Dozent Dr. Samuli Schielke

Senior Research Fellow

Phone: +49-(0)30-80307-217 Personal website:
Regional focus: Egypt, Arabic speaking countries, translocal relations between Egypt, Arab Gulf states and Western Europe

My research circles around questions about personal trajectories, class and global inequality, morality and religion, and economic growth, as well as the relationship between intimate lives, literary imagination, political economy, and moral strivings. I'm also interested in the relationship between destiny and freedom, and in general I'm curious about contradictions, ambiguities and shifts in human lives. I'm interested in understanding powerful structures and discourses from the point of view of living a life marked by them. The concrete topics I am currently looking at include migration and work, love and marriage, moral and political conflicts and ambiguities, literary imagination and sociality, the way humans relate with God and destiny, and most importantly the following:

The Dream of Stability: Egyptian migrations and homes in the age of growth

At the heart of this project is a central paradox of the age of globalisation: the possibility of a stable, normal life at home relies on destabilising processes of growth, expansion, and mobility.

Rural-urban and international migrations in and from the Global South are often socially conservative projects: strivings to actualize conventional ways and ideas of a good life. Generational continuity and reproduction are central to such dreams of a normal life. Becoming an adult man in Egypt is a path of largely pre-determined steps such as financial independence, housing, marriage, offspring, and their education. This is the prime nexus of social reproduction, and at the same time also the context where generational shifts and transformations are likely to occur. “Stability” (istiqrar) describes the dream of completing these steps and being able to rest. Those steps reproduce moral ideals of the society, and yet their completion under conditions of growth and mobility also results in social change from one generation to another.

This project follows trajectories of men and fewer women from northern Egypt to sites of migration in Arab Gulf states (especially Dubai) and in Europe. Much of their home region will become uninhabitable by the end of the 21st century due to climate change. At the same time, most of them invest their savings into homes in their regions of origin. Aim of this project is to understand how people from regions like northern Egypt live with such and other contradictions that they cannot solve. At the focus of inquiry are three complications: To build a good life at home, it is often necessary migrate; stability in a capitalist economy requires growth, which is an unstable state; and spiritual, moral and economic values and strivings are part of the same reality but often cannot be reconciled.

Key publication from this project: 

Samuli Schielke. 2020. Migrant Dreams: Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. 

Dozent Dr. Samuli Schielke
Dozent Dr. Samuli Schielke


Since 2009
Research fellow at ZMO.
Since 2009
Adjunct lecturer in MA Visual and Media Anthropology and BA Social and Cultural Anthropology programmes at Freie Universität Berlin.
2018 - 2019
Visiting fellow (part-time) in the ERC project “Comparative Anthropologies of Revolutionary Politics” at University College London.
2014 - 2017
Visiting scholar (part-time) in the Futuristic Studies Research Unit at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt.
2016 - 2017
Postdoctoral researcher at Berlin Graduate School for Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin.
2010 - 2014
Head of the junior research group “In Search of Europe: Considering the Possible in Africa and the Middle East” at ZMO; head of research for the interdisciplinary art exhibition „In Search of Europe? Equals in an Unequal World“ curated by Daniela Swarowsky, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin 2013-2014.
Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Joensuu, Finland, and ISIM in Leiden, the Netherlands, as a member of the project “What makes a good Muslim: Contested fields of religious normativity in the age of global Islam”.
2006 - 2007
Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies and the DFG Collaborative Research Centre 295, sub-project “Saintly places and saint veneration in Egypt and Ethiopia”, University of Mainz, Germany.
2001 - 2005
PhD researcher (assistant in opleiding) at International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden, Netherlands.
2000 - 2001
Graduate assistant (wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) at Orientalisches Seminar at the University of Bonn.
1991 - 1999
Unemployed, waiter, mover, odd-job man in Finland and Germany, freelance assistant for German television channels in Finland, student assistant in Germany.


Title of docent (equivalent with German Habilitation) in social anthropology, University of Tampere, Finland.
Doctor of social sciences, University of Amsterdam, graded cum laude (in the Netherlands, this grade is granted to the top 5% of PhD theses).
1994 - 2000
Magister Artium in Islamic studies, philosophy and political science at the University of Bonn, Germany.



2021, Shared Margins: An Ethnography with Writers in Alexandria after the Revolution. (ZMO Studien, vol 41) with Mukhtar Saad Shehata Berlin: De Gruyter

2020, Migrant Dreams: Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

2017, حتى ينتهي النفط: الهجرة والأحلام في ضواحي الخليج (Until the end of oil: Migration and dreams in the suburbs of the Gulf; in Arabic). Transl. Amr Khairy. Cairo: Al-Sifsafa. [*Arabic Translation of an earlier manuscript version of Migrant Dreams].

2015, Egypt in the Future Tense: Hope, Frustration and Ambivalence, Before and After 2011. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

2012, The Perils of Joy: Contesting Mulid Festivals in Contemporary Egypt, Syracuse, NY.: Syracuse University Press.

2011, هتتأخر على الثورة! دفتر يونيات عالم أنثروبولوجيا شهد الثورة (You’ll be late for the revolution: The diary of an anthropologist who witnessed the revolution; in Arabic), transl. Amr Khairy, Cairo: al-Nafisa li-l-‘ulum wa-l-adab.  

Edited Volumes and Special Issue Editorships (Selection)

2013, Daniela Swarowsky, Samuli Schielke, Andrea Heister (eds.). In Search of Europe? Art and Research in Collaboration: An Experiment. Heijningen: Jap Sam.

2013, Susanne Dahlgren and Samuli Schielke (eds.). Special issue “Moral Ambiguities and Muslim Lives.” Contemporary Islam7, 1.

2012, Knut Graw and Samuli Schielke (eds.). The Global Horizon: Expectations of Migration in Africa and the Middle East. Leuven: Universitaire Pers Leuven.

2012, Samuli Schielke and Liza Debevec (eds.). Ordinary Lives and Grand Schemes: An Anthropology of Everyday Religion. New York: Berghahn.

Peer-reviewed Articles in Scientific Journals, Edited Volumes, and Series (Selection)

2023, "Between home and accommodation: Vignettes of migration and housing in the Arab region", In: Paolo Boccagni ed., Handbook on Home and Migration, Elgar.

2020. “Where is Alexandria? Myths of the city and the anti-city after cosmopolitanism.” In: Hilal Alkan and Nazan Maksudyan (eds.), Urban Neighbourhood Formations: Materialities, Networks and Contested Places. London: Routledge.

2020, “A bigger prison: Egyptian migrations and the experience of limited movement.” Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 44, 2: 40-58.

2019, “Is prose poetry a conspiracy against the Noble Qurʼan? Poetics, humans and God in contemporary Egypt.” Historical Social Research 44, 3: 101–126.

2019, “The power of God: Four proposals for an anthropological engagement.” ZMO Programmatic Texts 13.

2018, Schielke, Samuli. "Islam. Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Anthropology."

2018, “A city of walls: A photo essay on writing on walls in Alexandria, 2011-2017.” Égypte Monde Arabe17 (special issue “Everyday Alexandria,” ed. by Youssef El Chazli): 157–193.

2017, “There will be blood: Expectation and ethics of violence during Egypt's stormy season.” Middle Eastern Critique26, 3: 205–220, DOI: 10.1080/19436149.2017.1336023

2016, Samuli Schielke and Mukhtar Saad Shehata. “The Writing of Lives: An ethnography of writers and their milieus in Alexandria.” ZMO Working Papers 17.

2012, “Being a non-believer in a time of Islamic revival: Trajectories of doubt and certainty in contemporary Egypt,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44, 2: 301–320.

2012, “Living in the Future Tense: Aspiring for world and class in provincial Egypt”, in The Global Middle Class: Theorizing through Ethnography, Carla Freeman, Rachel Heiman, and Mark Liechty (eds.), Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, pp. 31–56.

 2009, “Ambivalent commitments: Troubles of morality, religiosity and aspiration among young Egyptians,” Journal of Religion in Africa39, 2: 158–185.

 2009, “Being good in Ramadan: Ambivalence, fragmentation and the moral self in the lives of young Egyptians,”Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute15, S1: S24–S40.

2008, “Policing Ambiguity: Muslim saints-day festivals and the moral geography of public space in Egypt,” American Ethnologist35, 4: 539–552.

2008, “Boredom and Despair in Rural Egypt,” Contemporary Islam2, 3: 251–270.

Articles and other Publications without peer review

2019, “Wie, es gab eine Revolution? Niederlage, Mythenbildung und Fortsetzung in Ägypten nach 2011.”  In: Martin Sabrow (ed.), Revolution! Verehrt - verhasst - vergessen (Helmstedter Colloquien; 21). Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag.

2016, “أين تقع الإسكندرية؟ أساطير المدينة والمدينة النقيض في العصر ما بعد الكوزمزوبوليتانية” [Where is Alexandria? Myths of the City and the Anti-City after Cosmopolitanism; in Arabic] Translated by Abdelrehim Youssef. Tara al-Bahr 3: 12–27. [*Arabic Translation of an unpublished manuscript version of “Where is Alexandria”(accepted for publication peer reviewed article)]

2015. “In defence of our universal double standards.” Allegra Lab, 7 December.

2015. “Living with unresolved differences: Reply to Fadil and Fernando.” HAU: Journal for Ethnographic Theory vol. 5, nr. 2, 89–92.

2011-2014. “You’ll be late for the revolution!” - An Anthropologist’s Diary of the Egyptian Revolution and What Followed. Blog, 30 January 2011 – 3 June 2013.

2012. Samuli Schielke and Aymon Kreil, "عيد الحب في مصر: قراءة في الجدل الديني والثقافي" [Valentine's Day in Egypt: A study in the religious and cultural debate; in Arabic] (Marasid: kurrasat ‘ilmiya; vol. 7), Alexandria: Bibliotheca Alexandrina. 

2010. “Second thoughts about the anthropology of Islam, or how to make sense of grand schemes in everyday life.” ZMO Working Papers 2,  

2009. “The Provinces, the Capital of Cairo”, in Cairoscape: Images, Imagination and Imaginary of a Contemporary Mega City, Marina Sorbello and Antje Weitzel (eds.), Berlin: Argobooks.


-العاصمة السرية The Secret Capital. Documentary film by Mukhtar Shehata and Samuli Schielke. Egypt 2013, 28 min. 

الناحية التانية The Other Side. Short film by Mukhtar Shehata and Samuli Schielke. Egypt/the Netherlands 2010. 

Messages from Paradise #1: Egypt-Austria: About the Permanent Longing for Elsewhere. Idea Daniela Swarowsky, direction/camera/sound Daniela Swarowsky and Samuli Schielke, interviews Samuli Schielke, editing Arthur Bueno. Austria/the Netherlands 2009.

Exhibitions (Selection)

“In Search of Europe? Equals in an Unequal World.” Head of research; participation with materials and photographs. Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin, 2 November 2013 – 12 January 2014. 

“الحيطة” (The Wall). El Dokan, Alexandria, 12 March - 6 April 2012.

“المواطنون” (The Citizens). With Basem Abu Gweili.  El-Nahda scientific and cultural renaissance association, Cairo, 2008 and El Dokan, Alexandria, March 2010.

Participation in the photo exhibition “Van Gastarbeider tot Allochtoon” (from migrant worker to allochtonous) with the photo series “Marokkaan in het Oude Noorden” (Moroccan in Oude Noorden), commissioned by Daniela Swarowsky and ZIM (Zwaanshals in Motion), Rotterdam 22 April - 30 June 2006.

Photo exhibition “Frommigheid en Plezier” (Piety and fun), ZiM (Zwaanshals in Motion), Rotterdam 29 April – 13 May 2005.

Talks (Selection)

"The power of God: Four proposals for anthropological engagement.” Keynote lecture at the workshop The 'Ethical' and the 'everyday': Interrogating Analytical Turns for/in the Study of Islam and Muslims in Europe, Woolf Institute, Cambridge, 29-30 November 2018. 

“Secular Powers and Heretic Undercurrents in a God-Fearing World: The Case of Egypt and the Middle East.” Keynote lecture at the Nonreligion+Secularity Research Network biannual conference, King's College London, 5-6 July 2018. 

“قصة علم الإنسان” (The story of anthropology). Zomra cultural salon, Jesuit cultural centre, Alexandria, 20 February 2017. 

“Stability as a utopia: Revisiting Egyptian youth as they grow older, and the future tense as time passes.” Aarhus University, 21 September 2016. 

“Dreaming of the inevitable: How money, morals and destiny come together when young Egyptians search for love and marriage.” Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations, Boston University, 8 February 2016 

“Anthropology of and for revolutions.” Plenary presentation at  EASA Biennial Conference, Tallinn, 1 August 2014. 

“On Freedom, Destiny, and Consequences.” Social Anthropology Senior Research Seminar, University of Cambridge, 16 May 2014. 

“The Secret Capitals: The Egyptian Countryside after the Revolution.” With Mukhtar Shehata. Images of Resistance in the New Middle East, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, 19 April 2013. 

“Egypt Now:  Fantasy, Action, and the Possible.” University of North Carolina Charlotte, 6 December 2011. 

“Valta, Normaalius, Vallankumous” (Power, Normality, Revolution). Finnish Anthropological Association, Helsinki 8 February 2011; Tampere University, Tampere (Finland) 15 February 2011. 

Organization of Panels and Workshops (Selection)

18 - 19 October 2019
“Beyond Text: Anthropological Approaches to Literature in Europe and Middle East.” With Giedre Sabaseviciute. Workshop at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
11 - 12 December 2015
“The Means of Love in the Arab World: Pragmatics Beyond Norms and Transgressions”. With Aymon Kreil, Zakaria Rhani and Maria Malmström. International Workshop at Centre Jacques-Berque, Rabat
20 November 2015
“Unsettling normalization and normalizing crisis”. With Aymon Kreil and Paola Abenante. Panel at American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver
20 August 2014
“Limits of discourse.” With Paola Abenante. Panel at WOCMES, Ankara
31 July 2014
“On the margins of history: Keeping a step aside of crisis.” With Aymon Kreil. Panel at EASA biannual conference, Tallinn
6 - 8 March 2013
“Still in search of Europe? The possible in arts, ideologies and travel from Africa and the Middle East.” With Bettina Gräf. Workshop of the In Search of Europe research group, Zentrum Moderner Orient
14 - 15 December 2012
”The Trouble of Love in the Arab World: Romance, marriage, and the shaping of intimate lives.” With Corinne Fortier, Aymon Kreil and Irène Maffi. Workshop at the University of Lausanne
3 December 2011
“The Ambiguity of Great Expectations: Ethnographic Approaches to Living a Life in the Middle East.” With Paola Abenante. Panel at the MESA meeting, Washington, DC
11 - 13 March 2009
“Migration at Home: Migratory Imaginations and Imaginary Cosmopolitanisms in Africa and Beyond.” With Knut Graw. Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin
8 - 10 October 2008
“Moral Communities, Moral Ambiguities.” With Susanne Dahlgren and Dorothea Schulz. Workshop at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Helsinki

Media Articles (Selection)

New Book Network: Migrant Dreams - Egyptian Workers in the Gulf States, Von Samuli Schielke, 22.06.2021.

DW: عندي حكاية - صامولي شيلكه: باحث أنثروبولوجي مولع بمصر, Interview mit Samuli Schielke, 16.05.2021.

zenith: Es geht nicht um Hass. Von Samuli Schielke, 18. Juli 2018. 

Al-Monitor: Egypt's millennials turn to Sufism. Von Yasmin El-Beih mit Samuli Schielke, 11. Juli 2018. 

Cairo Observer: In Love With The Ugly Face Of Alexandria. Von Samuli Schielke, 23. Februar 2017. 

Al Araby TV: عصير الكتب│ لقاء مع الباحث وعالم الاجتماع الفنلندي صامولي شيلكه | الجزء الثاني[Gespräch mit dem Sozialwissenschaftler Samuli Schielke bei ‘Aseer al-Kutub, 2 Teile; auf Arabisch]. Gespräch von Belal Fadl mit Samuli Schielke, 30. Dezember 2017. Teil 1 | Teil 2.

Zenith: Keine Tränen für Rabea. Wie konnte es zu der entgrenzten Gewalt im Sommer 2013 kommen? Essay von Samuli Schielke, Ausgabe 03/2015.

RadioEins: Ägypten: Was wird aus dem Protest? Interview mit Samuli Schielke, 8. Februar 2011.

Deutschlandradio: Ägyptische "Gerontokratie" am Ende. Interview mit Samuli Schielke von Dieter Kassel, 7. Februar 2011. 

YLE TV1: TV-Uutiset. Interview mit Samuli Schielke, 3. Februar 2011. 

Teaching Activities

Since winter term 2016 (annual)
Anthropology of Islam. Session in doctoral seminar “Critical text and practice”, Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie Universität Berlin
Since 2010 (annual)
Anthropology and Photography. MA in Visual and Medial Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin
Since summer term 2011 and winter term 2014 (two courses annually)
Theory of what? Part 1 and Part 2. MA supervision classes in MA Visual and Media Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin
November 2014 - February 2017
Anthropological readings on our contemporary world (in Arabic). Study circle at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Winter term 2016/17
Kapitalismus als Kulturelle Praxis und Lebensgefühl. BA in Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Modul "Wirtschaft und Sozialstruktur”, Freie Universität Berlin
Summer term 2013
Ist eine bessere Welt möglich? Hoffnung, Veränderung und unbeabsichtigte Folgen. BA Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Modul “Globalisation, Kultur, Medien”
Winter term 2010/11
Glaube und Unglaube. BA in Ethnologie, Module AM1 & AM2, Universität zu Köln
Summer term 2009
Das Unsichtbare und das Mögliche: Ethnografien des Imaginären. BA in Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie. Modul “Kosmologien und lokales Wissen”, Freie Universität Berlin
Summer term 2007
Visuelle Ethnologie. Hauptseminar, Institut für Anthropologie und Afrikastudien, Universität Mainz
Summer term 2006
Moral, Religion und Politik in Afrika. Hauptseminar, Institut für Anthropologie und Afrikastudien, Universität Mainz


  • European Association of Social Anthropologists
  • German Anthropological Association
  • Finnish Anthropological Association


  • Finnish: Native
  • German: Full fluency
  • English: Full fluency
  • Arabic: Full fluency
  • Dutch: Upper intermediacy
  • French: Basic to intermediate
  • Swedish: Basic to intermediate