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Texts and Cultural Exchange With and Within the Muslim World


Richard van Leeuwen


  • Gerard Wiegers (UvA)
  • Marjo Buitelaar (RUG)
  • Jeroen Duindam (Leiden University)

Description of the research group:

This programme focuses on texts which reflect processes of cultural exchange with and within the Muslim world, both as accounts of cultural interaction (travel reports, evaluations of cultural difference, letters, autobiographies, encyclopaedias), and as ‘objects’ of exchange (translations, emulations, adaptations, reception). The main interest is the ways in which texts reflect interactions and encounters across cultural boundaries between different regions within the Muslim world (Arab world, Asia) and between the Muslim world and Europe. The programme will stress the importance of ‘intra-peripheral’ communication and avoid Eurocentrism, by recognizing the agency of Muslim cultural realms within processes of exchange. The emphasis is laid on the mechanisms of exchange (translation, transmission, emulation), the emergence of networks (travellers, diplomats, scholars), and generic and formal aspects of texts, rather than on questions of representation, stereotypes of ‘others’ and colonial ideology. Since the main interest is processes of exchange and their reflection in texts, the programme is not bound to a specific period but extends from the beginning of Islam to modern times.

Social relevance

The projects attached to this programme will provide new insights in the mechanisms of intercultural interaction, both in history and in the present, and will question fixed cultural concepts concerning cultural authenticity, the construction of stereotypes and Eurocentric views of history.


  • Religion and Middle Eastern travel (Richard van Leeuwen).
  • The Thousand and one nights and European literature in the 18th century (HERA; 2013-2016; director Prof. Gerard Wiegers).
  • ‘More magical than Disneyland’: modern articulation of the Muslim pilgrimage (NWO; with Marjo Buitelaar, RUG; 2015-2021).
  • Narratives of kingship in Europe and Asia 1300-1800 (Eurasian empires; with Leiden University, UvA, KUN; 2015; director Prof. Jeroen Duindam).
  • Reception of the Thousand and one nights in 20th century literature (Richard van Leeuwen).
  • NWO-haddj project:

Members of this research group are active in the following constellations: