Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen
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Is decolonisation the decisive factor – or even the relevant term? 250 years of Middle East Studies in Denmark
in Knowledge production in higher education
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Danish scholarly engagement with the Middle East began in earnest in the second half of the eighteenth century. This was due to Denmark’s political engagement with the piracy states of the Maghreb, but by 1830 this engagement had come to an end. Despite a strong romantic attachment to the Middle East in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, scholarship was concentrated on the study of the classical languages and literatures and few (Danish) scholars ever lived in the region. In the decades following the Second World War, the Middle East as a political entity was largely neglected. Middle East Studies were finally introduced at the University of Odense in 1981, and the two major universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus followed suit by modernising their Oriental departments in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. Amongst other factors, jihadi terrorism, the cartoon crisis and the thorny issue of immigration have had an immense effect on scholarship and teaching methods. In the public debate, scholars are often criticised for ignoring religion and culture as factors of influence on Middle Eastern society and politics. This chapter argues that, while the new engagement has led to renewed interest and investment in Middle East Studies, some of the old deficiencies have not been overcome. In particular, few scholars pay attention to local Middle Eastern debates.

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Knowledge production in higher education

Between Europe and the Middle East


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