Arabic Studies Scholar Professor Beatrice Gründler Will Receive Honorary Doctorate from Leiden University

Researcher from Freie Universität Berlin will be recognized for her work in the field of classical Arabic

Arabic studies scholar Professor Beatrice Gründler of Freie Universität Berlin will be awarded an honorary doctorate from Leiden University, the Netherlands. She will receive the accolade in recognition of her numerous contributions to the understanding of classical Arabic language, its history, literature, and sociology. The Dutch university emphasized that Gründler’s work has played a groundbreaking role in illuminating the dynamics of Arabic-Persian literary practice, its expression in the manuscript tradition, and its transformations across religious, linguistic, and cultural boundaries. Gründler will be presented with the honorary doctorate on February 8, 2023, as part of Leiden University’s Dies Natalis, an event celebrating the university’s 448th anniversary. Belgian virologist Professor Marc van Rast will also receive an honorary doctorate at the event.

Speaking on the subject of classical Arabic, Gründler says, "The sheer number of Arabic-language texts still awaiting discovery in manuscript collections means that we will have to revise a lot of what we think we know. Arabic never ceases to surprise you - its textual heritage is simply so diverse and unfailingly dynamic. It is a constant source of fascination for me. One must also keep in mind that, in terms of its role as a lingua franca, Arabic can be compared with Latin - only that Arabic is geographically more widespread and, unlike Latin, continues to play this role today."

Beatrice Gründler has been the chair of Arabic studies at the Seminar for Semitic and Arabic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin since 2014. Her main areas of research are Arabic script and book culture and the role of classical Arabic literature as a link between Asia and Europe. Gründler’s work is characterized by her exceptional philological expertise, analytical virtuosity, and use of innovative methods. Since 2015, she has been researching the collection of fables Kalila and Dimna, one of the earliest known Arabic prose texts and a central work of Arabic wisdom literature which dates back to the 8th century CE. Together with her research team, she is investigating the work’s genesis, textual history, and reception across many languages. In doing so, they are the first researchers to critically edit and comment this multilayered textual tradition, the result of which will be a digital multitext edition of the collection. Through her work and institutional commitment, Gründler has contributed greatly toward raising the profile and visibility of humanities research in Berlin and toward the further development of digital humanities as a pioneering field of research in Germany’s capital. With regard to digital humanities, she is also leading a Berlin University Alliance project focused on the building of subject-specific "data communities" to help preserve data from research carried out in non-Latin scripts.

Professor Gründler studied in Strasbourg, Tübingen, and at Harvard University, where she obtained her doctorate in 1995. She became an assistant professor for Arabic language and literature at Yale University in 1996 and was promoted to full professor in 2002. She returned to Germany in 2014 and has been teaching and researching at Freie Universität Berlin since then. She is a principal investigator at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies and the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies. She is also a board member of the Dahlem Humanities Center at Freie Universität Berlin. Gründler was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin from 2010 to 2011 and president of the American Oriental Society from 2016 to 2017. Her exceptional research has made her the recipient of multiple national and international awards. For example, in 2017 she received the prestigious Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the German Research Council (DFG), arguably the most important award in German academia, as well as an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) - the highest honor awarded by the ERC. She also received the 2019 Berlin Science Prize for her contributions to the field of Arabic studies in Berlin.

In her research and teaching, Gründler is committed to thinking globally: "There needs to be more exchange between researchers publishing in Arabic and researchers publishing in Western languages. This includes taking efforts to cultivate Arabic as a shared scientific and academic language on the international stage."