The research of the Cluster of Excellence is marked by a high degree of interdisciplinarity and methodological diversity. In its third funding phase (2019-2025), the research network is building on more than ten years of interdisciplinary cooperation at the University of Münster. Involved are more than 20 disciplines from seven departments: history, law and political science, sociology of religion and religious studies, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Islamic theology, Jewish studies, psychology, classical and modern philology, as well as philosophy, art history, Arabic and Islamic studies, ethnology, Assyriology, archaeology, Egyptology and Byzantine studies.

This interdisciplinarity enables, first, the exchange between non-denominational research on religion and denominational theologies, and thus the connection between external and internal perspectives on religion, which is essential for the central question concerning the intrinsic power of religion.

Second, it enables a link to be made between empirical analyses and normative questions, which is important because there is currently an increased socio-political need for reflection on the normative foundations of the social order and on the public place that religion can or should occupy in that order.

And, third, the large number of disciplines in the Cluster of Excellence facilitates the linking of hermeneutic-interpretative methods from cultural studies on the one hand, and explanatory methods from the social sciences on the other, with research at the Cluster of Excellence bringing these methods together and thereby helping to overcome the growing gap between these two academic cultures.

Methods and sources

The diversity of disciplines in the Cluster of Excellence results in a broad spectrum of methodological approaches: besides hermeneutical methods of historical-critical research, there are explanatory approaches of the social sciences; besides long-term perspectives from cultural history, ethnological case studies; besides macroscopic comparisons, approaches that investigate the history of cultural transfer; besides qualitative approaches, quantitative methods; besides descriptive approaches, normative questions of political theory, law, philosophy and theology.

Methods from the Digital Humanities play an important role in the research of the Cluster of Excellence, as do oral history, narrative interviews, participatory observation, discourse analyses, numismatics and archaeological approaches, as well as text mining and handwriting recognition. These different methods are used to explore the rich material of religious history such as normative texts, pictorial symbols, material artefacts, and ritual practices.