In its main BMBF-funded research programme, the centre comprised four interdisciplinary research units, with twenty-two researchers working on different historical and cultural aspects of the "Muslim World" since the 18th century. Building on ZMO’s preceding programmes, Abgrenzung und Aneignung in der Globalisierung (1996-2000) and Translokalität (2000-2007), the first phase (2008-2013) of the programme Muslim Worlds – World of Islam? tracked the global condition of Muslim life worlds in a more differentiated manner. Substantial contributions to academic debates have come out of this (see ZMO’s Programmatic Texts as well as Freitag/von Oppen 2005).
From such a perspective, which understands itself as part of an on-going critique of Eurocentrism, the research programme studied Conceptions, Practices and Crises of the Global in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Through empirically based and conceptually engaged projects, it explored specific themes within the wider field of tension between Muslim Worlds, understood as the life worlds of Muslims or members of other communities in Islamicate contexts, and the World of Islam, constructed by a religious tradition with unifying claims but diverse interpretations and practices.
The research agenda includes capturing the flows and dynamics of transregional interaction and connectivity that have characterised Muslim Worlds in recent historical periods and under diverse conditions – while also including the ruptures, conflicts and crises that these processes entail. This allows to trace the tensions between global concepts and lived practices, which may emphasize very different sets of norms, and to investigate, where necessary, concrete and diverse empirical settings in their relation to overarching normative demands upon Muslims in different political, social, and economic contexts.
By way of four interlaced research units, the programme explored themes and issues that have emerged as relevant and particularly promising in the discussions of the previous research programmes. The four fields investigate