Fields of Research

The Cluster of Excellence investigates the relationship of religion and politics across different eras and cultures. Approximately 80 research projects range from antiquity until today. To be able to systematically analyse the complex subject, the Cluster of Excellence is divided into four fields of research: normativity, mediality, integration and violence. Four interconnecting platforms on overlapping topics are added as crosslinks: the differentiation of religion and politics, transcultural entanglements, the relationship of religion, politics and gender, and finally questions of cultural ambiguity.

Field of research A Normativity

Comparing pre-modern and modern cultures, the „Normativity“ field of research examines concepts of normativity as well as the normative foundations of these concepts and the underlying ideas of validity and legitimacy. Research is aimed at, on the one hand, the genesis and structure of modern normativity. Here, the researchers will particularly focus at the emergence, but also at changes in or even the retreat from modern principles of secular statehood. On the other hand, a comparative analysis is directed at questions of how norms regulating social orders and religious communities have differed at various times with respect to their intellectual – religious or secular – grounds of validity, their scope, their enforceability by different religious and secular institutions, their ambiguity or clarity, and the media in which they have been expressed. In the Cluster of Excellence’s second funding period from 2012 to 2017 interdisciplinary work concentrates on three overarching questions: (1) When, why, and how do normative discourses within and among the fields of politics and religion as well as law become more “liquid” or more “fixed”?; (2) How can processes of norm implementation and norm enforcement be analysed as examples of the demarcation, shifting, or dissolution of boundaries between the religious and the political fields?; and (3) What influence do religions have on economic systems and behaviour?

Field of research B Mediality

Media change is a crucial factor in the transformation of the relationships between religion and politics; one needs only recall the mutual reinforcement of the typographic media revolution and the Reformation, but also the role of the digital media revolution in contemporary political and religious movements. The „Mediality“ field of research examines, across historical eras, the question of media and how they represent and/or realise religious and political activity, and the extent to which changes in media have an influence on the relationships between religion and politics. Research during the Cluster of Excellence’s second funding period from 2012 to 2017 is concentrating on two main themes: (1) Which role do media play in processes of secularisation and sacralisation; to what extent do the media themselves change in these processes?; and (2) How are the boundaries between the religious and political fields established and maintained, but also breached or dissolved by means of imaginative and conceptual “figurations” found in texts, images, or monuments?

Field of research C Integration

Seen from a diachronic and global perspective, religious homogeneity is far from being the standard scenario. Rather, the usual historical reality is coexistence, entanglement, competition, and conflict among various religious systems of meaning and forms of praxis. In the Cluster of Excellence’s second funding phase from 2012 to 2017 the integration of religious diversity is addressed on the basis of three main themes: (1) How do various societies deal with the coexistence of diverse religions? To what extent do conflicts over religious diversity lead to processes of integration, independent of substantial consensus?; (2) On closer inspection, the interior and exterior boundaries of the “world religions” turn out to be similarly fluid: the respective traditions are exchanged among one another in a variety of ways. Researchers are thus inquiring into the conditions for, manifestations, and consequences of tradition exchange among Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. (3) The third central theme concentrates on Christianity in the modern West since the transformations of the 1960s and inquires into the interactions between Christian social forms and their political environment.

Field of research D Violence

Central to the “Violence” field of research is the question of the ambivalence of religions with respect to physical violence: Researchers are investigating the potential of various religious beliefs for violence or for peace, and the question of the political and social conditions under which these potentials are variously realised. With a view especially to ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it is asked under which conditions religious protagonists become violent and when and why the exercise of violence becomes imbued with religious language and symbols. Therefore, research in the Cluster of Excellence’s second funding period from 2012 to 2017 is concentrating on (1) the recourse to sacred texts in the legitimisation of violence, and (2) to the conditions for and manifestations of martyrdom and the cult of martyrs, in both cases across cultures and different eras.