“The digitalization of religion – barely studied before”

New annual theme at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” on religion in digital worlds – Virtual prayers, online confessionals, fatwas on the web: research on new forms of religious belonging – Digital Humanities expand religious research – Programme from 24 October with workshop reports, webquests, panels, and lecture and film series

Programme of the annual theme "The digitalization of religion"

Press release from 12 October 2023

The focus of the annual theme for 2023/24 at the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” is the digitalization of religion. “The field is still little explored, although digitalization is changing society fundamentally, including religion and research on religion”, says Egyptologist and annual theme coordinator Prof. Dr. Angelika Lohwasser. From 24 October, a variety of formats will highlight how digital tools can provide religious research with innovative approaches, and will focus on religion in digital worlds. “Whether digital prayers, online confessionals, or fatwas on the internet, traditional religious communities are trying out forms in the web and social media, apps and AI. At the same time, new ideological movements are spreading conspiracy theories with religious set pieces on the web. But there have barely been any studies so far on such forms of affiliation and mobilization”.

The annual theme will present current research from the Cluster of Excellence in workshop reports, webquests, lecture series, and film and discussion evenings, bringing researchers from many disciplines into conversation with each other and with religious groups and the general public. Developed with the Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) at the University of Münster and entitled “The digitalization of religion: Participation and belonging in a networked world”, the annual programme was designed by Angelika Lohwasser, who coordinates the Digital Humanities projects at the Cluster of Excellence, together with historians Prof. Dr. Jan Keupp and Dr. Marcel Bubert, communication scientist Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt, anthropologist Prof. Dr. Dorothea Schulz, and SCDH director Dr. Jan Horstmann.

Prof. Dr. Angelika Lohwasser
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The event begins on 24 October with a public lecture by the Protestant theologians Frederike van Oorschot and Christopher Nunn on “Sidetrack or fast lane? Theological research in the tracks of the Digital Humanities”. (In lecture theatre JO 1, Johannisstraße 1, 48143 Münster; starts at 4.00 pm. Registration for Zoom participation at veranstaltungenEXC@uni-muenster.de.). This will be followed from 7 November with the series “Workshop reports from the Digital Humanities” (with webquest), when members of the Cluster of Excellence will present projects, including church historians Prof. Dr. Hubert Wolf and Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf, Jewish scholar Prof. Dr. Lutz Doering, and historians Prof. Dr. Ines Weinrich and Dr. Felicity Jensz.

Thus, the annual theme will focus in the winter term of 2023/24 on the use of digital tools for religion and research on religion. “DH tools open up new insights into historical sources, religious writings and cultural materials, enabling them to be indexed, edited and analyzed”, explains Angelika Lohwasser. “Linked to geographical, personal and cultural data, DH can help create a worldwide network of knowledge”.

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt
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The annual theme in the summer term of 2024 will focus on diverse religious practices in digital worlds. As communication scientist Prof. Dr. Thorsten Quandt explains, religious organizations, authorities and groups treat the opportunities offered by digitalization in different ways, with some stubbornly persisting with the analogue and others embracing social media, apps and artificial intelligence. The lectures and discussions will range from “Religion and gaming” to Islamic social media practices in Southeast Asia. A film series entitled “Digital and transhuman?” will show how pop culture addresses the interpenetration of religion and digitality. (vvm/tec/fbu)