Research questions

Object of research

The Cluster of Excellence analyzes in transepochal studies ranging from antiquity to the present day the conditions and factors that make religion an engine of political and social change. It investigates these dynamics of religion and politics from a historical, comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. In doing so, it focuses on the intrinsic power of religion in different political and social contexts, and on the dynamics of tradition and innovation specific to religion.

The researchers concentrate mainly on the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, including the forms of religiosity and spirituality that are found in their environment, as well as on the polytheistic prehistory of these religions. The regional focus is on Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as on their entanglements outside Europe in the Near East, Africa, North and Latin America.

The aim of research in the Cluster is not least to create an analytical distance from urgent questions of the present, and thereby to avoid giving simplistic explanations of current problems. Members of the Cluster therefore provide reflexive knowledge that is socially relevant. The Centre for Research Communication disseminates research from the humanities and social sciences to a wide range of target groups in society in formats that are tailor-made for a particular theme.

Research questions

Religion clearly plays a central role in the profound processes of change that we are currently witnessing in the world. All the more controversial, however, is the question of whether religion is merely a symbolic medium in which social conflicts are played out, or whether it is only used as an instrument for the pursuit of political and economic interests – or whether, indeed, it is an independent factor in such conflicts. Given the lack of clarity here, it is necessary to discover how religion is involved in social conflicts and what role it plays in them.

The work of the Cluster of Excellence focuses on the question of how religion can stimulate, contain and modify social and political conflicts; on what it derives its dynamic power from, in the past and present, and in different cultures; and on which external conditions foster or limit its ability to mobilize people. Unlike secularization theory, the Cluster of Excellence therefore takes religion seriously as an independent factor of social change, and draws attention to the active potential of religion in political and social conflicts in the past and present.