Religious Dynamics

Third annual theme at the Cluster of Excellence

© exc

Religions are often driving forces behind processes of social change, and their patterns of interpretation are playing an important role in crises and conflicts today, examples being the religiously charged debates about abortion in the USA or about the historical autonomy of Ukraine, religious motifs in conspiracy theories, Islamist terror, and the involvement of spiritual movements in “Corona protests”.

In the third annual theme of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, public lectures, panels and discussion evenings, film screenings, and readings by contemporary authors will focus on religious dynamics from antiquity to the present day. Discussion will focus on how religious dynamics are set in motion, and how religions initiate, accelerate, and promote – but also inhibit – social change. The annual theme takes up ideas from current interdisciplinary work at the Cluster of Excellence, and uses examples to discuss this work.

The researchers will analyze patterns of religious mobilization in the past and present, with attention being paid also to the positive dynamics that emerge from religious interpretations of the world: for example, groups are emerging in the Islamic community that are demanding space for Muslims in German society and that are offering something themselves, such as the Liberal-Islamic Federation and the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque in Berlin, which founded the “House of One” to promote Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialogue.

The annual theme will take up the quite contradictory and contrary findings and tendencies, and focus on the question of how religious dynamics emerge, change, and are used by political and religious actors. It will also shed light on the effects that these dynamics have, and how they are questioned, reinterpreted, and combated. Attention will also be given to the degree to which religious feelings are mobilized, since very different emotions, from love to hate, are used in the name of religion.

Programme of events

Discussion evening to open the annual theme

Dynamics of the religious: Perspectives from history, sociology, and religious studies
25 October 2022

The discussion evening to open the annual theme takes up the subtitle of the Cluster of Excellence’s current funding phase: “Dynamics of the religious”. Researchers will use different disciplinary perspectives, including sociology, history, and religious studies, to shed light on the mobilizing potential of religion in various socio-cultural and historical contexts. In doing so, they will turn their attention to different levels, and discuss intra-religious change, as well as inter-religious dynamization as a result of competition and dialogue between religions. Not least, though, the extra-religious dimension is also important, since religious motifs repeatedly combine with extra-religious interests and identities, and gain public visibility precisely through this “de-differentiation”.


Cinema series

A serious matter? Religious dynamics in film
from 8 November 2022

Luis Buñuel, the Coen brothers, Kirill Serebrennikow, Youssef Chahine: the Cluster of Excellence will show films by well-known directors at the Schloßtheater cinema in Münster in the winter term that depict religious people experiencing personal and social crises. Using the example of Christian hermits in late antiquity, religious movements in the Christian and Islamic Middle Ages, and exploring questions of identity in modern American Judaism and the nationalist exploitation of religion in today’s Russia, the films deal with how religion fuels these conflicts, but perhaps also helps people to overcome them.

  • 8 November 2022: Simón del desierto (Luis Buñuel, 1965)
  • 22 November 2022: Destiny (Youssef Chahine, 1997)
  • 13 December 2022: A Serious Man (Ethan and Joel Coen, 2009)
  • 10 January 2023: The Student (Kirill Serebrennikov, 2016)


Reading series

Existential, humorous, critical: Religious dynamics in literature
from 25 April 2023

The summer term will see Zafer Şenocak, Felicitas Hoppe, and Patrick Roth read from their work. Unlike much contemporary literature, this work revolves in different ways around religious dynamics: the authors treat religion as an existential experience on the one hand, and as a humorous and critical language game on the other. It turns out that religion also generates linguistic dynamics, and the authors will present the diverse facets of religious dynamization in the mirror of literary language, and discuss these facets with the audience.

  • 25 April 2023: Zafer Şenocak
  • 23 May 2023: Felicitas Hoppe
  • 27 June 2023: Patrick Roth


International Conference

Emotion and religion in times of crisis
1 - 3 December 2022

Religion is often associated with emotionality. At the same time, very different emotions come into play under the name of religion, love and hate being only the most extreme and yet dynamically interrelated poles. An international conference in the annual theme will explore the specific relationship between religious dynamics and emotionality from the Middle Ages to today, and especially in times of crisis, focusing in particular on precisely the potential that (religious) emotions have to mobilize people. The conference will feature experts from religious studies, sociology, political science, art history, and literature.

Further conferences

  • Saronic religions: Cultic environments, Athens, 3-4 November 2022
  • Dynamics of criticizing the religious from an interdisciplinary and transcultural perspective, 16-18 February 2023
  • Cosmocracy in the shadow of war and war experiences: Early Christian contingencies and concepts, 18-20 May 2023
  • Śāntideva and the dynamics of tradition, 25-27 May 2023


Evening lecture by the Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor

The politics of religion: Islam in the Iberian peninsula
16 May 2023

The Cluster of Excellence invites internationally renowned scholars to Münster every year as part of the Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship. The professorship will be held in the 2023 summer term by the Islamic scholar and historian Maribel Fierro, who conducts research at Spain’s largest public research institution, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. She will present and discuss as part of the annual theme her studies on religious dynamics in medieval al-Andalus, as well as on its localization and instrumentalization in different early modern and modern cultures of memory .


Lecture evening

Religious dynamics in Ukraine
17 January 2023

Even before the Russian attack, Ukraine was marked by great religious diversity. Orthodoxy, as the largest religious community, was and is divided, and the war has become a further dynamizing factor in Ukraine’s religious landscape. The evening will take place in cooperation with the Ecumenical Institute of the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Münster.


Panel discussion

How secure is peace? The Peace of Westphalia as a treaty under international law, in cooperation with the Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Legal Unity and Pluralism”, University of Münster, 22 June 2023