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Nils Riecken (Alumnus BGSMCS)


Abdallah Laroui and the Location of History. An Intellectual Biography

PhD Research (2008 - 2013):

Abdallah Laroui and the Location of History. An Intellectual Biography

My PhD-dissertation inquires into notions of life, history and the political within a particular “archive” defined as the intellectual biography of the Moroccan historian, intellectual and novelist Abdallah Laroui (Arabic ʿAbdallāh al-ʿArwī, *1933). This inquiry aims to make two major interrelated interventions. First, it questions the biographical form itself, and instead uses the notion of the “archive” as an alternative methodological key to study the discursive patterns that shape the particular “archive” produced around the name “Laroui” rather than taking certain preconceived notions of the self, life and history for granted. Second, it challenges the often inherently Eurocentric ways in which the concepts of modernity, history and Islam have been conceived and studied.

My intellectual biography of Laroui proceeds in three parts. The first part examines how both Laroui and others have produced representations of his intellectual trajectory, as well as how both levels are interconnected. In the second part I study how Laroui engages with the translation of modernity into his particular context from a universalist, historical, and highly pragmatic perspective. I demonstrate that Laroui has always thought with modernity (David Scott) rather than against it, and hence brings out the political dimension of the debates on modernity, which contrasts with the culturalist perspectives that have often dominated debates on reform in the Arab region inside and outside the latter. The third part of my study is concerned with laying out, analyzing and contextualizing the main elements of what I call Laroui’s epistemology of history, which has been hitherto largely overlooked. I show that Laroui’s approach manages to analyze pre‑modern and modern, North African, Middle Eastern and Euro‑American, Islamic and non‑Islamic historical thought within one analytic frame by looking at situated epistemic frames, ways of representing time and concomitant subject positions. I claim that Laroui’s theory of time and temporalities in the context of modernity and the modern concept of history thus usefully broadens the scope of existing theories in this field. My study thus shows that Laroui’s works can be seen as instances of “Provincializing Europe” (Chakrabarty), while grounding this project in an historical-epistemological perspective.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gudrun Krämer

Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Margrit Pernau