From Wissenschaft des Judentums to Wissenschaft des Islams: Eugen Mittwoch between Jewish and Islamic Studies
In the course of the nineteenth century, “Oriental studies” evolved as an independent academic discipline. While these developments primarily involved scholars who identified as Christians, Jewish scholars, too, adopted a critical historical/philological approach towards the Jewish literary tradition and its history, an approach that became known as Wissenschaft des Judentums. Although the close relationship between the Wissenschaft des Judentums and Oriental studies is widely recognized, far more scholarship has been produced on the earlier periods—up until the final decades of the nineteenth century—than on later periods of the Wissenschaft des Judentums—up until 1933. This study focuses on the Jewish orientalists who were trained in Berlin, the leading center of Oriental studies in Germany, shortly before or during the first decade of the twentieth century, and who also attended one of the local Jewish seminaries, the Hochschule or the Rabbinerseminar, two institutions with a critical number of faculty with a solid training in Semitica and Arabica. Unlike their Jewish predecessors, they were often more inclined towards Islamica than Judaica and they often replaced the ideals of the Wissenschaft des Judentums with those of Zionism. Their career paths also differed from those of earlier Jewish orientalists. In order to redress the neglect of this period in scholarship, and to allow for a prosopographic analysis of educational and career patterns, of opportunities, choices, and decisions, the respective scholarly trajectories need to be reconstructed for as many individual cases as possible. Focusing on these understudied figures will not only lead to a deeper understanding of Wissenschaft des Judentums during these later periods, but will also allow for a better grasp of the role of Jewish scholars and their contribution to the field of Oriental studies during the first half of the twentieth century. With this purpose in mind, the second part of this paper is devoted to one of the representatives of the later generation of Wissenschaft des Judentums, the Orientalist Eugen Mittwoch (d. 1942), who is credited with having initiated a new direction in Islamic studies within Orientalism.
Sabine Schmidtke, "From Wissenschaft des Judentums to Wissenschaft des Islams: Eugen Mittwoch between Jewish and Islamic Studies," Historial Interactions of Religious Cultures 1 (2024), pp. 103-145