Published on 2/20/2018

The Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI), in cooperation with the Free University of Berlin, held a three-day seminar titled “Critical Concepts in the Humanities and Social Sciences” on February 18-20, 2018. The seminar brought together prominent social scientists from Germany and the Arab world. 


In his welcoming speech, the DI Acting President and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Yasir Suleiman Malley stated that “the interdisciplinarity aspect of the social sciences and humanities, uniquely allows for the study of everything related to human beings, society and their respective histories.” Students in the social sciences and humanities, he continued, are thus trained to acquire advanced mental skills that enable them to think thoroughly in a world of renewed cognitive prospects and human issues in all their dimensions. The interest given to these sciences thus enriches societies, he stressed, since it not only contributes to their development but also enhances them.


The opening session chaired by Dr. Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the DI opened with a lecture on “Travelling Concepts: The Ethical Dimension of Scholarly Pursuits” by Dr. Islam Dayeh, Professor of Arabic Studies at the Free University of Berlin. In his lecture, Dayeh discussed the significance of critical concepts in humanities and social sciences and proceeded to tackle some of the issues that frame and direct the intended approach – both theoretically and practically –  such as the possibility of translating concepts through languages and disciplinary fields and counterbalancing between the international and local. He also discussed the assessment of the colonial and postcolonial role in the formation of this approach, and the impact of dualities of the ancient versus modern, the moral versus material and others. Dayeh attempted to explore these frames and methods, which he views as an important prerequisite for any scientific research that seeks interaction and dialogue among researchers, thus challenging the assumption that these frames work as a hindrance to knowledge and practice.


The second lecture was delivered by Dr. Ayman El-Desouky, Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Comparative Literature at the DI. In his paper "The Afterlife of Concepts: Untranslatable or Philosophemes” he discussed the importance of the critique of concepts not only when it comes to the social sciences and interdisciplinary studies, but also in terms of understanding the specificities of cultural, historical and social differences as phenomena resisting the systematic imposition of meanings. El-Desouky indicated that these cognitive potentials bearing political and cultural dimensions begin to reveal themselves when analyzing the concept as it crosses the boundaries of specialization field, as well as the linguistic and cultural boundaries. El-Desouky pointed out that the critique of concepts is important when reconsidering some aspects of the social, political and cognitive actual situation. He then discussed three main topics: the critique of concept as a cognitive interdisciplinary mechanism, and how it crosses the cognitive; linguistic and geographical boundaries; and the problematics of translating concepts as an interpretative mechanism to activate the cognitive specificity linguistically, culturally and historically.


This seminar is part of a series of specialized workshops that are to be held between the Doha Institute and the Free University of Berlin, and that are premised on the DI’s primary goal to promote Arab participation in knowledge production on both local and international levels.