The research project

Exhibition View of Researcher's Archive
The In Search of Europe? exhibition is an experimental collaboration project in the framework of the junior research group In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East. The research group, located at Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin and funded from 2010 to 2014 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, studies encounters and entanglements with “Europe” as a “metonymy of the possible” in Africa, the Middle East, and the former Ottoman Empire. This interdisciplinary project consists of researchers from the fields of anthropology, Ottoman history, Islamic studies, art history, plus the curator of the exhibition.

Europeans are accustomed to see themselves as the centre of the world, and studying the ways people elsewhere perceive Europe carries the potential risk of unwittingly reproducing this Eurocentristic bias. But what if “Europe” is not about Europe? What if “Europe” is about building a house in Senegal with the money one hopes to earn as a migrant, claiming civil rights in Egypt in the name of political ideas of global currency, meeting the political challenge of the rising imperial powers
Exhibition View of Research Process
western Europe in the Ottoman Empire of late 19th century, or developing an aesthetic language in Mozambique that is recognized as contemporary art in international art circles? The question about the search for Europe in Africa and the Middle East is, thus, not so much about a specific region or group of people as it is about a specific historical experience shared by many in various parts of the world: the search for a better future in an unequal world where some parts of the world set the standards which others have to reckon with.

But is Europe still actually setting those standards? Is it still a place people look up to in admiration and/or anger? And was the world ever so neatly divided into centre and periphery? Where is “Europe” anyway? The actual contours of the imaginary maps of the world still need to be drawn, and so do the ways in which people think about the possible and inevitable in a changing world. The In Search of Europe research project zooms in on specific moments in history and the present to develop an understanding of how people remember the past, search for a better future, think about alternatives and reckon with the inevitable in a world that is structured by complex geographic hierarchies of power.

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