“Heidelberg is a perfect combination of historical setting, intellectual academic work, and nature”
Dr. Anastasia Grib, Islam Scientist and General Editor, St. Petersburg/Russia
Postdoctoral Fellow at the Collaborative Research Centre “Material Text Cultures” in 2013
When, how long and in what position did you stay at Heidelberg University?
My cooperation with Heidelberg University began in late 2012, when I was awarded a postdoctoral grant by the Centre of Material Text Cultures (MTK), for my research on African Qur’anic tablets. In March 2013 I gave a public lecture and organized a full day workshop about the Material culture of the Qur’an; I spoke about various aspects of manuscript production in the Islamic world, including calligraphy, illumination, materials, tools, and also ritual functions and indigenous practices. Still later, in November 2013, I presented a paper at a conference organized by the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien (HJS). And finally now in 2017, 4 years after my postdoc, with the support of the HAIreconnect program, it has become possible for me to return an academic reunion with my former colleagues.
Why did you decide in favor of the Ruperto Carola?
The university Collaborative Centre for Material Text Cultures is a great interdisciplinary research centre, one of a kind in the world. It studies all aspects of text production, past to present. It is a platform for dialogue between scholars with very broad interests and disciplines: epigraphy, papyrology, philology, archaeology, history, philosophy, anthropology, etc. Since my research has always been interdisciplinary in nature (thus, I combine Islamic art history and anthropology), that sort of an interaction has been very fruitful for developing and presenting my ideas. I am very pleased to have learned on this visit that MTK continues to make great impact with its research publications and outreach.
What have you learned so far in Heidelberg? What experiences have been particularly valuable?
Besides valuable interaction and support from my colleagues at MTK and HJS, I have truly fell in love with the city. Heidelberg is a unique place, the heart of which, I would say, is the castle, the spirit is the beautiful location along Neckar river, and the blood is the University with its profound scholarly tradition. It has a very inspiring atmosphere and quietness about it. I was thrilled to discover such a perfect combination of the historical setting, intellectual academic work, and nature.
How did your career continue after your time in Heidelberg?
After extensive international travel, I have recently returned to St Petersburg where I work as General Editor for the Guide to Islamic Calligraphy, a collaborative project with the State Hermitage Museum. I also continue my project about African Qur’anic boards, It has become much larger in scope and so I am prepared to write a comprehensive study of that tradition in the Islamic world -- and possibly beyond.
What is your view of the German scientific system in comparison to that of your home country or to that of other countries where you may have conducted research?
I have had an opportunity to do academic work in USA, UK, and Russia and I have also seen how things work in Australia. The aspects I appreciate most about your German system are excellent organization, emphasis on methodology, openness to new ideas, and research freedom. It also helps for international scholars like myself that English language is commonly used, although, had I stayed a bit longer, I would have definitely brushed up my German. In terms of my own individual track as a scholar, Heidelberg was probably the best place for me so far.
In your opinion, what is the importance of international exchanges for researchers?
I strongly believe that we need more international programs and more exchange visits, so that scholars and students from various countries can learn about each other’s approaches and perspectives. This is particularly true about my own general field in humanities where we also have strong national traditions. All the brightest ideas emerge in a situation of cultural dialogue and exchange; just look at the example of Germany and Russia in the last 300 years or so.
Do you recommend a research visit to Heidelberg University to colleagues in your scientific network?
Definitely, no question about it. I recommend both shorter trips for conferences and longer research stays, particularly for doctoral and postdoctoral students.
Why did you apply to HAIreconnect and what did you do during your stay in Heidelberg?
I was just looking for an opportunity to come again to Heidelberg to discuss my current project with colleagues at MTK and HJS when the program announcement came out. So I am really grateful for this generous present. During my stay, I gave a public lecture and took part in the general meeting of MTK. I also attended a conference and a public lecture at JHS and I had a number of very productive meetings with colleagues there. It was also wonderful that my research article, which I wrote in Heidelberg, was published in a special issue of the MTK series.
What is your opinion of the opportunities made available through the Research Alumni Network?
The network is very helpful; I have learned about the HAIreconnect program through it. I receive announcements on regular basis, so the university is very much part of my academic life. I truly feel myself connected, which is not what commonly happens after you graduate or leave the place. The Ambassador program is another great undertaking. I will now serve as an ambassador in my home city of St Petersburg. I was very pleased to find out that we have about 24 Heidelberg Alumni, whom I am hoping to meet.
During her stay in Heidelberg Anastasia Grib drew some pictures of the city: