Bettina Gräf

Debates about capitalism, socialism and Islam in the 1940s and 1950s are the subject of Bettina Gräf’s research. She analyses the social and material conditions of text production in a number of publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut. Intellectuals and publishing houses faced the power of the competing ideologies of capitalism and socialism, both anchored in the European sub-continent, and began to think more rigorously about Islam as a system and alternative utopian social order. Bettina Gräf is especially interested in understanding the varied possible connections between economic and cultural production in capitalist and socialist (or state capitalist) societies. Gräf's approach, which involves concentrating on the impacts of competing ideologies and economic setups on practices of reading, writing and publishing, searches to overcome conceptual divisions (and hierarchies) based on categorisations of East and West or South and North and, by doing this, to focus on an entangled history that is shaped by a shared set of similar economic and political conditions.

For the ISOE exhibition, Bettina Gräf collaborated with Mohamed Abdelkarim.


Bettina Gräf studied Islamic Studies, Arabic, and Political Science at the Free University of Berlin and the Humboldt University in Berlin. Since 2003, she has been working at the Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO). She wrote her PhD thesis about media fatwas and the popular Egyptian media sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar. Her thesis was published in 2010 as part of the series “ZMO Studien.” Her publications also include The Global Mufti. The Phenomenon of Yusuf al-Qaradawi (together with Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen), published by Hurst and Columbia University Press in 2009, and Social Dynamics 2.0: Researching Change in Times of Media Convergence. Case studies from the Middle East and Asia (together with Nadja-Christina Schneider), published by Frank & Timme in 2011. Since 2010, Bettina Gräf has been part of the interdisciplinary research group “In Search of Europe,” and has been conducting research on publishing houses in Egypt in the 1940s and 1950s, and on the concept of Islam as a political system and ideology at the beginning of the Cold War. Her work is situated within Cultural and Media Studies.


Poster 4 May 2012

Chat between Bettina Gräf and Mohamed Abdelkarim