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Prof. Dr. Gudrun Krämer

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Religion, law, politics and society in modern Islam

Islam, Modernity and secularity reconsidered. The case of Egypt

The concept of secularity is deeply relevant to Islamicate contexts. Here, it is not so much the separation of church, or clergy, and state that matters but rather the relationship between Islamic normativity (Shariʿa), state, and society or community. Contrary to widespread perceptions, religion, state, and other domains were functionally differentiated in the Islamicate Middle East even prior to the advent of colonialism and the modern territorial state in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the secularisation of law, education, and politics that occurred in the process of modernisation was, as a rule, not premised on principled secularity, or secularism, as an instrument to secure social and political cohesion in a period of political crisis and transition. It remained contested, especially under the auspices of identity politics in general, and Islamisation in particular. I hope to further develop and refine these assumptions through a study of modern Egypt with its complex, and occasionally perplexing, configuration of secularity: Egypt is often portrayed as a deeply religious society, a feature projected back into Pharaonic times, predating Christianity and Islam. Like any other imaginaire, this one is socially constructed. But it is also supported by empirical evidence showing that religion is indeed woven into the texture of everyday life and that most Egyptians not only consider themselves religious but also practise their religion. The modern Egyptian state has been secular in the sense of non-clerical, but it has not been neutral; it has not granted equal access, equal respect, and equal support to all religious communities within its territory. Rather, through privileging Sunni Muslim and, to a lesser extent, Coptic Christian practices and institutions, it has projected itself as the guardian of Egyptian identity. Still, it has not been the prime agent behind the Islamisation of public and private life, ranging from politics to business to the arts and media, which has marked the country since the 1990s, thereby multiplying the fields in which the struggle over secularity is fought out. To understand this phenomenon, identity politics, market forces, and transregional dynamics under colonial and post-colonial conditions have to be taken into account, taking the analysis well beyond the parameters established by leading authorities in secularisation studies.


​2007 - present

Director, Berlin Graduate School “Muslim Cultures and Societies”, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)

​1996 - present

Professor of Islamic Studies (chair), Freie Universität Berlin

​1994 - 1996

Professor of Islamic Studies, Bonn University (Germany) 


Habilitation, Islamic studies, Hamburg University (Germany)


PhD (Dr. phil.), Islamic studies, Hamburg University

Relevant Publications

  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Moderne. Arabische Welt,“ in Handbuch Moderneforschung. Interdisziplinäre und internationale Perspektiven. Edited by Friedrich Jaeger, Wolfgang Knöbl, and Ute Schneider, 27–37. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2015.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Secularity Contested: Religion, Identity and the Public Order in the Arab Middle East,” in Comparative Secularities: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age. Edited by Marian Burchardt, Matthias Middell, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, 121–37. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Making Modern Muslims: Islamic Reform, Hasan al-Banna, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood,” in Delimiting Modernities: Conceptual Challenges and Regional Responses. Edited by Ralph Weber and Sven Trakulhun, 197–214. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Der Reiz des Gesellschaftsvergleichs. Kategorien sozialer Ordnung im islamisch geprägten Vorderen Orient,“ in Europa in der Welt des Mittelalters. Ein Colloquium für und mit Michael Borgolte. Edited by Tilmann Lohse and Benjamin Scheller, 101–18. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2014.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Gottes-Recht bricht Menschen-Recht. Theokratische Entwürfe im zeitgenössischen Islam,“ in Theokratie und theokratischer Diskurs. Edited by Kai Trampedach and Andreas Pečar, 492–515. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Modern but not secular: Religion, identity and the ordre public in the Arab Middle East.” International Sociology, 28/6 (2013): 629–44.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Pluralism and Tolerance,” in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Edited by Gerhard Bowering, 169–84. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. Demokratie im Islam. Munich: Beck, 2011.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Islam, Kapitalismus und die protestantische Ethik,“ in Kapitalismus. Historische Annäherungen. Edited by Gunilla Budde, 116–46. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. Hasan al-Banna. Oxford, New York: OneWorld, 2010.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. A History of Palestine. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Ist der Islam eine politische Religion?,“ in Die Gretchenfrage. „Nun sag’, wie hast du’s mit der Religion? Edited by Konrad Paul Liessmann, 82–103. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 2008.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Moving out of Place. Minorities in Middle Eastern Urban Societies, 1800-1914,” in The Urban Social History of the Middle East, 1750-1950. Edited by Peter Sluglett, 182–223. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2008.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Vision und Kritik des Staates im Islamismus,“ in Der Staat im Vorderen Orient. Konstruktion und Legitimation politischer Herrschaft. Edited by Peter Pawelka, 167–83. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2008.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Justice in Modern Islamic Thought,” in Shari’a. Islamic Law in the Contemporary Context. Edited by Abbas Amanat and Frank Griffel, 20–37, 187–96. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Zum Verhältnis von Religion, Recht und Politik: Säkularisierung im Islam,“ in Säkularisierung und die Weltreligionen. Edited by Hans Joas and Klaus Wiegandt, 172–93. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2007. (English edition: Secularization and the World Religions. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009)
  • Krämer, Gudrun and Sabine Schmidtke. Speaking for Islam. Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2006.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. “Anti-Semitism in the Muslim World. A Critical Review.“ Die Welt des Islams, 46/3 (2006): 243–76.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Islam und Toleranz.“ Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, 50/9 (2005): 1119–29 (rev. reprint: „‘Kein Zwang in der Religion‘? Religiöse Toleranz im Islam,“ in Ein neuer Kampf der Religionen? Staat, Recht und religiöse Toleranz. Edited by Matthias Mahlmann and Hubert Rottleuthner, 141–160. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2006).
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Wettstreit der Werte: Anmerkungen zum zeitgenössischen islamischen Diskurs,“ in Die kulturellen Werte Europas. Edited by Hans Joas and Klaus Wiegandt, 469–93. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2005 (English edition: The Cultural Values of Europe. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008).
  • Krämer, Gudrun. Geschichte des Islam. Munich: Beck, 2005 (updated paperback edition: Munich: dtv, 2008).
  • Krämer, Gudrun. „Der Islam ist Religion und Staat“: Zum Verhältnis von Religion, Recht und Politik im Islam,“ in Fundamentalismus, Terrorismus, Krieg. Edited by Wolfgang Schluchter, 45–59. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2003.
  • Krämer, Gudrun. Responsabilité, égalité, pluralisme. Réflexions sur quelques notions-clés d´un ordre islamique moderne. Casablanca: Éd. Le Fennec, 2000.