Till Grallert

DH at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


NFDI 4Memory

Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Friedrichstrasse 191--3

10117 Berlin

I am a social and media historian of the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean from the 19th century to the present. Since 2022, I am part of a project to establish a prototypical scholarly makerspace at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s central university library with the aim of fostering digital and computational tool literacy and experiment as a hermeneutical approach for the humanities.

I hold a PhD in history from Freie Universität Berlin (2014) and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, 2008), University of London. My research and teaching are concerned with the consequences of the fundamental epistemic change towards the digital for societies of the Global South and the social and entangled histories of technologies and infrastructures in the predominantly Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean since the late 18th century: from streets, tramways and the telegraph to printing and the periodical press, to more recent new media and platforms of the digital.

Influenced by the spatial turn, a history from below and quotidian history, I initially asked “to whom belong the streets?” in my doctoral work, which I completed with a thesis on “Property, Propriety, and Appropriation: The Production of Public Space in Late Ottoman Damascus, 1875–1914”. This trajectory continued with postdoctoral research at the Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon, on the genealogy of food riots as a repertoire of contention and the gendered dimension of contentious actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Deeply involved in digital humanities work as a practicioner, teacher, and consultant and grounded in my experiences with the specific affordances of the Global South for DH and computational humanities as a researcher predominantly living in Lebanon between 2011 and 2021, my digital and computational work provides a theory-driven, practical critique of the epistemic violence of the post-digital moment and the neocolonial hegemony of the anglophone West. I address these issues in multiple projects: a framework for bootstrapped scholarly editions outside the global north (“Open Arabic Periodical Editions”, OpenArabicPE); a crowd-sourced union list of all Arabic periodicals published globally before 1930 (Jarāʾid); and building minimal infrastructures of multi-layered annotation to digitised cultural artefacts as a space for inherently local narratives (al-Iwan: Disorienting Orientalism). As such it is closely related to developments in code and platform studies as well as global, decolonial, and critical DH.

Finally, in the realm of periodical studies, I am interested in the socio-linguistics of early Arabic newspapers and the specifics of historical periodical production and will join the Unversity of Hamburg as Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow to computationally investigate the ideoscape of early Arabic periodicals at scale.

NOTE: this website is currently under development and not all sections have been populated yet.


Sep 1, 2023 I humbled and honoured to have been invited to deliver the closing keynote at the joint MEC and TEI conference “Encoding Cultures” in Paderborn next Friday.
Aug 30, 2023 I just signed a new contract and will be leading a new Methods Innovation Lab at HU Berlin as part of NFDI 4Memory. This also means that, sadly, I did return the funds from my MSCA fellowship at University of Hamburg.
May 10, 2023 I will participate in the conference “Digital History 2023” in Berlin with a paper titled “Looking at the iceberg from below the waterline. Stylometric authorship attribution for anonymous articles in Arabic periodicals from the early twentieth century”.
Mar 1, 2023 I will participate in the upcoming DHd2023 in Trier as a panelist for two panel discussions: “Open DH? Mapping Blind Spots”, organised by the empowerment working group and “Opening Sources – modulare Wege zur Quellenbereitstellung und -edition” organised by the working group digital humanities of the Max Weber Stiftung.
Oct 10, 2022 Nadja Danilenko interviewed me for her podcast “tell me a history - Erzähl mir eine Geschichte” and I spoke about early Arabic periodicals and digital humanities.

selected publications

  1. Grallert, Till. ‘Urban Food Riots in Late Ottoman Bilād Al-Shām as a ”Repertoire of Contention”’. In Crime, Poverty and Survival in the Middle East and North Africa: The ’Dangerous Classes’ since 1800, edited by Stephanie Cronin, 157–76. I.B. Tauris, 2020. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781838605902.ch-010.
  2. ———. ‘Catch Me If You Can! Approaching the Arabic Press of the Late Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean through Digital History’. Edited by Simone Lässig. Geschichte Und Gesellschaft 47, no. 1, Digital History (10 June 2021): 58–89. https://doi.org/10/gkhrjr.
  3. ———. ‘Open Arabic Periodical Editions: A Framework for Bootstrapped Scholarly Editions Outside the Global North’. Edited by Roopika Risam and Alex Gil. Digital Humanities Quarterly 16, no. 2, "Minimal Computing" (28 June 2022). http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/16/2/000593/000593.html.