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Articles

Here you will find an overview of the journal articles and articles published in edited volumes by the research group and its members.

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2022

The Orthodox Church, Neosecularisation, and the Rise of Anti-Gender Politics in Bulgaria

Ina Merdjanova

In a recent publication, I introduced the theoretical framework of neosecularisation with regard to the Orthodox Church and society in Bulgaria. I argued that neosecularisation, as a complex process of decline of religion’s importance and the hold of religious authority over the social system, while genealogically different from communist secularisation, explicates patterns of continuity with the communist past. Important aspects of this continuity include the persistent grassroots feminisation of the Church and the co-optation of the Church by the state. Drawing on those theoretical insights, in this paper, I seek to understand the rise of anti-gender politics in Bulgaria since 2018 in relation to the condition of neosecularisation and its impact on the Church. I argue that (neo)secularisation remains a much feared “threat” for the Church and plays a role in ecclesiastical anti-gender mobilisation. However, the Church is not a major factor in anti-gender politics in Bulgaria; the roles of far-right nationalists and certain transnationally connected evangelical actors are to be seriously considered. Furthermore, anti-genderism cannot be understood merely as a religious or cultural backlash. It needs to be discussed as a larger protest movement against liberal democracy’s failure to live up to its promises and against the pathologies of neoliberal globalisation, a movement in which the Orthodox Church is only tangentially involved


Merdjanova, Ina. “The Orthodox Church, Neosecularisation, and the Rise of Anti-Gender Politics in Bulgaria.” Religions 13, no. 4 (2022): 359.

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2022

The Orthodox Charismatic Gift

Giuseppe Tateo

The Orthodox Charismatic Gift

Based on ethnographic research conducted in a number of Orthodox parishes in Bucharest, this article discusses different conceptions of har among Bucharest Orthodox believers, practitioners, and clerics. Har stands for ‘grace’, ‘charisma’ or ‘gift’ depending on the context. An ethnographically grounded analysis of this emic concept, I argue, is essential for two main reasons. First, understanding grace through gratuity allows us to grasp diverse forms of religious change, such as committed church attendance and the detachment from communal religious life, in contemporary Romania. Second, seeing through the looking glass of Orthodox practice allows for unexplored insights into the workings of charismatic authority. The article ends with a seeming paradox: grace is ‘something extra’, an addition which is best grasped apophatically, that is, through subtraction.


Tateo, Giuseppe. "The Orthodox Charismatic Gift." The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 40, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 68-83.

2022

What is Alevism? Contemporary Debates vis-à-vis Historical and Systematic Considerations

Markus Dreßler

What is Alevism? Contemporary Debates vis-à-vis Historical and Systematic Considerations

The scholarship on Alevis and Kurds in Turkey has grown over the last three decades. The politicisation of Alevism and Kurdishness has also increased the visibility of Kurdish Alevis. In this context, Dersim (formally Tunceli) comes to the fore with a new Kurdish Alevi identity, with similarities with other Alevi communities and specific oral traditions, sacred place (jiare) practices, religious organisations, discourses and rituals. Nowadays, Kurdish Alevis mostly define themselves as Kurds, but their cultural heritage features many differences from other Kurdish communities. The purpose of this chapter is to understand Alevism (as associated with Kurdish identity) in Tunceli where – in relation to the Sunni population – Alevis constitute the majority (whilst Alevis are the biggest religious minority in Turkey). This approach will present an alternative picture of the relations between Alevi and Sunni communities.


Dreßler, Markus. “What Is Alevism? Contemporary Debates Vis-À-Vis Historical and Systematic Considerations.” In The Alevis in Modern Turkey and the Diaspora: Recognition, Mobilisation and Transformation, edited by Derya Ozkul, and Hege I. Markussen. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022.

2022

Thinking of Alevism as a ‘Majority’: Alevi and Sunni Communities in Dersim

Ahmet Kerim Gültekin

Thinking of Alevism as a ‘Majority’: Alevi and Sunni Communities in Dersim

"The scholarship on Alevis and Kurds in Turkey has grown over the last three decades. The politicisation of Alevism and Kurdishness has also increased the visibility of Kurdish Alevis. In this context, Dersim (formally Tunceli) comes to the fore with a new Kurdish Alevi identity, with similarities with other Alevi communities and specific oral traditions, sacred place (jiare) practices, religious organisations, discourses and rituals. Nowadays, Kurdish Alevis mostly define themselves as Kurds, but their cultural heritage features many differences from other Kurdish communities. The purpose of this chapter is to understand Alevism (as associated with Kurdish identity) in Tunceli where – in relation to the Sunni population – Alevis constitute the majority (whilst Alevis are the biggest religious minority in Turkey). This approach will present an alternative picture of the relations between Alevi and Sunni communities."


Gültekin, Ahmet K. “Thinking of Alevism as a ‘Majority’: Alevi and Sunni Communities in Dersim.” In The Alevis in Modern Turkey and the Diaspora: Recognition, Mobilisation and Transformation, edited by Derya Ozkul, and Hege I. Markussen, 101–26. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022.

2022

The Reconversion of the Hagia Sophia: Silences and Unheard Voices

Markus Dreßler

The Reconversion of the Hagia Sophia: Silences and Unheard Voices

Not only parts of the European public, but also many secularly-oriented citizens in Turkey perceive the AKP's Islamization politics and its flirtation with neo-imperial political imaginaries as a threat. Often the resulting unease is connected to the erosion of democracy and continued state repression against opposition members of various factions, which have–as in other countries with rightwing populist leadership–divided the country. In reaction to the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in July 2020, other patterns of interpretation were foregrounded in Turkey. Critical voices mostly saw the act as a populist attempt to divert attention from an economic crisis that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, steadily declining poll ratings, and signs of disintegration within the ruling party AKP. The reconversion was intended to bind right-wing conservative and nationalist milieus more closely to Erdoğan and the AKP. Others articulate their objections from a pluralist perspective on history and in solidarity with religious minorities—whose numbers have shrunk considerably, but who are still connected to memories of a more diverse past. Those who approach the issue from this perspective defend Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, or even advocate for the return of the building to the Greek Orthodox Church (e.g., member of parliament Hüda Kaya from the pro-Kurdish HDP).These latter voices were marginal, however, and I take this as prompt to reflect on the subdued voices and silences in the public debate on the reconversion of the Hagia Sophia.


Dreßler, Markus. “The Reconversion of the Hagia Sophia: Silences and Unheard Voices.” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 8, no. 1 (2021): 209–13.

2022

The (In)Compatibility of Islam with Modernity: (Mis)Understandings of Secularity/Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate Worlds

Housamedden Darwish

The (In)Compatibility of Islam with Modernity: (Mis)Understandings of Secularity/Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate Worlds

Global Modernity from Coloniality to Pandemic explores issues related to the global crises of our time: reason, science, and the environment by revisiting the notions of modernity, modernism, and modernization, which can no longer be considered purely Western or strictly secular. The book poses questions about viewing modernity today from the vantage point of traditionally disparate disciplines – engaging scholars from sociology to science, philosophy to robotics, medicine to visual culture, mathematics to cultural theory, biology to environmental studies. Leading sociologist Alain Touraine contributes a new text in which he reflects on the role of women, refugees and migrants, and the future of democracy. In their conclusion, the editors posit a fundamental ethical distinction between modernization and modernity and call for a new understanding of modernity that is globally distributed, informed by the voices of many, and concerned with crises that threaten all of us at the level of the species – a modernity-to-come.



Darwish, Housamedden. “The (In)Compatibility of Islam with Modernity: (Mis)Understandings of Secularity/Secularism in the Arab and Islamicate Worlds.” In Global Modernity from Coloniality to Pandemic: A Cross-Disciplinary Perspektive, edited by Hatem Akil, and Simone Maddanu. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2022.

2022

Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline

Hubert Seiwert

Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline

The article discusses the connection between theory formation and historical research in the study of religion. It presupposes that the study of religion is conceived of as an empirical discipline. The empirical basis of theories is provide  primarily by historical research, including research in the very recent past, that is, the present time. Research in the history of religions, therefore, is an indispensable part of the study of religion. However, in recent discussions on the methods, aims, and theoretical presuppositions of the discipline, research in the history of religions largely is ignored. To shed some light on this blind spot, the article builds on the philosophy of science of Critical Realism. While the first part deals with the role of historical research in theoretical discourses of the discipline, the second part explains fundamental ontological and epistemological positions of Critical Realism and their implications for empirical research. On this basis, some methodological problems of theory formation in the study of religion are discussed in the third part. In particular, it is argued that it is impossible to validate empirically theories of religion that aim to explain what religion is. The concluding part sketches ways of theory formation in the study of religion that does not take religion as the explanandum but as the theoretical perspective that guides research.

Responses (Published in Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaften 29, no. 2 (2021))

Mark Q. Gardiner and Steven Engler: "Allies in the Fullness of Theory." (pp. 259–67)
Stausberg, Michael: "The Abyss of Intransitivity: On Critical Realism and Theories of Religion." (pp. 268–74)
Becker, Carmen: "Returning to the Empirical after the Discursive Turn? A Response to Hubert Seiwert." (pp. 275–80)
Schmidt-Leukel, Perry: "Religion: Historical Fact or Interpretive Theory? A Response to Hubert Seiwert." (pp. 281–84)
Taves, Ann: "Religion, Religious: Can Anti-Definitionalists Stay Tethered to the Study of Religion?" (pp. 285–89)
Seiwert, Hubert: "Reply to the Responses." (pp. 290–98)

Seiwert, Hubert. “Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline.” Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 28, no. 2 (2020): 207–36.

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2021

Islamic Politics of Imagination: The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood

Dietrich Jung and Ahmed Abou El Zalaf

Islamic Politics of Imagination: The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood

Inspired by Chiara Bottici’s conceptual triad of imagination, imaginary, and the imaginal, the chapter analyses the ideological framework of the Muslim Brotherhood as an example of Islamic politics. More precisely, it looks at the way in which its founder Hasan al-Banna (1906-1948) constructed the imaginal politics of an Islamic system. The chapter presents Hasan al-Banna as both an imagining actor and an individual subjected to the contextual power of the social imaginaries of his times.


Jung, Dietrich, and Ahmed Abou El Zalaf. "Islamic Politics of Imagination: The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood." In Debating Imaginal Politics: Dialgues with Chiara Bottici, edited by Suzi Adams, and Jeremy C.A. Smith, 121-142. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

2021

Die Relevanz der Säkularisierungstheorie im globalen Zeitalter

Monika Wohlrab-Sahr and Florian Zemmin

Die Relevanz der Säkularisierungstheorie im globalen Zeitalter

Man könnte meinen, der von Christiane Frey, Uwe Hebekus und David Martyn vorgelegte Quellenband zu „Säkularisierung“ käme so verspätet wie die Zeitungen von gestern. Theorien der Säkularisierung, wie allgemeiner des Säkularen, sehen sich gegenwärtig heftiger Kritik ausgesetzt, die – anders als frühere Einwände – ihre analytische Leistungsfähigkeit fundamental in Frage stellen. Die Kritik kommt dabei heute vor allem von außerhalb der Soziologie und der Geschichtswissenschaft: aus der Anthropologie, den Postcolonial Studies und – teils mit ihnen verbunden – diversen Area Studies. Auch wenn sie manche besonders „hartleibigen“ Bereiche der Soziologie bisher wenig zu tangieren scheint, hat sie doch zu – teils reflektiert, teils willfährig erscheinenden – Revisionen und Anpassungen geführt, die es sinnvoll machen, sowohl Theorien der Säkularisierung als auch deren Kritik auf den Prüfstand zu stellen. Dafür braucht es theoriegeschichtliche Quellen. Einen wichtigen Teil dieser Quellen präsentiert, bis zu Augustinus zurückreichend, der vorgelegte Band. Und er präsentiert damit gleichzeitig eine Ideengeschichte der Säkularisierung.


Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and Florian Zemmin. “Die Relevanz Der Säkularisierungstheorie Im Globalen Zeitalter: Frey, Christiane/Hebekus, Uwe/Martyn, David (Hrsg.), Säkularisierung. Grundlagentexte zur Theoriegeschichte, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 2020.” Soziologische Revue 44, no. 4 (2021): 506–17.


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2021

From Military Hero to Martyr: Crafting Singularity and the Formation of Muslim Collective Subjectivity in an Iranian Statist Ritual

Sana Chavoshian

From Military Hero to Martyr: Crafting Singularity and the Formation of Muslim Collective Subjectivity in an Iranian Statist Ritual

The staging of the funeral procession of Major General Qasem Soleimani (d. 3 January 2020) strengthened the Iranian state’s legitimation amidst the crisis related to intensified US sanctions. Images of his funeral parade across the country with its dense mourning crowd were circulated widely and commented on in both Iran’s official media and the international media. In response to these images, media commentaries engaged obsessively and exclusively with the biographical reviews that emphasised his heroic individuality and charismatic figure. This article engages critically with these reactions, while asking instead what his funeral tells us about the unfolding of the statist cult in Iran. I analyse two ethnographic scenes, one showing the entanglement of the official discourse of martyrdom with the statist culture, and the other, how the atmosphere of grief and
veneration during the martyrs’ funeral processions unsettle the dichotomies between compliance and resistance, orchestrated and emergent affects. These observations open a new vista on the mutual processes of singularity and the collective subjectivation that goes beyond one-sided causal explanations of heroic individuality on the one hand and blatantly dramatised expressions of the state’s religious policies on the other.


Chavoshian, Sana. “From Military Hero to Martyr: Crafting Singularity and the Formation of Muslim Collective Subjectivity in an Iranian Statist Ritual.” Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques 75, no. 3 (2021): 859–79.

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2021

On the Renovation of Religious Discourse: An Analysis of Concepts of Internal and External Disciplines

Housamedden Darwish

On the Renovation of Religious Discourse: An Analysis of Concepts of Internal and External Disciplines

This article aims to clarify the meaning of “renovation of religious discourse”, specifically by defining the disciplines of this renovation and their importance in determining its meaning. The disciplines play a pivotal role in determining the nature, meaning, and possibilities of renovating religious discourse. To demonstrate this thesis, the article will first make some conceptual distinctions between ‘discourse of religion’ and ‘religious discourse’, between ‘religion’ and ‘religiosity’, between ‘renovation in religious discourse’ and ‘renovation of religious discourse’. Secondly, it will make a distinction between internal and external disciplines. Internal disciplines lie within the religious text itself and in the hermeneutic circle between understanding parts of the text and understanding it as a whole, between understanding and pre-understanding, between the inside and the outside. In doing so, the paper focuses mainly on the role of the ruling political and economic powers and authorities. The paper concludes that renovating religious discourse is a political and institutional issue rather than a purely religious one related to individuals and that it is conditional on the state and its political system, the extent of its actual adoption of the concepts of ‘the state of citizenship and law’, democracy, and the extent to which it protects freedoms, differences, and pluralism.


Darwish, Housamedden. “On the Renovation of Religious Discourse: An Analysis of Concepts of Internal and External Disciplines.” Teosofi: Jurnal Tasawuf dan Pemikiran Islam 11, no. 2 (2021): 240–69.

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2021

The Modern Prophet: Rashīd Riḍā’s Construction of Muḥammad as Religious and Social Reformer

Florian Zemmin

The Modern Prophet: Rashīd Riḍā’s Construction of Muḥammad as Religious and Social Reformer

The journal al-Manār, published from Cairo between 1898 and 1940, was the mouthpiece of Islamic modernism, that intellectual trend which articulated modernity from within the Islamic discursive tradition. Islam was thus used to distinguish between and at the same time connect both twins of the modern order, religion and society. The Prophet Muḥammad not only brought allegedly godly, timeless teachings most appropriate for modernity, but also himself took care of both religion and society. This chapter shows how the editor of al-Manār, Rashīd Riḍā, constructed the figure of the Prophet to represent an ideal religious and social reformer. This representation pursued two aims: the emotionally charged figure of the Prophet mediated the salience and practicability of abstract Islamic principles to a wider audience; and he served as a role model and lent authority to Riḍā, the self-styled reformist, himself. The reconstruction of prophets as social reformers was not peculiar to Islam, as the author illustrates by pointing to parallel endeavours by modern Jewish and Christian theologians and intellectuals. These parallels attest to the primacy of modernity in Riḍā’s appropriation of the Islamic tradition, and specifically in his construction of the Prophet Muḥammad.


Zemmin, Florian. "The Modern Prophet: Rashīd Riḍā's Construction of Muḥammad as Religious and Social Reformer." In The Presence of the Prophet in Early Modern and Contemporary Islam, edited by Rachida Chih, Stefan Reichmuth, und David Jordan, 349-69 (Leiden: Brill, 2021).

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2021

Islamism, Islamic Modernism and the Search for Modern Authenticity in an Imaginary Past

Dietrich Jung

Islamism, Islamic Modernism and the Search for Modern Authenticity in an Imaginary Past

How to be authentically modern? This was the pervasive question behind the ideological elaborations of numerous religious and nationalist movements toward the end of the nineteenth century. Many of them attempted to find the answer in an imaginary past. This article claims that Islamist movements are not an exception, but rather an affirmation to this rule. The orientation towards a “golden age” of Islam and its allegedly authentic Islamic way of life has been a crucial feature of Islamist thought across all national, sectarian and ideological divides. The article traces this invocation of the past historically back to the construction of specifically Islamic forms of modernity by representatives of Islamic modernism in the second half of the nineteenth century. Interpreting their modernist thought in the context of more global nineteenth-century concepts and narratives, the article argues from a comparative perspective that Islamic modernism laid the foundations for the ways in which Islamist thinkers have constructed both individual and collective forms of Muslim identities.


Jung, Dietrich. “Islamism, Islamic Modernism and the Search for Modern Authenticity in an Imaginary Past.” Religions 12, no. 11 (2021): 1–13.

2021

Monism and the Religion of Science: How a German New Religious Movement Birthed American Academic Philosophy

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm

Monism and the Religion of Science: How a German New Religious Movement Birthed American Academic Philosophy

Monism was not just a philosophical outlook, but also an early twentieth-century new religious movement. Founded by the internationally renowned evolutionary theorist Ernst Haeckel, it was supposed to be a “Religion of Science” that repudiated matter-mind dualism in favor of reverence for a divinized Mother Nature. This article traces the genesis of the German Monist League and how it was transplanted to the United States by the publisher, Paul Carus. Although readers of this journal are likely to know about new religions that embrace “pseudoscience,” the surprise is that Monism had followers with significant scientific renown including multiple Nobel Prize-winning scientists, famous philosophers of science, and even a celebrated sociologist. Scholars of secularism or science and religion will want to know about how Haeckel and his followers constructed a hybrid Scientific Faith or Secular Church that this article demonstrates went on to provide the foundation for professionalizing American philosophy.

Storm, Jason Ānanda Josephson. “Monism and the Religion of Science.” Nova Religio 25, no. 2 (2021): 12–39.

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