Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professors

Renowned researchers from varying disciplines will be appointed to the “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship for Religion and Politics” of the Cluster of excellence, – named after the philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1920-1996) – e.g. from history, sociology, ethnology and law.

Prof. Dr. Sarah Stroumsa (Summer term 2022)

Prof. Dr. Sarah Stroumsa – Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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The Israeli Arabic scholar Sarah Stroumsa is the Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” in the summer term of 2022. She was Rector of Hebrew University from 2008 to 2012, where she held the Alice and Jack Ormut Chair in Arabic Studies until her retirement.

Sarah Stroumsa has published a number of important and widely read works on the history of philosophical and theological thought in the medieval Islamic world and on Jewish-Arab philosophical literature, including Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker (Princeton 2010) and Andalus and Sefarad: On Philosophy and Its History in Islamic Spain (Princeton 2019).

Particularly noteworthy with regard to her stay at the Cluster of Excellence is her work on the mutual cultural, intellectual and philosophical influence of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, on the transfer of culture and knowledge between Jews, Christians and Muslims, and on religious dissidents and freethinkers in medieval Islamic philosophy, such as Abū Bakr al-Rāzī.

As part of the annual theme “Tradition(s)”, Professor Stroumsa will present for discussion her research on various currents in the academic engagement with philosophical traditions of the medieval Islamic world, thereby exploring the implications of her research for academic concepts of tradition and for the historiography of philosophy. At the same time, she will also present her innovative methodological approaches to the study of the history of ideas in the Arab Middle Ages.

Sarah Stroumsa is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the American Philosophical Society. She was awarded the Research Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2010, is a holder of the Italian Order of Merit, and received the Leopold Lucas Prize of the Faculty of Protestant Theology in Tübingen in 2018.

Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor Sarah Stroumsa will use her master class to discuss with early career researchers at the Cluster of Excellence how the openness to different readings of medieval Arabic and Hebrew philosophical texts fundamentally influences how they are classified in the history of ideas. Using various examples, she will present her methodology for interpreting such texts, and explain their significance for understanding the history of ideas in the Islamic world.


Between Traditions: Philosophical Traditions in the Islamicate World and Scholarly Traditions in Their Study with Arabic scholar Prof. Dr. Sarah Stroumsa, 17.-18.05.2022

Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling (Summer term 2021)

Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling – Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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The “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor” at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” in the summer term of 2021 is the social scientist Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling, who in a public evening lecture and a workshop will discuss Islamophobia in Western Europe. He will also discuss with researchers from the Cluster of Excellence an interdisciplinary research project run by the Cluster on threat, belonging, and the acceptance of democracy in Europe.

Helbling will shed light in his public evening lecture on the term “Islamophobia”: Is this xenophobia, fear of religion, or rejection of the religious? His analyses are based on surveys in several European countries, these surveys revealing clear differences in how fundamentalist and liberal Muslims are perceived. The workshop “Islam(ophobia) in Western Europe: Attitudes, Practices, Structures” will take up the theme of the lecture and explore further factors, with the phenomenon of “Islam(ophobia) in Western Europe” being addressed on three interconnected levels: attitudes towards migrants and religious fundamentalism, the visibility of Muslim practices, and how structures prefigure these practices.

Born in Chur, Switzerland, in 1977, Marc Helbling is Professor of Sociology of Migration and Integration at the University of Mannheim, and Research Fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre. He was previously Professor of Political Science at the University of Bamberg and led an Emmy Noether Junior Research Group at the WZB.

Helbling focuses on political and social conflicts that are religiously charged and that can be exacerbated by religion. His research focuses on policies to do with immigration and citizenship, on xenophobia and Islamophobia, and on populism and extremism. His current projects are investigating the influence of climate change on migration flows, and the link between terrorism and migration policy.

Helbling’s recent publications include articles such as “Transnational Terrorism and Restrictive Immigration Policies” in the Journal of Peace Research 57(4) (with Daniel Meierrieks), and “What is Islamophobia? Disentangling Citizens’ Feelings Towards Ethnicity, Religion and Religiosity Using a Survey Experiment” in the British Journal of Political Science 50(3) (with Richard Traunmüller). He published the book Practising Citizenship and Heterogeneous Nationhood: Naturalisations in Swiss Municipalities in 2008.

Marc Helbling was awarded the Best Paper Award of the Immigration Research Network, Council for European Studies, in 2018, and the Fernand Braudel Fellowship from the European University Institute Florence in 2016. He was an elected member of the Junge Akademie at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, between 2010 and 2015.


Islamophobie in Westeuropa: Angst vor Muslimen oder Fundamentalisten? mit dem Soziologen Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling, 07.-21.06.2021

Prof. Dr. Jan Assmann (winter term 2020/21)

© Martin Kraft

The cultural scientist and Egyptologist Jan Assmann will be the Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor at the Cluster of Excellence in the winter term of 2020/21, when he will focus on the relationship between religion and culture from Ancient Egypt, to early forms of Judaism, and to Christianity. He has been studying for decades the relationship between religion and politics not only in ancient cultures, but also in modern societies that build upon them. In doing so, he examines the modes in which societies refer to the past to create their identity, demarcate themselves, or carry out transformations. Together with his wife Aleida Assmann, he has developed the concept of cultural memory, which has often inspired research in the Cluster of Excellence. For example, the research field “Transcultural Entanglement and Disentanglement” drew significantly on Assmann’s fundamental research on the impact and reception of ancient Egyptian culture, while the research field “Criticism of Religion and Religious Apology” was given important impetus by his work on the “Mosaic distinction”.

Born in Langelsheim on the edge of the Harz in 1938, Jan Assmann is professor emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg and holds an honorary professorship in the theory of religion and general cultural studies at the University of Constance. He has been honoured with numerous awards for his work, including the Federal Cross of Merit First Class and the Thomas Mann Prize, as well as the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (together with his wife), the Karl Jaspers Prize, the Balzan Prize, and (most recently) the Order “Pour le Mérite for Science and Arts”. Jan Assmann has published widely on Egyptology, cultural studies, and religious studies, including "Cultural Memory" (1992), "Exodus: The Revolution of the Ancient World" (2019), "Axial Age: An Archaeology of Modernity" (2018), and "Total Religion: Origins and Forms of Puritan Intensification" (2016). Numerous visiting professorships and fellowships have taken Assmann to Yale, Jerusalem, Houston, Paris, Oxford, and Chicago. He is a member of many academies of science, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Münster, Yale and Jerusalem.

Jan Assmann will be succeeded in the summer term of 2021 by the social scientist Marc Helbling from the University of Mannheim, who will draw on his research on integration, xenophobia, and the dynamic role of religion in politics to discuss issues in the Cluster of Excellence’s annual theme for 2020/21, “Belonging and Demarcation”.


Religion und Kultur: Ägypten – Israel – Abendland mit Ägyptologe und Kulturwissenschaftler Prof. Dr. Jan Assmann, 02.02.2021- 04.02.2021.

Prof. Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer (summer semester 2018)

Prof. Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer – Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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As Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor at the Cluster of Excellence in summer semester 2018 sociologist Prof. Dr Mark Juergensmeyer from the University of California, Santa Barbara, will give public lectures on questions of religion and violence. His research focus includes religious violence and conflict resolution as well as South Asian religions and politics. He examines how religion can stimulate, curtail and modify social and political conflicts. He also asks about the reasons for their dynamic potency and about the external conditions which may mobilise or even restrict religion.

Mark Juergensmeyer is Professor of Sociology, International Studies and Religious Studies and founder of the Orfaela Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In recent years, the scholar has published important studies on religion and violence, including the internationally acclaimed work “Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence” (2000). It is based on interviews with religious activists worldwide such as jihadists, ISIS fighters, Hamas leaders and Christian militant pro-life activists in the USA. His publications also include “Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Qaeda” (2009), “Gandhi's Way: A Handbook of Conflict Resolution” (2005) and “The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State” (1993)


Religion and War mit Soziologe Prof. Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer, 12.06.2018 -19.06.2018.

Prof. Dr. Jóhann Páll Árnason (summer semester 2018)

Prof. Dr. Jóhann Páll Árnason – Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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In summer semester 2018, the sociologist Prof. Dr Jóhann Árnason, emeritus of La Trobe University in Melbourne, will address various approaches to a religious-political constitution of modernity, both in a public lecture series and in his research as Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor in Münster: What role does religion play in the process of modernisation? Did the transition from pre-modern to modern societies become possible because the importance of religion decreased, or was the examination of religion the precise prerequisite for the path to modernity? The series will focus on various theories about the emergence of modernity, including approaches by Hans Blumenberg, after whom the Visiting Professorship is named, Max Weber, Shmuel Eisenstadt , Marcel Gauchet and Hans Joas.

Jóhann Páll Árnason, born in Dalvík , Iceland in 1940, is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. After his doctorate with Jürgen Habermas in Frankfurt, his habilitation at Bielefeld University and his examination of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Árnason turned to macrosociological issues and developed a theory of modernity. He became a leading proponent of the comparative analysis of civilisations . After moving to Australia in 1975, Árnason stayed connected to European research through stays at renowned European research institutions. He has published widely-acclaimed works, including “Civilizations in Dispute” (2003) and, together with Shmuel N. Eisenstadt and Björn Wittrock, “Axial Civilizations and World History” (2004). Focusing on East Asia and Japan, Árnason addresses the comparability of civilisations and their different paths to modernity. The sociologist is a major representative of the theory of “multiple modernities”.


Säkularisation, Entzauberung, Autonomie: Zur Frage einer religiös-politischen Konstitution der Moderne mit Soziologe Prof. Dr. Jóhann P. Árnason, 08.05.2018-29.05.2018,  Münster.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild (summer semester 2017)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild - Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild - Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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The German social and cultural anthropologist Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild will assume the “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship” at the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” in the summer semester 2017. In a public lecture series in Münster, the scholar, a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, will focus on the “inevitability of religion”. After decades of increased secularisation, religions have such a great influence on politics again that, according to Hauschild, one has to ask whether human collectives can ultimately live without religion. Hauschild pleads for religious research that takes the subjective experience of religious believers seriously without abandoning scholarship’s neutral foundation.

Thomas Hauschild, born in Berlin in 1955, served as a professor for social and cultural anthropology at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. He is a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Science and Humanities. As a fellow or visiting professor he was active at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies at Vienna, Austria (IFK), the Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg) and the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie at Weimar (IKKM). Thomas Hauschild has published numerous books, arousing academic and public interest, among them “Hexen” (Witches), “Der böse Blick” (The evil eye), “Magie und Macht in Italien” (English edition “Magic and Power in Italy”, 2010), “Ritual und Gewalt” (Ritual and Violence, 2008), and “Weihnachtsmann. Die wahre Geschichte” (Santa Claus – The True Story, 2012). Between 1982 and 2015, the former stipendiary of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung completed extended periods of residential research on religion and politics in the province of Basilicata (Southern Italy).

The speaker of the Cluster of Excellence, sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Detlef Pollack, emphasises that Thomas Hauschild is “an anthropologist with original ideas” and owing to his wide range of research interests he can “be a particular source of inspiration for the interdisciplinary research at the Cluster of Excellence”. The findings of his field research and historical analyses are of great interest for many subjects at the Cluster of Excellence. “This offers opportunities to walk new paths in academic thinking about religious forms of sense and practices.” Among the Blumenberg visiting professor's research focus areas are the inevitability of religions, cults of spirits, religious resources in imperial consumer societies and the religion of IS and Al Qaida terrorists.

In the summer semester 2017, the Cluster of Excellence has for the first time appointed two Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professors: the social and cultural anthropologist Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild and the British sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead.


Die Unvermeidbarkeit von Religion mit Ethnologe Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild, Organisation: Exzellenzcluster „Religion und Politik“, 26.06.2017-10.07.2017.

Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead (summer semester 2017)

Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead - Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead - Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
© Christine Baker-Parrish

The sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead from Lancaster University will assume the “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship” at the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” in the summer semester 2017. During her stay at the WWU, the British academic will focus on the worldwide growing number of so-called “nones”, people who are unaffiliated with any religion. In a public lecture she will discuss the question “Is ‘No Religion’ the New Religion?”.

Linda Woodhead, born in Somerset, England, in 1964, is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University. In 2013 the academic was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to higher education. She has been awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Uppsala, Zurich and Oslo. Recently, the scholar was invited to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos as member of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith. She has published several works on religion in modern societies, among them a book that aroused international interest: “The Spiritual Revolution” (co-written with Paul Heelas, 2005) is based on research in Kendal, a town in England, documenting the growth of Christian and alternative spirituality. Further publications include “A Sociology of Religious Emotion” (co-authored with Ole Riis, 2010) and “That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People” (2016). Prof. Woodhead studied Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge University and specialised in the empirical study of culture, religion and values.

“In her research Linda Woodhead is concerned with secularisation, religion, values and gender as well as the relationship of religion and emotion”, says the speaker of the Cluster of Excellence, sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Detlef Pollack. “These focus areas offer numerous intersections with those of the Cluster of Excellence.” The scholar distinguished herself in particular with her theory of the “spiritual revolution”. “With this she describes a structural change of religion in modern societies through which new individualistic and syncretistic religious forms gain in importance and increasingly supersede declining ecclesial ties”, Prof. Pollack explains.

“Owing to her long experience in interdisciplinary research on religion and society, Linda Woodhead is a great enrichment for the Cluster of Excellence”, Prof. Pollack emphasises. From 2007 until 2012 the new Blumenberg Visiting Professor was Director of the 15 million euros interdisciplinary “Religion and Society research programme” funded by the “Arts and Humanities Research Council” and the “Economic and Social Research Council”.

For the summer semester 2017, the Cluster of Excellence has for the first time appointed two Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professors: the sociologist of religion Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead and the social and cultural anthropologist Prof. Dr. Thomas Hauschild.


Is ‘No Religion’ the New Religion? (Ist „keine Religion“ die neue Religion?) mit Soziologin Prof. Dr. Linda Woodhead, Lancaster University, 08.05.2017.

Prof. Dr. Horst Dreier (winter semester 2016/2017)

Prof. Dr. Horst Dreier - Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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The Würzburg legal scholar and legal philosopher Prof. Dr. Horst Dreier assumes the “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship” of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” in the winter semester 2016/17. In public lectures and in his research in Münster, the Würzburg researcher will focus on the “challenges of the secular constitutional state”. He will discuss the “hotly contested term” of secularisation and talk about the constitutional history of religious freedom in Germany, the religious-ideological neutrality of the state and the question of sacral elements in the secular state.

Horst Dreier, born in Hanover in 1954, is Professor for Legal Philosophy, Constitutional and Administrative Law at Würzburg University. His research focuses cover constitutional and intellectual history as well as the relationship of law and religion. From 2001 until 2007, he was a member of the National Ethics Council. The researcher received multiple awards and published numerous works in his research areas, such as “Säkularisierung und Sakralität” (Secularisation and sacrality; 2013), “Bioethik” (Bioethics; 2013) and “Staatsrecht in Demokratie und Diktatur” (Constitutional law in democracy and dictatorship; 2016), as well as a newly conceived three-volume commentary on the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz-Kommentar).

Horst Dreier’s research is of great interest for many subjects represented in the Cluster of Excellence: his legal-philosophical work makes him a contact for philosophers, his publications on legal and constitutional history for historians. Focussing on law and constitutional sociology opens up the dialogue with the socio-scientific subjects. His practical approach to constitutional law is profoundly influenced by political science so that exciting synergy effects are to be expected in this respect as well.

The time Horst Dreier spent at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) and at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt (Max-Weber-Kolleg) is proof of the appreciation that researchers show for him, of his ability to promote interdisciplinary exchange and of the high esteem he has for this form of science.


Herausforderungen des säkularen Verfassungsstaates mit Rechtswissenschaftler Prof. Dr. Horst Dreier, 14.11.2016-05.12.2016.

Prof. Dr. Lucian Hölscher (summer semester 2016)

Lucian Hölscher - first Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professor
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The Bochum historian Prof. Dr. Lucian Hölscher is the first holder of the “Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship” at the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”. In public lectures and in his research in the summer semester 2016, he is going to address the 2017 anniversary of Protestant Reformation and the culture of Protestant piety in Germany.

Lucian Hölscher, born in 1948, is emeritus professor for modern history and the theory of history at Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB). He has been a member of the board of RUB’s Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Dynamics of Religion between Asia and Europe”.

The historian is one of the internationally leading representatives of social, cultural and religious history of the modern era, and has given major impetus to a new theory of history. One of his most important works is his “Geschichte der protestantischen Frömmigkeit” (History of Protestant piety), which describes the change of Protestant piety from the Reformation until the early 20th century. During the visiting professorship in Münster, Prof. Hölscher will continue to work on the second volume of his “Geschichte der protestantischen Frömmigkeit”.

Lucian Hölscher’s research results are of great interest for the historical and social scientific research projects at the Cluster of Excellence. He connects the analysis of religious semantics, e.g. of visions of the past, the present and the future, with the analysis of social structural and political changes.

His works are relevant to many members of the Cluster of Excellence whose research focuses on the modern age and modernity. However, there are also many points of contact with ongoing research at the Cluster of Excellence in a methodological respect, e.g. as regards the reflection on methods that are used in the science of history from the point of view of the philosophy of science.


Protestantische Frömmigkeitskultur und das Reformationsjubiläum 2017 mit Historiker Prof. Dr. Lucian Hölscher, 12.04.2016-03.05.2016.