Fields of Research

The Cluster of Excellence investigates the dynamics of the relationship between religion and politics from a historical, comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, with the approximately 80 individual projects dealing with issues ranging from antiquity to the present day. In order to investigate this complex subject in a systematic way, the Cluster has created three fields of research: “Transcultural entanglement and disentanglement”, “Religious diversity and legal-political unity”, and “Criticism of religion and apologetics”. Theory platforms run across these fields of research: namely, those of mediality, differentiation, inequality, conflict, and emotionality. At the heart of every research project is the issue of the dynamics of tradition and innovation.


Field of research A “Transcultural entanglement and disentanglement”

Cultures and religions emerge and develop in interaction with other religions and cultures: for example, through processes of mixing, transformation, reinterpretation, but also through resistance, opposition and conquest. Research field A focuses on two areas: entanglements and disentanglements. On the one hand, it investigates how transcultural and transreligious entanglements enable religion to renew itself and to mobilize people. On the other, it examines disentanglements from other traditions. This withdrawal to one’s own tradition often serves to assert this tradition against competing claims. Also investigated is when appropriation is more likely, and when demarcation.

Field of research B “Religious diversity and legal-political unity”

Viewed historically, religious diversity in societies has been the rule rather than the exception. In field of research B, “Religious diversity and legal-political unity”, members of the Cluster of Excellence examine how religiously plural societies deal with this diversity and the resulting conflicts, and how they regulate this diversity legally and politically. They explore the tension between religious diversity and legal-political unity according to three main questions: How does religious diversity in its dynamics influence legal regulations and political power relations? How does it affect informal regulations? And how have legal-political systems dealt with religious diversity and the resulting social and religious conflicts in different cultures throughout history?

Field of research C “Criticism of religion and apologetics”

Criticism of religion and apologetics have a far-reaching significance for processes of religious change, especially for the ability of religions to renew themselves, and it is to these two phenomena that field of research C, “Criticism of religion and apologetics”, is devoted. Even if internal criticism of religion tends to hide its innovativeness and often presents itself as the rediscovery of a buried tradition, it is precisely how criticism of religion is handled within religions that largely determines the ability of religions to change. Conversely, apologetics by no means only preserves tradition, but for its part can also unfold a dynamic that changes the tradition. It is these complex relationships between religious tradition and innovation that particularly interest the members of field of research C, “Criticism of religion and apologetics”.