Making Sense of Yemen: Panel to Feature Sabine Schmidtke

Press Contact

Lee Sandberg

Sabine Schmidtke, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, specializing in Islamic intellectual history, will participate in a panel discussion hosted by the University of Pennsylvania at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, 2019.

Sharing insight from her pioneering research on the medieval world of Islam, Schmidtke will contribute to a timely discussion, applying contemporary and historical perspectives to understand present conditions in Yemen. Schmidtke will be joined on the panel by Charles Schmitz, Professor of Geography at Towson University and Iona Craig, an independent journalist reporting on the conflict in Yemen. The discussion will be moderated by Robert Vitalis, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to her study and critical analysis of the region and its history, Schmidtke is spearheading a project that seeks to preserve and democratize access to the “Zaydi Manuscript Tradition” (ZMT)—one of the most variegated traditions within Islamic civilization, which flourished in Yemen for more than one thousand years. With the ongoing conflict in Yemen, Schmidtke’s work is not only crucial to providing relevant perspective on current events, but also to preserving the rich tradition of the region that is under threat.

Schmidtke is the author of the recently published Traditional Yemeni Scholarship amidst Political Turmoil and War (UCOPress, 2018), a volume that evolved from the ZMT project, which focuses on Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-Manṣūr (1915–2016), one of the most prominent scholars, bureaucrats, and politicians of twentieth-century Yemen, and his prolific collection of manuscripts.

Schmidtke was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), and the University of Oxford, where in 1990 she received a Ph.D. in Oriental Studies with an emphasis on Islamic doctrinal history and rational theology. She worked as a diplomat in the German Foreign Office from 1991­–99. Returning to academia, she completed her Habilitation at the University of Bonn (Germany) in 1999 and became a Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at Freie Universität Berlin between 1999­–2001. She subsequently served as Professor of Islamic Studies at the same university from 2002–14. In 2014, she was appointed to a permanent faculty position at the Institute for Advanced Study.

For press interested in interviewing Schmidtke, please contact Lee Sandberg at