This research has its starting point in the marriage of Liubow Derchanskaja (1903 - 1991) from Vilnius with Khwaja Abdul Hamied (1898 - 1972) from Aligarh that took place in the Berlin mosque in 1928. The couple initially met through transnational communist networks in which Luba and her sisters were active, but when they moved to India Luba and Khwaja seem to have distanced themselves. Not so her sisters who - like their husbands - remained active communists. Like many Russian Jews they joined the Partisans during WWII and were highly decorated. The research reconstructs the ways in which Luba and her sisters established contact after the war when Jews and Muslims, Moscow and Mumbai, seemed to be situated on different planets.
In a more general way, the project seeks to understand which mental map, which modernity, and which concept of religion Muslim-Jewish couples and their families shared.
Addressing the perspectives of their offspring it asks, what does it mean to have one Jewish and one Muslim parent? In which tradition (-s) were they raised? And: where do they situate themselves today?
Luba and Her Sisters.
"The Red Club": Liubow Derchanskaja, Khwaja Hamied and their friends in Berlin (ca. 1927)
Ever since the Kaiser in 1898 proclaimed ‘eternal friendship’ between the Germans and the Muslim peoples, a growing number of people embraced the adventure of a 'mixed' marriage. German - Ottoman couples made the start, soon to be followed by Germans and Iranians, Germans and Egyptians, as well as Germans and Indians.
In the 1920s especially, when the Weimar Republic concluded one student exchange program after the other with Muslim rulers like Reza Shah, King Amanullah and King Fuad I - rulers for who modernization was equal to secularisation and westernization - German speaking universities became the stage for Muslim elites. Competing to assemble as much Western knowledge and European culture as possible, male Muslim students courted their female classmates to find a way into German society. As students go, love was in the air. Among the Muslim and German bourgeois and fashionable classes, bi-cultural marriages became a popular way to connect ‘east and west’ in a durable manner.
Backed up by governments that (for different reasons) considered the other country their friend and partner, the couples dreamt of being the forerunners of a truly global society. As long as the governmental support lasted, they felt and acted ‘cosmopolitan’ and educated their offspring as the inheritors of two grand cultures.