Academic Concept

Research topic

The Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” investigates the relationship of religion and politics in different constellations of power and situations of conflict – from antiquity until today, spanning the polytheism of antiquity, the religions of Africa and East Asia, and the scripture-based monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in their diverse developments and interrelationships. Some 200 academics from more than 20 disciplines in the humanities and social sciences do research on the topic in interdisciplinary exchange.

The aggravation of several political-religious conflicts in the world has further intensified the topicality of the subject in recent years. The researchers assume that present situations of conflict may only be adequately evaluated from a historical and culturally comparative perspective. In addition to basic research, they regularly make contributions to public debates with the aim of providing a larger reflective distance from contemporary problems. In addition to intense media work, public lecture series, lectures, workshops, interactive and cultural events such as exhibitions or film and concert series also serve this purpose. The Centre for Research Communication conveys the researchers’ expertise to the public outside the universities.


In the international research landscape, the Cluster of Excellence takes an exceptional position not only due to its size and variety of subjects: it also merges disciplines and methods in a manner unlike that of other religious research institutions: in some 80 individual projects, research is undertaken that is both historical and based on the present, empirical and normative, analytic and hermeneutic. The results of the interdisciplinary cooperation have already brought about numerous publications, for instance on the topic of religion and violence, the integration of religious plurality, the implementation of norms, about political and religious stagings, and the secularisation theory. The researchers examine “religion” and “politics” as historically variable social and cultural fields, the interrelationship of which is the result of conflicts, negotiation processes and symbolic constructing.

Fields of research

To be able to systematically investigate complex subject of the Cluster of Excellence, the approximately 200 researchers divided it into four fields of research: normativity (A), mediality (B), integration (C) and violence (D). In the second funding phase as of 2012, interconnecting platforms have been added as crosslinks dealing with crosscutting issues: the differentiation of religion and politics (E), transcultural entanglements (F), the relationship of religion and gender (G) and questions of cultural ambiguity (H). Other focus points are the relationship between religion and economics, martyrdom and normative crises.

Fields of Research A-D and Interconnecting Platforms E-H

Organisational Chart Fields Of Research And Interconnecting Platforms

Organisational chart for download in pdf format

Individual projects

Some 80 individual projects contribute empirical knowledge to the central questions of the fields of research and the interconnecting platforms, in addition to the research of the young academics at the graduate school and at the postdoctoral school.

Research results and publications

The interdisciplinary collaboration of the first funding phase from 2007 to 2012 has already produced an abundance of research results concerning the conflicting interests of religion and politics from antiquity up to the present. They were reflected in numerous research publications. For example, the researches gained new insights into the relationship between religion and violence, the integration of religious plurality, the handling of cultural ambiguity, the controversial secularisation theory, matters of political and religious stagings, and into the implementation of norms in secular societies.

Central questions

The Cluster of Excellence’s work started from the realisation that the modern separation of religion and politics, long taken for granted, has, in the meantime, been unsettled by global processes of economic, political, cultural and medial interrelations. Master narratives such as the modernisation theory were put into perspective and historicised. It became apparent that the secularisation theory, which is geared to western liberal societies, needs to be modified and broadened. The Cluster of Excellence is continuing with this work – with regard to contemporary developments, non-western societies and pre-modern ages.

The wide range of historical epochs and cultures the Cluster of Excellence deals with raises the awareness that talking about “religion” and “politics” always requires a conceptual and technical separation of the two fields which can by no means be taken for granted in all ages and cultures in equal measure. In the second funding phase from 2012 to 2017, therefore, the attention of the research association is again concentrating on the question of whether such a separation actually exists in different societies, where that line is drawn and how, in practice, it is maintained, attacked, modified and balanced anew.