assistant at the Department of Geography, at the University of Aleppo’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities. In 2009, he received his PhD from Justus-Liebig-University Gießen after completing a dissertation in the field of climate change and natural hazards. From 2009 to 2013 Almohamad taught climatology, natural hazards, and political geography as an assistant professor at the University of Aleppo. In 2014, he returned to the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen as a visiting professor in the field of human geography and development research.


Syrian Cultural Heritage during the Crisis

Wednesday, 01 February 2017, 6 pm, Venue: Foyer of the Presidential Building (Adolf Würth Building, bldg. 11.30), Ehrenhof, Engelbert-Arnold-Str. 2, KIT Campus South - Campus Map (pdf, approx. ca.1 MB)


Prof. Dr. Ammar Abdulrahman (Syrien)

Prof. Dr. Ammar Abdulrahman (Syria)

Archeology, Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), Eberhard Karls University Tübingen

Throughout history, international cultural heritage has suffered harmful effects from natural phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – and it has also suffered from human actions and struggles such as wars. Syria serves as a recent example, highlighting the important case that, in a place that has been considered the heritage of one of the most ancient civilisations in the world, cultural richness is now in danger because of the ongoing crisis. As a direct consequence of a war which has lasted five years by now, some of the archaeological sites have been totally destroyed by attacks from radical Islamic groups. In addition some sites have been transformed into battlefields, and as an indirect consequence, are witnessing dangerous attacks from armed gangs of looters. This is a disaster for Syrian cultural heritage, and the destructions are now in their fifth year with no end in sight. This leaves us all in an unprecedented situation which requires urgent action – especially as this danger does not only persist in Syria, but in other Middle Eastern countries as well, such as Iraq, Egypt, and Libya, which are facing similar acts threatening their cultural heritage.

Prof. Dr. Ammar Abdulrahman studied Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern History in Damascus and Constance. In 2006, he received his PhD from Damascus University. From 2005 onwards, Abdulrahman served as director of the Department of Museum Affairs at the Directorate-General of the Syrian Antiquities Service, before he became director of the Al-Basil Center for Archeological Research in Damascus in 2008. Since 2010, Abdulrahman has been project leader and editor of the multi-volume Archaeological Encyclopaedia in Syria. He has held diverse lectureships, among others at Damascus University’s Faculty of Archeology, where he has been director since 2013. From 2014 to 2015, he was a deputy professor of archaeology at the University of Konstanz. In 2014, he became a member of the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Abdulrahman has published numerous books as well as essays in renowned journals and encyclopaedias. He has led major field archaeological projects and has frequently been invited to international congresses as an expert. In 2016, he took up a position at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen’s Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES). He is currently involved in a research project on Bronze Age settlement development in Syria and northern Iraq. In both countries, Ancient settlements will be mapped with the help of modern geo-information systems. The project aims to contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq.

In cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO.

Following discussion with Prof. Dr. Hartwig Lüdtke.
Since October 2014 Prof. Dr. Hartwig Lüdtke is Vice President of the German Commission for UNESCO. He is Member of the German Nomination Committee for the UNESCO-programme "Memory of the World" since 2006. Prof. Lüdtke is foundation council and director of the Technomuseum in Mannheim.

See CV


On Refugee Lives, or A Note on Human Condition (Lecture in English)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017, 6 pm, Venue: Foyer of the Presidential Building (Adolf Würth Building, bldg. 11.30), Ehrenhof, Engelbert-Arnold-Str. 2, KIT Campus South - Campus Map (pdf, approx. ca.1 MB)

Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik

Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Turkey)

Institute of Sociology, Gender Studies, Institute of Sociology, Goethe-University Frankfurt

“Ours is a century of uprootedness, with fewer and fewer people living out their lives where they are born,” once wrote Michael D. Jackson (Harvard Divinity School), astutely pointing out the human condition of our century. More and more people leave their homelands for various reasons and live in places different from where they were born. 
There is a particular kind of movement, a form of human displacement that has been taking place in the last few years. People from the East and the South want to reach Europe – the ‘Fortress Europe’. They are different from the migrants Europe received more than 50 years ago: the ‘Gastarbeiter’, who also tried to find a way to settle in a new place. People who are trying to make their way into Europe today are refugees, with the hopes to find more security in the midst of a political situation they have no control over. 
People’s journey often begins in the sea – in ‘Our Sea’, or Mare Nostrum, known to the majority as the Mediterranean – a vast and consuming body of water. If they are lucky, one out of two will be able to reach European soil. In my talk, I will focus on the lives of refugees. I will consider their determination to leave a certain place, the ambivalence of life and death at sea – ‘Our Sea’, and the hopes they have pinned on the new place. How does it feel to be a refugee? 
Do they feel at home in the world?  How do they experience the new, and the foreign place? What are their fears, longings, and wants? What are their needs? 
Thinking about these questions, this talk is intended as a timely note on the refugee crisis – the refugee crisis of Europe. Yet it can also be understood as a note on the human condition.

Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik is a specialist in anthropology, folklore, and gender studies. Following her education at Boğaziçi University Istanbul, she completed a dual MA/PhD programme at Indiana University Bloomington, USA. She has taught courses on migration, gender, nationalism, space and narrative, feminist theories and methods, research methods, the theory of anthropology, and the history of folklore, in the USA, Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, among others. Currently, Birkalan-Gedik is a guest professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.

She co-edited a collection entitled Gelenekten Geleceğe Antropoloji (Anthropology from Tradition to the Future, 2005). Her recent book, Sınırlar, İmajlar, Kültürler (Borders, Images, Cultures, 2013) is also an edited volume, including an article by Birkalan-Gedik on Turkey. She is the guest editor of the special issue of Folkloristics of the journal Folklor/Edebiyat (Folklore/Literature, 2000). From 2014 to 2015, she completed a project on fathers with a Turkish migration background living in the Rhein-Main region. Two books, Feminist Antropoloji: Türkiye’den ve Dünyadan Kültürlerarası Perspektifler (Feminist Anthropology: Intercultural Perspectives from Turkey and the World) and Changing Paradigms of Anthropology in Turkey: Intersecting European Ethnology and American Anthropology, are planned for publication in 2017.

Admission is free of charge.