Research Clouds

As flexible working groups within the research structure of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, the Research Clouds combine aspects from different fields of research and different theory platforms as required. The number of Research Clouds is not finite, and their duration and composition have not been determined definitively. This allows the Cluster of Excellence to take account of the fact that academic questions may change under certain circumstances, and that the structures in the Cluster must be able to adapt to changing research objectives.

Research Cloud 1: Ambiguity and decision-making

With regard to the dynamics of tradition and innovation, Research Cloud 1 explores how, by disambiguating traditions that are ambiguous (for example, by reinterpreting them in a fundamentalist way), religions can become the motor of social change, the focal point of political protest, the attractor of youth cultures critical of civilization, the power source of charitable and cultural initiatives, or the generator of emancipative movements. The media instruments used by religious communities, the mobilization strategies that they rely on, and the social inequalities that they link up with – these are all important factors in determining the effects that they have.

Research Cloud 2: Theological doctrine and lived religiosity

Research Cloud 2 deals with the tension between theological doctrine and lived religiosity by exploring the dispute over the historical character of religiously binding texts. On the one hand, normative texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are analyzed exegetically in terms of their history of origin as well as of transmission. On the other, the resulting challenges for lived religiosity are addressed theologically and philosophically. This Research Cloud uses methods from the Digital Humanities to show and illustrate the different layers in the history of origin and transmission.

Research Cloud 3: Migration and diaspora

Migration changes not only the balance between religious minority and religious majority in the regions concerned, but also the religious patterns of interpretation. Research Cloud 3 examines the extent to which migration changes the attitudes and behaviour of both migrants and the majority population in the host countries, their cultural and religious self-identification, their view of themselves and others, their understanding of home, nationality and political affiliation, and their religious practice. In addition, the Research Cloud deals with the controversial question of how far religion fosters or impedes the social integration of immigrants.

Research Cloud 4: Digital Humanities

The research cloud Digital Humanities investigates both methodological and content-related similarities between the individual projects of the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics" that work with digital methods. Together with the software engineers of the Service Center Digital Humanities of the ULB Münster, digital tools are tested, discussed and jointly adapted on the basis of practical case studies in order to address the concrete, upcoming research questions from a digital perspective. One focus of the digital research is the question of the historical character of religious texts, especially their history of origin and transmission.

Research Cloud 5: Memory and Forgetting

The dynamics of religious change are always based on processes of memory and forgetting, whereby remembering primarily grants identity and continuity, forgetting, on the other hand, creates space for something new and releases capacities. In the research cloud “memory and forgetting” the discussion will be continued based on the previous examination of Jan Assmann’s approach to communicative and cultural memory (reading group), and further approaches will be discussed that go beyond this distinction. However, the focus of the work will be on the cluster’s internal research projects and questions: Based on this data basis, both the two distinctions of remembering and forgetting, which are constitutive and complementary for memory, as well as the respective framework conditions underlying these distinction will be concretely investigated. The aim is to reflect empirically and theoretically on how processes of remembering and forgetting contribute to the dynamics of religious change.

Reserach cloud 6: Competitive Social Forms of Religion: A driving force in the History of Religion?

Following Max Weber's distinction between 'church' and 'sect', the Cloud deals both historically and systematically (a) with the formation and competition of different social forms of religion and (b) with the question of which ‚techniques’ various religious social forms develop in order to efficiently shape the way of life of their members, i.e. to establish socially shared expectation structures in ethical, moral and religious terms. The interplay as well as the desintegration of various religious social forms (such as 'church', 'sect', 'movement', 'network' etc.) and specific religious 'institutions' (i.e. shared expectation structures, consensus assumptions etc.) is to be discussed.

Research Cloud 7: Conflict and Violence

The way people deal with conflicts can both provoke a violent escalation and lead to a containment and overcoming of violence. In this process religious semantics and motivations often play a crucial role and can be used for both aims. Accordingly, studies how conflicts are fuelled or stemmed also by means of religious texts, symbols, and ideas, is a field of research in which the dynamics of tradition and innovation with regard to religion and politics become particularly visible. The Research Cloud “Conflict and Violence” adopts an interdisciplinary and cross epochal approach by examining conflicts and the way they were dealt with from antiquity until present times.

Research Cloud 8: epidemics

The Research Cloud “Epidemics” adopts the perspective of many disciplines and epochs to investigate how interpretations of epidemics have changed over time, and is exploring above all the specific way in which religious, political and scientific communities and institutions deal with epidemics. It also focuses on the function of epidemic crises as movements for political reform and innovation. The aim is to unite the interdisciplinary knowledge in the Cluster of Excellence on this issue and to seek impulses for further work, including on the social dynamics of religion in times of crisis.

Research Cloud 9: Localism and the Local

Historical studies in globalism and globalization recognize the importance of the local as a sphere where the strands of connectedness translate into real life constellations, with multi-directional triggers and adaptations across the global-local binary. While the global segment of this binary has received tremendous attention in scholarship, conceptual approaches toward the local are few in number. The research cloud Localism and the Local aims at an advanced understanding of local space: what it is, and why it matters. Inspired by constellations in the present day, it is commonplace to view the local as a realm of resilience against the advancement of globalization. The cloud adds historical depth to this conversation, with an emphasis on premodern configurations. Discussions probe the local as a dynamic force foundational to societal agencies in religion, politics, economics, and culture.

Research Cloud 10: Islam and politics

As a subject, “Islam and politics” is becoming increasingly relevant on a socio-political level. At the same time, different phenomena of that subject are being explored by scholars not only in areas of Theology and Islamic Studies. Perspectives of Sociology, Political Sciences, Psychology, Literary Studies, Historical Studies and others have long ago found their way into the academic research of the relationship between Islam and politics.

Research Cloud 11: Religious Landscapes and Environmental Devotion

This reseach cloud examines questions such as how religion shapes landscapes—urban, rural, “natural”—not (only) in the physical sense, but in the way it informs the perception and interpretation of landscapes? How do environmental movements both on the grassroots level and in the field of politics deploy religious sentiments and sacred symbols (including rootedness, mythical connections) to promote their cause? How do colonial and neocolonial projects put forward redemptive stories about development and growth to legitimize the appropriation and demolition of social landscapes and environments?