“Universities are institutions in which a society articulates its collective worldview“ – 5in10 with Jonathan Kriener

Jonathan Kriener. Picture: private.

Jonathan Kriener joined the Orient-Institut Beirut in October 2015 as research associate. He graduated with a doctoral degree in Oriental Studies from Ruhr University Bochum. In his thesis, he explored secular and religious conceptions of state and society taught at Lebanese schools. He previously held fellowships at Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut in Essen, Marburg’s Center for Near and Middle East Studies, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, at the Orient Institute Beirut in 2010/11, at Tübingen University and most recently at the Ruhr University Bochum. Jonathan led the research project „Local, Regional and International ‚Borrowing and Lending‘ in Social Sciences and Humanities Department at Egyptian and Lebanese Universities“, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and conducted at the Ruhr University in cooperation with the OIB.

How do you explain your current research projects to your students?

My research project tries to qualitatively assess the impact of a new institution, the Doctoral School for Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences, which was established ten years ago at the Lebanese University. The Lebanese University, founded between 1951 and 1967, is the largest university in Lebanon and the only one that is owned by the state. In my current research project, I ask how this institution influences the connectivity of doctoral students with their academic community in other parts of Lebanon, the Arab World or globally, their mobility and their body of research literature and, hence, their approaches to their studies.

What were academic or personal inspirations that led to your current research?

Universities attract my interest as institutions in which a society articulates its collective worldview and integrates – or excludes – new perspectives. I realized the centrality of the university for the understanding of a polity during my work on the school system. Since then, i. e. 2011, my main research interest was about why the social sciences and humanities work the way they work. The university is the place were new knowledge in most areas of public life – education, law, administration, welfare and many more – is certified, canonized, and sometimes also produced.

How are you ‘doing’ research? What are your most important research methods (interviews, archives, excavations…?)

The main sources crucial to my project are interviews with professors and students, public debate in newspapers, and legislative documents. I hope to learn from them what intentions were tied to the reform of doctoral studies in the humanities, and about the ways in which studies were and are pursued. The relevant archives are difficult to access in Lebanon, and hence I will not be able to tell a lot about how administrative decisions were made. Depending on what the interviews with former doctoral students will show, I might analyze a sample of their dissertations in order to illustrate the conditions under which they studied.

Which publications or academic events (workshops, conferences, lecture series…) did inspire you recently?

I enjoy attending a lecture series at the Lebanese Association for Educational Studies named Liqāʾ al-Yawm al-Sābiʿ. The members of this association are Lebanese and Arab educationalists with international experience and still very particular and undogmatic Middle Eastern perspectives.

Do you think that academic mobility changes the way in which research projects are conceptualized? What are your personal experiences in this regard?

Definitely. You learn things abroad that you cannot learn at home. This is especially true for the ways of representing research. The researchers trained in the Anglo-Saxon system are better versed in the theoretical literature as well as in academic writing and rhetoric than graduates from Arab and European universities usually are.


Citation: Jonathan Kriener, “Universities are institutions in which a society articulates its collective worldview” – 5in10 with Jonathan Kriener, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 20.02.2018, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/9023.

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