The Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures” was founded in 2007 at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Some 200 academics from more than 20 disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and from around 14 countries deal with the relationship of religion and politics across epochs and cultures. It is nationally the largest research association of its kind and of the 43 Clusters of Excellence in Germany, it is the only one to deal with religion. The federal government and the state governments support the project within the scope of the Excellence Initiative with 40.1 million euros from 2012 until 2018.
The approximateley 80 research projects range from antiquity until today: from the world of ancient gods to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period to the current situation in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. The research involves the following subjects: history, law, political science, religious sociology and religious science, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Islamic theology, psychology, classical and modern philology as well as philosophy, history of art, Arab studies, ancient Near Eastern studies, ethnology, archaeology, Egyptology, Jewish studies, Byzantine studies, musicology and book studies.
The members of the Cluster of Excellence cooperate across interdisciplinary boundaries and deal with the topic from a broad historical perspective. They do basic research and, at the same time, aim at providing reflective knowledge so that pressing present-day problems in a globalised society may be dealt with. The aggravation of several politico-religious conflicts in the world has increasingly intensified the topicality of the subject of “religion and politics” of late. The Centre for Research Communication stimulates the dialogue of the humanities and social sciences with representatives from the media and politics, from educational institutions, churches and religious communities as well as with the citizens. It acts as intermediary as regards the researchers’ expertise on current issues.
A graduate school for PhD students forms part of the research association. A school for postdoctoral academics was added in 2012. Both programmes offer young academics particularly favourable conditions for independent research.
The Cluster of Excellence is divided into four fields of research: normativity, mediality, integration and violence. In 2012, four interconnecting platforms on crosscutting issues were added as crosslinks: the differentiation of religion and politics, transcultural entanglements, the relationship of religion, politics and gender, and questions of cultural ambiguity. The appoximately 80 individual projects contribute empirical knowledge to the fields of research and to the interconnecting platforms.
As a result of the Cluster of Excellence’s activities, the University of Münster has become a unique place for interdisciplinary religious research. In order to safeguard this, the University is developing sustained structures beyond the Excellence Initiative. Even in the first funding phase from 2007 to 2012, in addition to new professorships, three centres were founded: the Center for Religion and Modernity (Centrum für Religion und Moderne, CRM), the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Centrum für Mittelalter- und Frühneuzeitforschung, CMF) and the Centre for Eastern Mediterranean History and Culture (Centrum für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Mittelmeerraums, GKM). They serve to attract new research associations and to act as a forum for public events, publication series and journal editors. The “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship for Religion and Politics” – named after the influential Münster philosopher – is to contribute to bringing innovative impulses from international research to Münster and consolidating the interdisciplinary compatibility at the Cluster of Excellence.