Expansion of Research on Religion
With the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”, the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU) has become a nationally unique place in size and diversity for interdisciplinary religious research: its scholars’ work spans cultures and epochs, relates to past and present, is denominational and non-denominational. This is to remain so in the long run. The university has created sustainable structures in order to safeguard the extent and variety of interdisciplinary research activities and international exchange: in recent years, several new research centres and institutions, chairs and third-party funding associations have emerged from the Cluster of Excellence. This has given the university a more distinct profile in interdisciplinary religious research.
Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship
The Hans Blumenberg Visiting Professorship for Religion and Politics – named after the influential Münster philosopher – was established at the Cluster of Excellence to attract innovative stimuli from international research to Münster and to consolidate interdisciplinary compatibility at the Cluster of Excellence. Renowned researchers from various disciplines are appointed to the visiting professorship, e.g. from history, sociology, ethnology and law.
The organisational backbone of interdisciplinary cooperation at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” are three period-specific research centres that serve to attract new research associations and to act as a forum for public events, publication series and journal editors. The University of Münster is home to many small disciplines – from archaeology and Egyptology to Westphalian regional history – and these in particular benefit from participation in the Centres and the Cluster of Excellence.
Center for Religion and Modernity (CRM): The Center for Religion and Modernity (CRM) was established within the context of the Cluster of Excellence in order to account for the new focus of religious studies in Law and the Social Sciences at the University of Münster. It concentrates and organises research at the University of Münster on religions in the modern period.
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMF): The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Centrum für Mittelalter- und Frühneuzeitforschung) emerged after decades of collaborative research across periods at the University of Münster. The Centre provides a forum to discuss the periods from the early Middle Ages to the so-called Sattelzeit around 1800 in their structural continuity, and thus to continue the long and successful cooperation between specialists in the Medieval and Early Modern period. At the same time, the Centre broadens its perspective and assumes a transcultural point of view, also looking at the Christian-Islamic contact zones as well as the Jewish contribution to European and Mediterranean history.
Centre for Eastern Mediterranean History and Culture (GKM): The Centre for Eastern Mediterranean History and Culture (Centrum für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Mittelmeerraums) brings all the classical and ancient studies of the University of Münster into a network. The function of the centre is to intensify interdisciplinary cooperation, develop new research projects and provide a forum for public events.
Acquisition of Research Networks
The fact that research into religion at the University of Münster is structured in centres has contributed in recent years to the acquisition not only of highly remunerated professorships and academic prizes, but also of large-scale joint projects.
Graduate School “Religious Plurality”: The Centre for Religion and Modernity (CRM) acquired in 2016, in cooperation with the University of Bochum, the interdisciplinary Graduate School “Regulating Religious Plurality in the Region”, which is funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for a period of 4.5 years with €2.1 million. The Graduate School is part of the transdisciplinary research support provided by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is intended amongst other things to provide practical solutions to current challenges in society.
Collaborative Research Centre “Cultures of Decision-Making”: The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMF) acquired in 2016 a new research network on “Cultures of Decision-Making”, which has been awarded approximately €7.8 million in the first phase (2016 to 2019). The Collaborative Research Centre investigates the social practice and the cultural fundamentals of decision-making in a historically comparative and interdisciplinary perspective from the Middle Ages until the present age. The subjects of history, literature, law, philosophy, ethnology, Jewish and Byzantine studies are involved. Although it deals with religion only indirectly, its basic conceptual idea – namely, to approach decision-making as a culturally variable form of action – has proven to be a fruitful stimulus for research in the Cluster, too.
Centre for Advanced Study “The Justification of Norms in Medical Ethics and Biopolitics”: Cooperation between scholars of law, philosophers and political scientists in the Cluster resulted in 2010 in the Centre for Advanced Study “The Justification of Norms in Medical Ethics and Biopolitics”. This Centre is funded by the German Research Foundation for a period of eight years with approximately €8.9 million. The Centre conducts in-depth discussion on the foundations of plausible normative arguments in bioethics. Dealing with the question of what role religious arguments have in justifying norms in pluralistic societies has resulted in numerous staff synergies and overlaps with research questions pursued by the Cluster.
New Professorships and Institutes
The focus of research into religion at the University of Münster has been considerably expanded in the past years through the establishment and acquisition of several chairs related to religion in the humanities and social sciences. New professorships were created in sociology and in the political sciences; fundamental research in the legal sciences has also been radically strengthened. Jewish Studies was expanded significantly in 2015 through the recruitment of an Alexander von Humboldt professorship. An Institute for Jewish Studies has been established, with professorships focusing on Jewish art and cultural history and medieval book culture as well as Sephardic Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism and Jewish intellectual history.
The founding of the Cluster also enabled the significant extension of the Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. New professorships for Islamic History and Islamic Law were established. In 2013, the Arabist Thomas Bauer was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the German Research Foundation. Among other things, the prize money made it possible to create two further junior professorships, one with a focus on “Arabic literature and rhetoric”, and the other on “Modern Arabic literature and culture”.
Moreover, the University of Münster was one of three German universities to found a Centre for Islamic Theology (Zentrum für Islamische Theologie – ZIT). The Centre’s aim is to promote scholarly and intellectual reflection on the Muslim faith and contribute to the academic qualification of early-career researchers in the area of Islamic studies from a denominational perspective. In addition, the Centre trains teachers to teach the Islamic religion at German schools. In addition to the chairs of Islamic Religious Education and “Kalam, Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism”, chairs focusing on “Islamic Law and Islamic Ethics”, “The Koran and Quran Exegesis” and “Prophetic Tradition (Sunnah)” will be set up. The centre is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of North-Rhine Westphalia.
Centre of Religious Studies (CRS): Established in 2003, the University of Münster’s Centre of Religious Studies (CRS) has been an important nucleus for the Cluster of Excellence. It fulfils three functions: Firstly, it serves as an organisational anchor of religious research and teaching beyond the Christian theological faculties; the degree programmes of Orthodox Christian Theology, Islamic Religion and Religious Education, Jewish Studies and Religious Sciences form part of it. Secondly, it is a platform for the interdisciplinary cooperation of the various disciplines and departments that are related to religion. Thirdly, it serves as a point of contact between research into religion, churches and religious communities.