Interconnecting Platforms second Funding Period 2013-2018

The Cluster of Excellence investigates the relationship of religion and politics from antiquity until today in some 80 individual projects. The interconnecting platforms deal with crosscutting issues arising in many of the projects and serve as crosslinks between the fields of research of normativity, mediality, integration and violence. The interconnecting platforms provide room for interdisciplinary communication and theoretical basic reflection about the following topics: the differentiation of religion and politics, transcultural entanglements, the relationship of religion, politics and gender, and cultural ambiguity.

Interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation

The most influential and probably still most powerful model to explain changes in the relationships between religion and politics (among other fields) is provided by the theory of differentiation, according to which religion and politics, in a long-term and contingent evolutionary process, developed into autonomous functional systems. Members of the interconnecting platform E therefore ask to what extent present-day tendencies can, with the help of this theory, be described as consequences of a heightened process of differentiation, and how taking into account reverse processes of “dedifferentiation” may help in furthering our understanding.

Interconnecting platform F Transcultural Entanglements

The interconnecting platform F offers an alternative perspective to the still widely held idea of a “religion” as a monolithic and centralised system by drawing attention to crossings of boundaries, zones of contact as well as emerging forms of syncretism and hybridisation. The term “transcultural entanglement” takes account of the fact that, as religions expand, they allow organisational structures, beliefs, and forms of practice to circulate while they establish themselves in particular cultural localities. They thereby change themselves as well as the recipient society, often presenting a challenge to its political system. Relationships of influence apparently do not follow a linear course but rather manifest in irregular, complex processes of exchange. In this vein, approaches developed in the fields of postcolonial studies, global history, and transcultural anthropology are critically engaged with and further developed.

Interconnecting platform G Religion, Politics, and Gender Relations

Religious beliefs, myths, practices, and organisational forms generally are deeply determined by and enforce gender relations. The platform G addresses the relationships between gender and the social, political and religious order in different ages and cultures. It serves systematically to examine the Cluster of Excellence’s individual projects from the still frequently neglected perspective of gender differences.

Interconnecting platform H Cultural Ambiguity

Platform H raises the question of how various societies deal with multivalence, vagueness, contingency, and contradiction, that is what we call ambiguity, and by doing so makes it, for the first time, a guiding aspect of research into religion and politics. The starting hypothesis is that the way in which a society deals with – not only religious – ambiguity has a stronger effect upon the extent of intolerance and violence than does the polytheistic or monotheistic character of the dominant religion. This is being further pursued and expanded in a systematic way that spans eras and disciplines. The goal is to develop elements towards a comprehensive theory of cultural ambiguity.

The four interconnecting platforms have emerged from the study groups of the first funding period 2007 to 2012.