“I concentrate on knowledge exchange between the People’s Republic of Poland and Arab countries” – Interview with Mustafa Switat

We regularly introduce scholars that work in the project by letting them answer three short questions. Today, we talk to Mustafa Switat who received his PhD in social sciences from the Institute of Applied Social Sciences of the University of Warsaw and a MA in psychology at the Palacký University (Czech Republic). His doctoral dissertation examined the functioning of the Arab Diaspora in Poland, the dynamics of its transformation from the point of view of the integration of its members with their host society, in the aspect of Polish transition and migration policy. Mustafa also received funding from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the National Science Centre at Warsaw University for several research projects. His research interests focus on cultural transfer, the sociology of migration and anthropology specifically as it relates to Polish-Arab cultural contacts.

What will you be working on while being involved with the “Knowledge Unbound” project and what did you work on before?

Before the “Knowledge Unbound” project I was running a few projects at Warsaw University where I work as Assistant Professor. All of them are connected with Polish-Arab cultural connections and relate to my doctoral research on the Arab Diaspora in Poland, which largely consists of former students.  

Within the “Relations in the Ideoscape” project I concentrate on knowledge exchange in the field of Plastic Arts (painting, sculpture and graphics) between the People’s Republic of Poland and Arab countries. I am focused on analysis of the biographies of former students, their professors and representatives of the art world to answer the question of their active participation and impact on the development of artistic life in their own countries and in the Arab world more broadly. I am interested in the visualization of alliances in the field of chosen fine arts in three dimensions – at the individual, national and transregional level.

What role does the concept of “knowledge” play in your own research?

Since I was already investigating cultural transfers between Arab and Polish culture, knowledge transfer was one of important transferred elements. It led me to think as foundationalist. But in the “Relations in the Ideoscape” project the concept of knowledge has other importance and different connotations. Here knowledge gained during the process of education is a base for knowledge relations, thus knowledge exchange becomes useful instrument to show personal, institutional and general development in the Arab art world. An analysis of biographies of selected actors involved in knowledge exchange will indeed be the exploration of intellectual flows between Eastern countries and the Arab world in art in the period of Cold War.

Have there been any surprising moments in your research recently?

Actually I only just started on this project, but I have already experienced some surprising moments.

The first surprise was that nobody recommended Arab artists to be my respondents during my research of Arab Diaspora in Poland (I made it using a snowball sampling method). Only later did I discover that some former Arab art students had settled down in Poland.

The second surprise is that new rules arising from General Data Protection Regulation hinder getting lists of former students of art while artists generally agree on publishing their sensitive data such as date of birth and facts from their personal life in catalogues of their exhibitions.

The third surprise is the coronavirus pandemic; I don’t think that anybody ever expected that a global lockdown would happen. It may not be connected directly with the project, but it has forced a change in research plans.  


Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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