Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

D Cultural Dynamics of Religion

To a large extent, ideas about religion surfacing in public discussions oscillate between two emotive and conceptual poles. On the one hand, there is great concern about religiously motivated radicalization. On the other hand there is an expectation that religion will serve as a stabilizing factor and integrative authority: an expectation often tied to an assumption that in pre-modern times religion was able to fulfill that function.

The work carried out to date in research area D has suggested a very different picture, confirming the hypothesis that historically, to a considerable degree the borders have always been fluid between confessions, between the pluralism of religious movements and the monotheistic faith-systems, between ethnic, cultural, and religious self-ascriptions and those offered from the outside.

In this research area, we thus plan to continue studying the differentiating processes within which religious communities are formed, become institutionally anchored, and both hybridize and transform one another. Here the dialog between historians and ethnologists has turned out especially productive. In coming years, we intend to focus even more strongly on non-European faith discourses and practices, in order to gain a new perspective on a religious history centered on Europe as a cultural construct.

The institutionalization of religion is itself a phenomenon needing further research in a framework of cultural theory. As a rule, institutionalized, demarcated religion faces not only other religions but religious movements repeatedly abolishing religious boundaries and fixing them anew. Between these movements and the institutionally established religions, a market-like form of competition for followers prevails in all directions. Each competitive situation is structured differently through different systems of law and rule influencing the treatment of minority rights, but also through cultural practices.

The cultural dynamics of religion can best be observed in the relationship between its institutionalized form and open religious movements. Precisely in this respect, the non-theological research framework at Konstanz has shown itself very well suited to an apologetics-free historicization of religious claims to truth, and to context-specific scrutiny of their medial conditioning.

Research Questions

In this research area, questions such as the following will need to be examined:

  • How do religions institutionalize themselves, and what historical processes are at work here?
  • How do institutionalized religions and religious movements interact? Which scenarios and phases can be typologically distinguished?
  • To what extent do religions exert influence on social ideas of order? In this context, how is the relationship between religious and secular temporal orders configured?
  • How is multi-religiosity organized, in both its historical and present-day manifestations?
  • What mechanisms regulate the connection between social structure and religious semantics? How do effects of social satiation and over-determination of predominantly religious concepts emerge in their pragmatic contexts?
  • What elements within religions promote violence, and which mainly serve to deescalate and mediate conflicts?
  • What impact do European concepts of religion and secularization have on social orders of knowledge and scientific self-organization?
  • What forms of religion and religious activity have a strong influence on the contemporary world?