Prof. Dr. Esther Möller

Modern Cultural History of North Africa (deputy professor)

Institute of Cultural Studies


Tel.: +49 89 6004-3962



Esther Möller has been a deputy professor of Modern Cultural History of North Africa at UniBw M since April 2020. After completing an integrated German-French study program in Mainz and Dijon, she obtained a PhD at Jacobs University, Bremen. Her dissertation was on French cultural policy in late Ottoman and Mandate Lebanon. Her doctoral dissertation, which was titled “Orte der Zivilisierungsmission: Französische Schulen im Libanon 1909 – 1943” (Places of the Civilizing Mission: French Schools in Lebanon, 1909 – 1943), was published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in 2013. She then worked as a research associate at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, where she conducted research on a project on the history of humanitarian aid in Egypt in the second half of the 20th century. Funding for her research was provided by the German Research Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, Orient-Institut Beirut, the German Historical Institute in Paris, and other institutions.


Research Focus

  • History of North Africa and the Arab world
  • History of humanitarianism
  • History of colonial education
  • History of international organizations
  • History of the modern Mediterranean
  • Transnational and global history


Research Projects

“Looking for a New International Humanitarian Order: The Egyptian Red Crescent, 1940 – 1975”

The objective of this research project is to study the history of humanitarian aid in the Arab world with an emphasis on Egypt in the second half of the 20th century. Focussing on the Egyptian Red Crescent, the project aims to show that humanitarian aid did not only flow “from the West to the rest”. Humanitarian aid also played a major role in the political, cultural and social transformation processes in the context of decolonization in Egypt and throughout North Africa and the Arab world.


“Mediterranean Humanitarian Aid from an Arab Perspective”

This project focuses on the importance of the Mediterranean for the discourse and practice of humanitarian aid in North Africa and the Arab world in the context of “The Modern Mediterranean: Dynamics of a World Region, 1800 – 2000”, a network funded by the German Research Foundation.



“Engaging Europe in the Arab World: European Missionaries and Humanitarianism in the Middle East (1850 – 1970)”

This transnational research project with partners from the Netherlands, France and Norway was funded by the Dutch Research Council from 2015 to 2018 and dealt with the multiple and complex relations between humanitarian organizations and Christian missionaries in the Arab world.



Selected Publications

Orte der Zivilisierungsmission: Französische Schulen im Libanon 1909–1943 (Places of the Civilizing Mission: French Schools in Lebanon, 1909 – 1943), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013 (publication of the Institute of European History, 233).

Gendering Humanitarianism in the Twentieth Century: Practice, Politics and the Power of Representation, London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan (published in 2020 together with Johannes Paulmann and Katharina Stornig)

Spuren: Zur Materialität kultureller Begegnungen (Footprints: On the Materiality of Cultural Encounters), Vienna/Cologne/Weimar 2016 (Saeculum. Zeitschrift für Universalgeschichte, 66/2, published together with Menja Holtz, Eva Spies and Franziska Torma)

Entangled Education: Foreign and Local Schools in Late Ottoman Syria and Mandate Lebanon (19th – 20th Centuries), Würzburg: Ergon, 2016 (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 137, published together with Christine B. Lindner and Julia Hauser)

Challenges for Humanitarianism from a Non-Western Perspective: Examples and Reflections from 20th Century India and Egypt, in: Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Working Papers 22/2019 (with Maria Framke)


The Suez Crisis 1956 as a Moment of Transnational Humanitarian Engagement, in: European Review of History, 23, 1-2 (2016), 136-153.

Humanitarismus ohne Grenzen? Die Rotkreuz- und Rothalbmondbewegung und der Israel-Palästina-Konflikt 1948 – 1949 (Transnational Humanitarianism? The Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1948 – 1949), in: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, 66, 1-2 (2015), 61-77.

Les écoles françaises catholiques au Liban 1900 – 1950, in: Documents pour l'histoire du français langue étrangère et seconde, 45 (2010), 43-67.

Between Globalization and Contestation: Humanity as a Polemical Concept within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in: Klose, Fabian and Thulin, Mirjam (eds.). Humanity: A History of European Concepts in Practice, 16th Century to the Present, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016 (publications of the Leibniz Institute of European History – Beihefte, 110), 209-228.

Zwischen Zivilisierungsmission und Selbstdarstellung: Französische Schulen im Libanon und die Pariser Kolonialausstellung 1931 (Between a Civilizing Mission and Self-Presentation: French Schools in Lebanon and the 1931 Colonial Exhibition in Paris), in: Kunkel, Sönke and Meyer, Christoph (eds.). Aufbruch ins postkoloniale Zeitalter. Globalisierung und die außereuropäische Welt in den 1920er und 1930er Jahren (The Dawn of the Postcolonial Era: Globalization and the non-European World in the 1920s and 1930s), Frankfurt am Main/New York: Campus, 2012 (Globalgeschichte, 12), 233-249.

Elites as the Least Common Denominator: The Ambivalent Places of French Schools in Lebanon in the Process of Decolonization, in: Dülffer, Jost and Frey, Marc (eds.). Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 (Cambridge Imperial and Post-colonial Studies Series), 94-109.




Current Activities