Second annual theme at the Cluster of Excellence to examine how traditions emerge and change

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The second annual theme of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” will soon begin under the title “Tradition(s)”. Using selected examples ranging from antiquity to the present, it will examine in the winter and summer terms of 2021/22 how traditions emerge and change, as well as the process of transmitting traditions, how various disciplines conceptualize this process, and the importance of this process for understanding religions. The thematic spectrum ranges from the ancient Egyptian god Amun, to tradition and innovation in Arabic literature, and to the passing down of religious traditions in families today. The annual theme will begin on 2 November with the lecture series “Tradition(s)”.

The 2021/22 annual programme will also include a number of events and contributions in various media formats, with researchers from the humanities, law, and social sciences at the Cluster of Excellence and the University of Münster exploring, for example, how far criticism of traditions, as well as the rewriting and re-appropriation of traditions, help bring innovation to the religious landscape. The Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, will also read from and discuss motifs in her work.

“Reinterpreted, reshaped, veiled”

“Traditions are subject to change. Depending on the needs of the community that bears them, they are reinterpreted, reshaped, concealed, veiled, or even invented”, explain the Jewish scholar Regina Grundmann and the Catholic theologian Michael Seewald. Traditions and arguments about tradition play an important role in religions. “Judaism, Christianity and Islam draw on revelations. They assume that, at a certain point in time, God communicated something significant for the times to follow”. From the point of view of these religions, what has been communicated requires one or more so-called carrier groups that believe and affirm what has been revealed, that constantly appropriate it, and that ensure that it is passed on. “Even religions that do not claim to be based on revelations are familiar with traditions and processes of tradition-building, such as in the form of rituals, narratives or ministries passed down through generations”.

At least three perspectives can be distinguished in the study of tradition(s): the process of transmission or the act of handing down (“tradition”); the content or practices of what is handed down (“traditions”); and the actors or the groups carrying the tradition (“tradents” and recipients, as well as their relationship with one another). The annual theme “Tradition(s)” will examine these three perspectives across different epochs and from the viewpoint of different disciplines.

The Cluster of Excellence’s first annual theme took place in 2020/21. Entitled “Belonging and Demarcation: Dynamics of Social Formation”, it focused on how different social groups live together in plural societies, how belonging to groups and ideas of identity emerge, and how conflicts are regulated and social balance can be achieved. (sca/vvm)


Lecture series “Tradition(s)”

The lecture series “Tradition(s)”, which will take place in the 2021/22 winter term, will open the annual theme and feature scholars from the Cluster of Excellence and the University of Münster from the disciplines of Egyptology, Arabic studies, Catholic theology, philosophy, law, Romance studies, and sociology. It will provide a panorama from Ancient Egypt to the present day, using the example of various traditions to show the significance of transmission processes and to examine the interaction of different actors in such processes.

Discussion series “Tradition(s): interdisciplinary and transepochal”

The series of events “Tradition(s): interdisciplinary and transepochal” will bring together researchers in the summer term of 2022 from philosophy, sociology, Protestant theology, law, and history to discuss and address the themes of “Tradition and Normativity”, “Tradition and Competition”, and “Tradition and Rationality”.

Reading and discussion with Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel Prize winner for Literature

The Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, 2018 Nobel Laureate for Literature, draws on different narrative, cultural, and religious traditions in novels (The Books of Jacob, 2014) and essayistic work (Exercises in Strangeness, 2021), and she will read from and discuss motifs in her work as part of the “Tradition(s)” annual theme.

Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship

The Cluster of Excellence’s Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship will be held in the summer term of 2022 by the Arabic scholar Sarah Stroumsa, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As part of the Hans Blumenberg Professorship, the Cluster of Excellence invites internationally renowned scholars to Münster every year to engage in intensive exchange, and Professor Sarah Stroumsa will speak about traditions in the study of traditions; or, more specifically, about different currents in the study of philosophical traditions of the Islamic world of the Middle Ages.

International research project on  the transmission of religious traditions in families

An international research team in Europe and Canada is investigating how and why religion is passed on to the next generation in some families and not in others. Given the decline in religiosity in Western societies, the group, which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and includes members of the Cluster of Excellence and several international universities, is researching how exactly families pass on values and patterns of interpretation, and how religiosity changes in the process. The results will be presented publicly as part of the annual theme.

Changing traditions – interdisciplinary conference for early-career researchers at the Cluster of Excellence

Early-career researchers from the Cluster of Excellence will also deal with the transmission and transformation of traditions in different epochs. How were and are norms and bodies of knowledge, texts, and other artefacts passed on, reinterpreted or forgotten? Under what conditions are practices and social hierarchies continued, renewed or abolished? How are spaces used, appropriated or reshaped by changing groups of actors? An interdisciplinary conference in the annual theme will shed light on such questions regarding the transformation of traditions. (sca/vvm)