The Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics. Dynamics of Tradition and Innovation” at the University of Münster has been investigating the complex relationship between religion and politics across epochs and cultures since 2007. The 140 researchers from 10 countries and more than 20 disciplines in the humanities and social sciences are particularly concerned in the funding phase from 2019 to 2025 with the “dynamics of tradition and innovation”. They analyze in transepochal studies ranging from antiquity to the present day the conditions and factors that make religion an engine of political and social change, with their focus being above all on the paradox that religions often develop their innovative potential precisely by drawing on their traditions. The research network is the largest of its kind in Germany; and, of the Clusters of Excellence, one of the oldest and the only one to deal with the issue of religion. It will receive funding of 31 million euros from 2019 to 2025.
The approximately 80 research projects concentrate on the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and on their polytheistic precursors. The focus of interest is on Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as on their entanglements with the Near East, Africa, North and Latin America.
The Cluster of Excellence is marked by a high degree of interdisciplinarity and methodological diversity, with more than 20 disciplines from seven departments of the University of Münster being involved: 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. Hardly any other institution of religious research in Germany or abroad has such a broad spectrum of disciplines, methods, religions, epochs and cultures involved. This results in a unique combination of historical and contemporary questions, theoretical and empirical perspectives, normative and descriptive approaches, as well as denominational and non-denominational religious research. The Digital Humanities also play a prominent role in the research work of the Cluster of Excellence.
Answers to pressing contemporary questions
In order to examine the complex object of research in a systematic way, the Cluster divides it into three fields of research: transcultural entanglements and disentanglements, religious diversity and legal-political unity, and criticism of religion and apologetics. Running across and uniting these fields of research are theory platforms, where researchers work with theories of conflict, emotionality and mediality, as well as of social inequality and differentiation. In addition, there are flexible Research Clouds dealing with overarching themes such as theological doctrine and lived religiosity, migration and diaspora, ambiguity and decision-making, and genesis and validity.
The aim of this fundamental research is not least to create an analytical distance from pressing questions of the present and to avoid simplifications, with members of the Cluster of Excellence contributing socially relevant and self-reflexive knowledge to current debates. The Centre for Research Communication disseminates research from the humanities and social sciences to a large number of target groups in society in transfer formats that are tailor-made to a particular theme – be this research sociological findings on migration in Europe, philosophical reflections on biopolitics, legal analyses of religious constitutional law, or historical studies of the relationship between religion, violence and gender.
To promote early-career researchers, the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” runs a Graduate School with an interdisciplinary doctoral programme. Postdocs are involved in interdisciplinary research with their own independent projects.
Internationally unique location for research on religion
The University of Münster (WWU) has become through the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” a nationally and internationally outstanding location for interdisciplinary research on religion – in terms of size and diversity of disciplines, methods, cultures and epochs. An internationally unique “Campus of Religions” will be established at the University in 2023, which will bring together Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Islamic theology, as well as institutions of non-denominational research on religion, and promote inter- and transdisciplinary, as well as interreligious, exchange. The University set up with the significant participation of the Cluster of Excellence a Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) in 2017, which brings together researchers working in the Digital Humanities at the University.
Interdisciplinary cooperation in the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” benefits from three epoch-related research centres that have emerged from the Cluster: the Centre for Religion and Modernity (CRM), the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMF), and the Centre for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (GKM). A guest professorship in religion and politics, the “Hans Blumenberg Professorship” (named after the famous Münster philosopher), brings innovative momentum from international research to Münster and strengthens its interdisciplinarity.