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“Orient” – A Magic Word? On the German-Jewish History of a Term

Part of the Lecture Series The Imagined Orient (Part 1, video recording available, in German)

“Orient” is a problematic magic word: it evokes biblical idylls, adventurous scenes from fairy tales and erotic fantasies, but also Western arrogance and colonial crimes. “Orient” is an ambiguous word: the term refers not only to various regions, from China to the Levant to Al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia), but also to various eras, from the start of human history to Babylonian antiquity to the present-day Middle East.

recording available

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The W. M. Blumenthal Academy is marked in green


W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
Klaus Mangold Auditorium
Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin (Opposite the Museum)

Video recording from 9 October 2023; Jewish Museum Berlin, in German

The first lecture in the series The Imagined Orient invites you to join literary scholar Kathrin Wittler (Freie Universität Berlin) in exploring the term’s broad range of connotations through the lens of German-Jewish literary and cultural history and in revealing new perspectives in today’s heated debates. The focus will be on Jewish philosophers and writers who since the 18th century have been reflecting on the meanings contained in German-language terms used to refer to said areas, such as “Orient,” “Morgenland” and “Osten,” as well as similar Hebrew terms like “misrach” and “kedem.” The lecture will also examine how such terms reflect one’s own position in Europe.

The lecture series The Imagined Orient introduces ways of understanding German-Jewish and Israeli perspectives on the term “Orient” and explores its contradictory fantasies and realities within the spectrum of modern Jewish experiences. The series takes us from the 18th century to the present over the course of six events as it presents various biographies, films, photographs, texts and art pieces.

A woman with short blond hair, black glasses and a blue sweater smiles at the camera.

Literary scholar Dr. Kathrin Wittler (FU Berlin); copyright: Bernd Brundert

Grafik: lila Farbfläche mit der grünen Aufschrift: Lecture Series.

Lecture Series The Imagined Orient

Lecture Series The Imagined Orient: Information on the event series
A Time Machine Made of Glass – E.M. Lilien’s View of the Hebrew Orient in Moses (Design for a Glass Window): Lecture with Shelley Harten, 23 Jan 2024
The Dream of a Jewish-Arab Orient: Writer M.Y. Ben-Gavriêl: Lecture with Sebastian Schirrmeister, 14 Feb 2024
The Unorthodox, Israel 2018: A feature film about the founding of the Shas Party: Film screening and discussion with Omar Kamil and Daniel Wildmann, 6 Mar 2024
Digital Content
Current page: “Orient” – A Magic Word? On the German-Jewish History of a Term: Lecture with Kathrin Wittler, video recording from 9 Oct 2023, in German
Approaching the “Orient” through pictures – the Life and Work of Jewish photographer Hermann Burchardt: Lecture with Stefan Litt, video recording from 8 Nov 2023, in German
From Yeshiva to Cairo: How Gustav Weil became a Pioneer in the Study of the Qur’an: Lecture with Susannah Heschel, video recording from 13 Dec 2023
See also
The W. Michael Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin: A Platform and Laboratory for Diverse Perspectives

Where, when, what?

  • When Mon 9 Oct 2023, 7 pm
  • Where W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
    Klaus Mangold Auditorium

    Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
    (Opposite the Museum)

    See location on map
  • Entry fee

    6 €, reduced rate 3 €

  • Language German

Video Recordings: Watch Past Museum Events (84)

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