EXC 2060 B3-34 - Micropolitics of the Body - Islamic Forms of Conduct of Life under the Conditions of Cultural Diversity

Research Portal
in Process
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
  • Description

    "Can Muslims be represented in Europe?" For Talal Asad, who raises this question, the secular is not simply characterised by a tolerant attitude towards religious traditions. The secular state recognizes religions only, Asad states, if they have already changed over in conformity with secularity. Thus Muslims in Europe could be recognized as citizens, but not as Muslims. Even if Asad does not explain exactly what is meant by self-representation as Muslims, we take this thesis as the starting point of our research project, but we detach it from its motivation critical of modernity and secularization in order to open it to empirical research: In what ways do Muslims bring themselves as Muslims in certain social areas? We solve the question of identity, to which the topic of representation has so far been linked in research ('Who represents Muslims in which contexts?'), in forms of different practices as forms of expression of Muslim religiosity in concrete interaction spaces, in order to specify our general question more precisely: Which practices are performed and what are the consequences? How do they fit into the existing spaces and contexts of cultural diversity, how do they affect/transform diversity? We hope to gain a better insight into the diversity of the practices of Muslim presence in Europe (here: Germany). With this focus, we move below this macro-political level of representation by focusing on physical practices.

    With Max Weber we regard religions as "systems of life regulation" and allow ourselves to be guided by the assumption that religions, i.e. the respective kind of piety, as well as secularism, prefer specific modulations of affect and can thus get into tension with each other. Cultural diversity is not always and not necessarily perceived as 'enrichment' precisely because of this affect dimension. In concrete terms this means that in secular society primarily an affect organization is promoted, which tends to transfer the ritual commandments based on the distinction between pure and impure into ethical inwardness and thus requires to relativize them effectively in practice.

    Our research question follows on from this idea: Which ethical-practical self-concepts come into their own in the Muslim spectrum in public spaces in which cultic-cultural practices could lead to tensions? What different forms of conduct of life can be observed? To what extent do these practices reveal a certain tolerance for ambiguity? Such places of encounter could, for example, be canteens in schools, prayer and meditation rooms at universities and the swimming pools. These are all places and contexts where the ethical requirements that prepare the bodies in their social presence can bring the actors directly into tense situations. What about the use of space, for example, if in a multi-religious space the ethical requirements of a certain form of Islamic piety result in a change in the spatial structure (e.g. separation of the sexes by a curtain)? What is it like in public swimming pools when separate times are demanded for sexes or when burkini are debated in swimming pools? How are the religious food requirements taken into account in kindergartens, what solutions are found and with what consequences?

  • Persons

  • Dissertations

    Arne Laßen, M.A.


    Doctoral Thesis

    Muslim practices in educational establishments in Germany and the social arrangements concerning these practices

    Doctoral Subject
    Targeted Doctoral Degree
    Dr. phil.
    Awarded by
    Department 06 – Education and Social Studies
    This project aspires to draw a map of the differentiated regulations related to the Muslim presence in German public education institutions. 
    The primary aim of this project is to examine the “discursive environment” that the Muslim presence must deal with in German education institutions. In this context the researcher reviews and refines the hypothesis that the presence of Muslims is framed with and regulated by various concepts of diversity and secularity which are currently dominant in the sector. In addition, the project considers the dynamics of religion and asks: How do Muslim people bring their religiosity into play in the process of negotiating different interests? The division between a “discursive environment” and these dynamics represents a heuristic approach through which the research endeavours to reveal the connections and interactions between these elements. 
    The project employs qualitative methods, whereby the researcher is conducting interviews with agents involved in the processes of negotiating the Muslim presence and conducting participant observation – to the extent that this is viable. The project focuses primarily on case studies in kindergartens (public sponsorship) and public schools in North Rhine-Westphalia. Other case studies of these processes of negotiation occurring in public education institutions and media debates are considered for only as far as is necessary to adequately complete the map. The principal methods include a discourse analysis which is guided by Foucault's strategies of analysis and a sequence analysis inspired by objective hermeneutics. The researcher is aware of the tension between these methods and considers it an opportunity of productivity and creativity.