Religion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures

On the right side of your screen you can find a selection of current and completed projects.

The Institute of Ethnology contributes to the Cluster of Excellence on Religion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures in the research areas performance and violence. The projects address religious pluralism, health and migration.

In view of the overall objective of the cluster’s core themes which span the historical transformations of the relation between religion and politics, the anthropological research projects broaden the perspective by their focus on processes of globalization of secular knowledge and its impact on local forms of knowledge in non-European (Indian and African) societies.

Since Indian and African concepts of health and illness are firmly embedded in cosmological and religious worldviews, globalization of secular forms of knowledge plays a vital role in the area of health (and medicine). Health is distinctively situated at the interface between religion and politics in non-western societies as it includes major aspects of religion and is subject of western sciences and modern national health politics at the same time.

Striking phenomena of global modernity are the enormous increase of mobility of people as well as the travel of religious and political ideas, medical knowledge, technologies and forms of medical institutionalization. In a multi-polar world, these movements include the spread of culturally specific values and practices beyond their original contexts. The dark side of modern mobility becomes apparent in involuntary movements of people e.g. by expulsion, forced displacement of whole groups of people, camps of uprooted refugees, ethnic cleansings, etc. Current and historical processes of migration, especially ‘south-south’ connections across the Indian Ocean, feature in all of the anthropological research programs. This focus is accounted for by the centuries old traditions of seafaring and trade between India and Africa via the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean Studies include historical forms of voluntary and involuntary migration (slave trade) as well as processes of globalization. Migration in pre-colonial and colonial times contributed significantly to the emergence of religious pluralism in Indian and African societies.

By making their ways into local communities, universalistic religions such as Islam and Christianity have become transformed into multi-faceted orientations. Over time, they emerged in diverse new and culturally specific forms. The anthropological research contributes to the Cluster of Excellence a comparative perspective on the relationship between religion and politics by in non-European (South Asian and African) contexts.