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The Ampel Coalition's Foreign Policy Challenges

Jack Janes

Abstract

German-American relations have been impacted by the war in Ukraine for reasons that have to do with domestic and foreign policy challenges. Germany is struggling with its responsibilities to increased expectations in Washington and within the European Union. The responses in Berlin to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have resulted in tensions within Europe as Germany tries to shape its policies around what Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the Zeitenwende (turning point) of German foreign policy. The u.s. has also signaled its expectations that Germany needs to be a partner in sharing the burden of confronting Russian threats in Ukraine and Europe. Another challenge for German-American relations is emerging around relations with China, which may generate friction across the Atlantic as the United States seeks to confront China on the global stage while Germany remains tightly connected to China as its largest trade partner. How and why Germany and the United States need each other is in transition.

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Inertia and Reactiveness in Germany's Russia Policy

From the 2021 Federal Election to the Invasion of Ukraine in 2022

Jonas J. Driedger

Abstract

Despite signs that Russia was preparing an invasion of Ukraine, the newly elected German government stayed with pre-existing approaches that involved engagement and the threat of limited sanctions. However, in February 2022, just before the invasion began, Germany blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system, announced weapon deliveries to Ukraine, and massively increased defense spending. This article shows that inertia and reactiveness heavily influenced the timing, nature, and extent of this massive shift in Germany's Russia policy. German leaders continued the existing policy in part because it had been formed by still influential figures and was in line with societal views. However, at the dawn of the invasion, the failure of previous policies had become undeniable, pressure from Ukraine and nato allies peaked, and societal views finally shifted. Reacting to this untenable situation, key figures in the German elite pushed through a series of measures that nato allies and Ukraine had long demanded.

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Case Study

The ‘Deep Believer’ 30 Years On, 1926–2008

Reinhold L. Loeffler

In my book Islam in Practice (1988), I showed the great variety of religious beliefs in Sisakht, a village of Luri-speaking tribal people in the province of Kohgiluye/Boir Ahmad in Iran. I gave one of the 21 men I presented, Mr. Husseinkhan Sayadi, the epithet ‘Deep Believer’ to reflect his firm belief in God and Shi'a traditions. We became close friends, and revisiting his life again 14 years after his death, I will continue to use his first name to reflect and honour our friendship.

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Introduction

France in the Age of Covid-19

Éric Touya de Marenne

What does Covid-19 reveal about France today? What are its effects on culture, politics, and society? One of the contentions of this special issue is that measuring its impacts takes on full significance when approached in the context of other crises that have affected the nation in recent years. These include growing inequality and social and political division, and the rise of populism. This special issue examines how these existing predicaments shed light on the impact of Covid-19. It also seeks to explore ways through which we may give meaning to this tragic moment in French history through art and the public humanities.

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Introduction

Religious Rituals’ Reflection of Current Social Conditions in the Middle East

Ingvild Flaskerud

Abstract

Peoples’ practising of religious ritual is never isolated from the social and political setting in which it takes place. It is therefore inevitable that ritual practice somehow contends with the current social context. Examining Muslim ritual practices across the Middle East, the authors of the articles in this special issue discuss religious ritual as a tool for accomplishing something in the real world. They provide examples of which social concerns are addressed in ritual practice, who is involved and how the ritual practice is affected. The studies show that current ritual practices are embedded in multi-actor social spaces, and they also reflect on the ritual as a multi-actor space where the power to define ritual form, meaning and importance shifts between different categories of actors.

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Introduction

A Zeitenwende Indeed

Eric Langenbacher

With Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the new coalition government's resulting reorientation of German foreign and security policy—an epochal shift that jettisoned 30, even 50 years of policy—the world immediately changed. The consequences and spillover effects of this paradigm shift or Zeitenwende will take years to become truly apparent and will rightfully seize the attention of academics, pundits, and policy analysts. Nevertheless, we should also not neglect other events from the recent past, namely, the most important election in the world in 2021. The September election for the German Bundestag was the most eventful, surprising, and momentous in that country for almost two decades, with an outcome that has already greatly affected Germany, Europe, and the world. It was also a novel election and outcome in several ways: it was the first election since 1953 without an incumbent chancellor running for re-election, and it resulted in the first three-party coalition government in over half a century.

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Invisible and Visible Shi'a

Ashura, State and Society in Kuwait

Thomas Fibiger

Abstract

The Twelver Shi'a in Kuwait constitute a minority amongst the country's population. Compared to the situation of Shi'a in the region, they enjoy a good position economically and politically. While this political aspect of their identity frequently has been highlighted in scholarly literature, little has been written about how Shi'a ritual life relates to the political and economic spheres of social life. In this article, I discuss the performance of the annual Shi'a Ashura ritual in relation to the political status of the Shi'as in Kuwait. I show that the Shi'as’ public enactment of the ritual is multifaceted and revolves around the issue of ritual visibility. Ritual performance demonstrates compliance with as well as contestations of state authorities’ identity policy regarding religion and nationality, contestations within the Shi'a community, and contentions in relation to other groups in Kuwait.

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Lu Yang

An Artist in Transformation

Ari Heinrich, Livia Monnet, and Gabriel Remy-Handfield

Lu Yang (陆扬, 1984) is a critically acclaimed new media artist and rising star based in Shanghai, China, who works across film, games, performance, and installation. His work has been exhibited at numerous biennales and exhibitions in China and around the world, including the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. He has collaborated on videos with high-profile rock bands like The 1975, and one of his videos featured in a 2020 fashion show of the Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning.1 Lu Yang has also won prestigious awards, including the BMW Art Journey Culture award in 2019, and Deutsche Bank's Artist of the Year award in 2022, and the artist was anthologized in Barbara London's critical history of video and the digital arts, Video Art: The First Fifty Years (2020), as well as in Dominique Moulon's Chefs d'oeuvre du 21e siècle : l'art à l'ère digitale (Masterworks of the 21st Century: Art in the Digital Era, 2021). In contemporary art and popular culture, Lu Yang is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Open access

Mourning at New Year's Day (Nowruz)

Cultural Practice against Ideology

Reinhold L. Loeffler and Erika Friedl

Abstract

As Persian Muslims, Iranians observe Old Persian rituals in the solar calendar, such as the spring equinox, as well as Islamic rituals in the lunar calendar, such as mourning the martyr's death of Imam Huseyn. In 2006, the dates coincided, causing distress as people tried to combine the demands of a joyful, life-affirming tradition with that of a religious ideology that allowed no compromise. Living in a tribal village at that time, we recorded people's reactions and their solutions to the problem of doing right by both the demands of their tradition and those of a government-enforced ideology of martyrdom that moved the affair from the cultural and practical plane to the political and ideological plane.

Open access

‘Pilgrimage of the Poor’

Religious, Social and Political Dimensions of a Moroccan Local Pilgrimage

Kholoud Al-Ajarma

Abstract

Pilgrimage destinations other than the Ka'aba in Mecca are a contested subject amongst Muslims. For the Moroccan ‘poor’, who are unable to perform the Meccan pilgrimage, a local pilgrimage known as the Hajj al-Miskin or the ‘Pilgrimage of the Poor’ is performed as an alternative spiritual journey. In this article, I discuss this pilgrimage at two sites in Morocco. Approaching Islam as a lived religion, I discuss how Moroccans navigate between religious considerations and the realities of everyday life. I argue that the Pilgrimage of the Poor plays a key role in the lives of the pilgrims at both the individual and community level. The debate about the Pilgrimage of the Poor reveals how different groups of Muslims negotiate their positions with respect to different interpretations of the global discursive tradition of Islam, applying these interpretations within their local context.