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- Author: Jan Claudius Völkel x
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With a selected focus on Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Knowledge production in higher education presents a reflexive understanding of how Europe is taught and studied at MENA universities and how knowledge about the MENA is produced in Europe. This focus is based on the observation that higher education is rarely an apolitical space and an acknowledgement of how ‘every view is a view from somewhere’. It therefore explores the politics of institutes of higher education in view of often competing scholarly practices. Furthermore, it examines the historical evolution of French, German and Italian scholarship on the MENA; analyses the cases of Malta, Palestine and Turkey with their respective liminal characteristics in between the MENA and Europe, and how these impact on higher educational approaches to the study of the Other; considers critique as the driving force not only of the higher educational establishment but of liberal and illiberal contexts, with a specific focus on Denmark, the Netherlands and Egypt; and examines influences upon knowledge production including gender, the COVID-19 pandemic (with a focus on the UK and Syria) and think tanks.
This edited volume focuses on knowledge production in higher education in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Europe. Its twelve contributions shed light on how academics have deliberated the immensely politicised nature of institutions of higher education and their practices – be these in the context of colonialism, decolonialism, nation-building or political transformation. Cognisant of fragmenting labels in constructions of ‘the MENA’ and of ‘Europe’, our contributors supersede such logics by immersing themselves as subjects and objects of the study at hand, making themselves simultaneously ‘scholar’ and ‘subject’. Therefore, this volume explores the politics of institutes of higher education in view of the scholarly practices that are characteristic of the ways in which the MENA is taught at European universities and how Europe – or increasingly, the European Union (EU) – is discussed at institutions of higher education in the MENA. A reflexive understanding of how we teach and study Europe/the EU at MENA universities and how we teach and study the MENA in Europe is needed to help overcome existing divisions between the Global North and the Global South in knowledge production.
This chapter analyses how the image of Europe has been taught and studied at Egyptian universities. Drawing upon Edward Said’s seminal book Orientalism and Egyptian philosopher Hassan Hanafi’s replica Occidentalism, we argue that a kind of ‘EUrientalism’ has taken hold at Egyptian universities. EUrientalism is understood here as a self-reflective paradigm of generating knowledge through a dialogic and interactive partnership between European and Egyptian universities, meant to foster a transformative educational system that reduces existing stereotypes. The chapter examines how the idea(l) of EUrientalism has triggered partnership endeavours between European and Egyptian universities. These include Cairo University’s dedicated ‘Euro-Mediterranean Studies Programme’ which we analyse through a specific focus on curricula from modules in Political Science and Modern History. Nevertheless, several overlapping constraints result in the persistence of an image of Europe as admired friend as well as rejected foe: a lack of critical examination of the Self(s), growing populist discourses in Egypt and Europe, and the narrow confines of academia in authoritarian Egypt.
In this volume our attention has shifted between the ‘European gaze’ in the production of knowledge on the MENA and the ways in which European reality is constructed in the MENA. We did this with a core focus on knowledge production in higher educational and similar establishments, including think tanks. What has been important here is the necessity to move beyond binarisms in the ways in which Europe is represented through a MENA lens and the MENA through a European lens. This led us to pertinent issues relating to educators’ positionality, their inherent biases and their own notions of truth. The collection therefore shows that the manner in which knowledge is produced tells us a lot about the way in which specific messages about the ‘Other’ are conveyed in an educational context. Moreover, it reveals how – in all its attempts to bring the MENA under its control – Europe itself is immersed in the MENA’s world. Researchers and educators working on and in Europe and the MENA have a responsibility to help improve mutual destructive perceptions in the sense of differentiating facts and truths from falsehoods and misrepresentations. We hope this volume goes some way to assist in such endeavours.