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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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2021

On the (un)doing of anthropology and secularity,and its relevance for religious studies

Bjørn Ola Tafjord

On the (un)doing of anthropology and secularity,and its relevance for religious studies

This essay is a response to the inquiries and discussions of ‘anthropology’s secular conditioning’ that Khaled Furani, Joel Robbins, Jonathan Boyarin, Matthew Engelke, Richard Handler, Elayne Oliphant, and Eduardo Dullo initiate in this thematic issue of Religion. I focus on the moves that constitute anthropology and secularity. Whereas I endorse the grounded approaches that Boyarin, Engelke, Handler, Oliphant, and Dullo represent, and their highlighting of ambiguities and complexities in practices of anthropology and secularity, I am critical of Furani and Robbins’ attempt at ‘moving outside the secular condition’ by turning anthropology into an attitude in which openness to the divine appears vital. Historically, the religion/secular binary is intrinsic not only to a Christian conditioning of Western scholarship but also to political and popular practices that have materialized across the world. To me, therefore, doing religion does not seem like a credible way of undoing anthropology’s secular conditioning.


Tafjord, Bjørn O. “On the (Un)Doing of Anthropology and Secularity,and Its Relevance for Religious Studies.” Religion 51, no. 4 (2021): 614–22.

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2021

A Field Perspective on Sustainability Transitions: The Case of Religious Organizations

Jens Koehrsen and Fabian Huber.

A Field Perspective on Sustainability Transitions: The Case of Religious Organizations

This article proposes the field perspective as an approach to explain organizational activities in sustainability transitions. It applies this framework to analyze environmental activities of religious organizations in Germany and Switzerland. Religious organizations can become important actors in transitions by drawing on their extensive membership, material resources, and public visibility. However, to date, research is dearth about the conditions that facilitate transition activities of religious organizations. The empirical insights of this study show differences in the activities (a) between religious incumbents and challengers and (b) between the supra-local and local scale. The field perspective allows for explaining these differences as outcomes of the organizations’ power positions and diverging institutional logics on the supra-local and local scale. Rather than religious beliefs, the interplay of power and scale-specific logics shapes activities of religious organizations.

Koehrsen, Jens, and Fabian Huber. “A Field Perspective on Sustainability Transitions: The Case of Religious Organizations.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 40, no. 3 (2021): 408–20.

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2021

Negotiating Authority in the Bongolava Region, Madagascar

Peter Kneitz

Negotiating Authority in the Bongolava Region, Madagascar

Lasting problems of disorder on the island of Madagascar, and the incapacity of state actors to control or to prevent insecurity effectively, are driving villagers in rural areas to search urgently for solutions. The ethnographic case study focuses on the recent establishment of two vigilante groups in the Bongolava region of middle-western Madagascar, the so-called Zazamainty and Lambamena, whose work is based, among others, on a magic worldview and a locally well-known cultural code related to the precolonial past. The inactivity of the state sets the precondition for such magic momentum, as villagers are taking recourse on ideas and practices based on what is presented as ‘traditional authority,’ the only and last refuge they have. Villagers, by consequence, appear to navigate between two parallel, partly concurrently and overlapping registers of authority and legitimacy: State authority, and the connected global normativity of the legal state, of democracy, of peacemaking, or civil society on the one side, and local expressions of authority on the other. Malagasy actors, however, are particularly able and experienced to act within such dynamic world of plural legitimacies and authorities, as an additional regard on the horizon of long-standing cultural patterns allows to conclude.

Kneitz, Peter. “A Magic Momentum: Negotiating Authority in the Bongolava Region, Madagascar.” In Challenging Authorities: Ethnographies of Legitimacy and Power in Eastern and Southern Africa. Edited by Arne S. Steinforth and Sabine Klocke-Daffa, 319–45. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

2021

Religious Freedom, Legal Activism, and Muslim Personal Law in Contemporary India: A Sociological Exploration of Secularism

Anindita Chakrabarti

Religious Freedom, Legal Activism, and Muslim Personal Law in Contemporary India: A Sociological Exploration of Secularism

This chapter focuses on the recent judicial activism in reforming Muslim Personal Law (mpl) in India questioning the relationship between religious freedom, citizenship rights, and secularism. India follows a regime of religion-specific personal law in matters of marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption, custody of children, succession, and inheritance of property. In recent years, a unique jurisdiction of the Indian appellate judiciary known as the Public Interest Litigation (pil) has been often evoked to question and reform religious practices, including personal laws and especially the mpl. In this chapter, two landmark pil cases — the Vishwa Lochan Madan case and the Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality (popularly known as the Triple Talaq case) — that subjected mpl to judicial scrutiny, are analyzed. The trajectory of these two discrepant cases foregrounds the multivalent nature of constitutional law and their efficacy in understanding the issue of secularism in India. It shows how the boundaries between the religious and secular, created and contested in the judicial sphere, have important consequences for our understanding of religious freedom of minorities and women’s rights in a multi-cultural, post-colonial nation-state.

Chakrabarti, Anindita. “Religious Freedom, Legal Activism, and Muslim Personal Law in Contemporary India: A Sociological Exploration of Secularism.” In Religious Freedom: Social-Scientific Approaches. Edited by Olga Breskaya, Roger Finke and Giuseppe Giordan, 35–58. Brill, 2021.

2021

European History of Religion, Global History of Religion: On the Expansion of a Gladigowian Concept for the Study of Religion

Adrian Hermann

European History of Religion, Global History of Religion: On the Expansion of a Gladigowian Concept for the Study of Religion

In the 1990s, Burkhard Gladigow proposed the concept of a European History of Religion in order to complicate existing accounts of the religious developments in Europe since the Renaissance and to ofer an elaborate model of historical analysis for the study of religion as a cultural studies discipline. Tis approach has been criticized by some scholars as needlessly privileging Europe as the space of a particular historical development that supposedly is more complex and essentially diferent from non-European histories (of religion). In this chapter I want to argue that on the contrary, Gladigow's European History of Religion from the outset aimed at a much more open model and implied a potential extension to a global perspective. In a later text he expands on his 1995 proposal by suggesting that the constellation of a »European History of Religion« has to be understood as the succession to a »Mediterranean« and a »Roman« History of Religion. While Gladigow does not spend much time describing in detail what he means by the latter two, I want to argue that in a continuation of this idea and as a succession to the European History of Religion since at least the 19th century we can speak of a Global History of Religion. Additionally, one of the main takeaways from Gladigow's approach, next to the large number of not yet fully explored analytical ideas regarding specifc characteristics of modern European history which he developed out of his deep knowledge of the Ancient world, is the attention that he paid both to semantic changes as well as to the structural dimensions of the European History of Religion.4 Both aspects can fruitfully be taken up in a global context

Hermann, Adrian. “European History of Religion, Global History of Religion: On the Expansion of a Gladigowian Concept for the Study of Religion.” In Religion in Culture — Culture in Religion: Burkhard Gladigow's Contribution to Shifting Paradigms in the Study of Religion. Edited by Christoph Auffarth, Alexandra Grieser and Anne Koch, 237–68. Universität Tübingen.

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2021

Etsi deus non daretur: die Säkularität von Religionswissenschaft

Horst Junginger

Etsi deus non daretur: die Säkularität von Religionswissenschaft

Bei der wissenschaftlichen Arbeit die Annahme einer realen Existenz von Gott, Göttern und anderen übernatürlichen Wesen auszuklammern, gehört zu den Grundvoraussetzungen der nichttheologischen Religionswissenschaft. Um nicht in den Streit der Religionen über den Wahrheitsgehalt ihrer Glaubenslehren hineingezogen zu werden, stützt sie sich auf das Prinzip des »methodischen Agnostizismus«, der mit einem positiven Glaubens- oder Unglaubensbekenntnis nicht vereinbar ist. In Abgrenzung zum Wissenschaftsverständnis der Theologie als Lehre von oder Rede über Gott (θεός + λόγος) postuliert der Agnostizismus die grundsätzliche Unerkennbarkeit einer transzendenten Realität. Auf dieser Grundlage wurde es möglich, sich vom Wahrheitsanspruch des Christentums distanzieren zu können, ohne ihn explizit verneinen zu müssen. 

Junginger, Horst. “Etsi deus non daretur: die Säkularität von Religionswissenschaft.” In Religion in Culture — Culture in Religion: Burkhard Gladigow's Contribution to Shifting Paradigms in the Study of Religion. Edited by Christoph Auffarth, Alexandra Grieser and Anne Koch, 119–40. Universität Tübingen.

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2021

Professionalisierung der Religionswissenschaft: Burkhard Gladigow in der Deutschen Vereinigung für Religionsgeschichte

Hubert Seiwert

Professionalisierung der Religionswissenschaft: Burkhard Gladigow in der Deutschen Vereinigung für Religionsgeschichte

Das Werk Burkhard Gladigows findet seinen sichtbarsten, ja materiellen Ausdruck im umfangreichen Corpus seiner Publikationen, von denen wichtige Impulse für die Erschließung neuer Forschungsperspektiven der deutschen Religionswissenschaft ausgegangen sind. Ohne Zweifel ist es die intellektuelle Wirkung eines Gelehrten, die am meisten gelobt wird und den Ruhm begründet. Ich will in diesem Beitrag jedoch auf einen Bereich wissenschaftlicher Tätigkeit eingehen, der seltener mit Lobesreden bedacht wird und leicht in Vergessenheit gerät, weil er sich im Hintergrund vollzieht. Ich meine Gladigows Wirken als Wissenschaftsorganisator, der maßgeblich zur Institutionalisierung und Professionalisierung der Religionswissenschaft in Deutschland beigetragen hat. Dies betrifft einerseits seinen Beitrag zur Profilierung der Religionswissenschaft an der Universität Tübingen, den ich jedoch nur aus der Ferne beobachten konnte und deshalb hier nur am Rande erwähne. Besser vertraut bin ich dagegen mit seinem Wirken in der Deutschen Vereinigung für Religionsgeschichte (DVRG), deren Entwicklung er über mehrere Jahrzehnte entscheidend mitgeprägt hat. Es war auch eine Tagung der DVRG, auf der ich Gladigow 1980 zum ersten Mal begegnet bin, und unsere Beziehung danach wurde vor allem durch Zusammenarbeit auf dem Feld wissenschaftlicher Dienstleistungen für die scientific community der Religionswissenschaft geprägt. Der vorliegende Band, mit dem Gladigows wissenschaftliche Leistung geehrt wird, bietet mir die Gelegenheit, seinen Beitrag zur Entwicklung der DVRG und der institutionellen Transformation der Religionswissenschaft in Deutschland während der letzten Jahrzehnte in den Blick zu nehmen.

Seiwert, Hubert. “Professionalisierung der Religionswissenschaft: Burkhard Gladigow in der Deutschen Vereinigung für Religionsgeschichte.” In Religion in Culture — Culture in Religion: Burkhard Gladigow's Contribution to Shifting Paradigms in the Study of Religion. Edited by Christoph Auffarth, Alexandra Grieser and Anne Koch, 53–68. Universität Tübingen.

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2021

The Kurdish Women’s Movement in Turkey and Its Struggle for Gender Justice

Ina Merdjanova

The Kurdish Women’s Movement in Turkey and Its Struggle for Gender Justice

This paper looks at the Kurdish women’s struggles for gender justice at the intersection of two diverse social movements in Turkey: the Kurdish national movement, on the one hand, and the Turkish feminist movement, on the other. It argues that the Kurdish Women’s Movement (KWM) has functioned as a powerful process of learning for both men and women in the Kurdish community and in the larger society. It has destabilized and transformed the feudal–patriarchal relations and norms in the Kurdish community, the lingering sexism in the Kurdish movement, and the majoritarian constraints in the Turkish feminist movement.


Merdjanova, Ina. “The Kurdish Women’s Movement in Turkey and Its Struggle for Gender Justice.” Histories 1, no. 3 (2021): 184–98.

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2021

Digitale Inventarisierung: Chancen und Herausforderungen für die Provenienzforschung der Religionskundlichen Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg

Susanne Rodemeier and Edith Franke

Digitale Inventarisierung: Chancen und Herausforderungen für die Provenienzforschung der Religionskundlichen Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg

Die digitale Sicherung von Daten zu Objektbeständen ist eine zunehmend als relevant erachtete Aufgabe in Sammlungen und Museen, um Objekte systematisch einordnen und schnell auffinden, aber auch um sie inhaltlich gruppieren zu können. In der Religionskundlichen Sammlung wird seit 2001 eine digitale Datenbank verwendet, die das bis dahin verwendete System von hand-oder maschinenschriftlichen Karteikarten abgelöst hat. Dass sich in den Prozessen der Inventarisierung und Kategorisierung von Objekten Wissensordnungen und Interessenlagen spiegeln und dass mit der Digitalisierung von Daten Informationslücken zur Provenienz von Objekten einerseits deutlich werden, andererseits aber auch neu entstehen können, ist eine Erfahrung, die Ausgangspunkt der Überlegungen für diesen Beitrag ist. Wir werden im Folgenden aufzeigen, warum ein digitales Inventarisierungssystem so aufgebaut sein sollte, dass grundsätzlich die Herkunftsgeschichte von Objekten abgefragt wird und somit für Leerstellen in der Provenienz sensibilisiert. Darüber hinaus möchten wir darauf aufmerksam machen, dass bei der Übertragung von Daten aus einem analogen in ein digitales Inventarisierungsformat die Gefahr besteht, dass Informationen zu Objektgeschichten verloren gehen können, die zur Klärung von Provenienz fehlen. Wir halten es zudem für unerlässlich, dass die Digitalisierung musealer Bestände mit einer Differenzierung und Reflexion der erhobenen Daten sowie der zugrunde gelegten Klassifikationen einhergeht. Seit 2018 bringt Susanne Rodemeier als neue Kuratorin eine weitere inhaltliche Ausrichtung in die Religionskundliche Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg ein: Provenienzforschung zu Objekten aus kolonialen und missionsbezogenen Kontexten. Jüngst aufgefundenes Archivmaterial zeigt, dass zumindest in manchen Fällen einmal mehr Wissen über Geber*innen und Objektgeschichte bestand, und dass es im Zuge der Digitalisierung in den frühen 2000er Jahren offensichtlich nicht als vorrangig angesehen wurde, Daten vollständig zu dokumentieren.

Rodemeier, Susanne, and Edith Franke. “Digitale Inventarisierung: Chancen und Herausforderungen für die Provenienzforschung der Religionskundlichen Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg.” In Digitalisierung ethnologischer Sammlungen: Perspektiven aus Theorie und Praxis, edited by Hans P. Hahn et al., 183–98. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2021.

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2021

How Do We Measure Secularity?

André Laliberté

How Do We Measure Secularity?

When he wrote A Secular Age, Charles Taylor discussed the trajectory of societies of the North Atlantic influenced by Western Christianity and the changes in secularity they experienced. He had conceptualized three types of secularities: Secularity I, as separation between religion and state; Secularity II, qua decline of belief and practice over time; and Secularity III, or a condition of belief, “where religious belief is one option among others, and not necessarily the easiest one.” Taylor, however, acknowledged the limitation inherent to his work as contingent on a specific cultural area. In his approach, which combines phenomenology and hermeneutics with intellectual history, he has emphasized one particular path and its variants, but he has shied away from applying to non-Western societies the categories originally devised to analyze the forms of secularity that have unfolded in the West. Yet in our “secular age,” which is also the age of globalization, it has become diffcult to avoid the question of whether the trajectory of secularity within Western Europe and North America represents a secular exceptionalism that cannot be replicated elsewhere and precludes any Gadamerian “fusion of horizons.” This has implications that go beyond religion and the definition of the “secular” as it affects human rights, freedom of conscience, international law, and, in the end, global politics.

Laliberté, André. “How Do We Measure Secularity?” Journal of Law and Religion (2021): 1–8. Published online https://doi:10.1017/jlr.2021.21

This is a review article of the volume edited by Mirjam Künkler, John Madeley, and Shylashri Shankar A Secular Age Beyond the West. Religion, Law and the State in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

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2021

Menschliches Leid - Perspektiven der Philosophie und Theologie, des Buddhismus und der Medizin

Kleine, Christoph

Menschliches Leid - Perspektiven der Philosophie und Theologie, des Buddhismus und der Medizin

This contribution to the edited volume Human Suffering - Perspectives from Philosophy and Theology, Buddhism and Medicine discusses the particular interpretation of the causes of suffering and the possibilities of overcoming it from a Buddhist perspective. It is argued that for Buddhism as a classical redemptive religion, the realisation of suffering as being an inevitable element of human existence as such marks the starting point of all theory and practice. Everything initially revolves around the question of the causes of suffering and possible ways to emancipate oneself from suffering. It is no coincidence that Buddhist authors often use medical metaphors when dealing with the problem of suffering as an inherent quality of human nature. Here, the Buddha figures as the greatest doctor, who provides exactly the right therapy for each type of patient. Depending on the specific manifestation of the ailment, the personal situation and the needs of the patient, the Buddha provides a specific remedy. Since existence in the world itself is the ultimate ailment, a final liberation from suffering can only take place outside the world. It requires overcoming existence, itself, an existence which is conditioned by karmic factors that must be annihilated. It is shown that with regard to the interpretation of suffering and its cessation, Buddhism takes a completely different path than the great monotheistic religions. Since there is no creator God, the question of theodicy does not arise. Nor is the question raised whether suffering has any purpose or meaning. Certain philosophical problems that have strongly influenced European thinking are therefore completely ignored in Buddhism, as they are not considered relevant to salvation.


Kleine, Christoph. “Menschliches Leid: Perspektive des Buddhismus.” In Menschliches Leid - Perspektiven der Philosophie und Theologie, des Buddhismus und der Medizin. Edited by Mechthild Dreyer et al., 75–90. Berlin: Springer, 2021.

2021

Putting a Face on the Pathogen and Its Nemesis. Images of Tenkeisei and Gozutennō, Epidemic-Related Demons and Gods in Medieval Japan

Katja Triplett

Putting a Face on the Pathogen and Its Nemesis. Images of Tenkeisei and Gozutennō, Epidemic-Related Demons and Gods in Medieval Japan

In medieval Japan, so-called “four boundary demarcation rituals” were believed to turn invisible epidemic disease-bringing “demons” into visible beings. Making the demons visible, at least to the ritual experts involved, was a way of controlling them. The demons had a dual nature in that they harmed humans but could also become powerful protectors against disease and other calamities. This essay introduces the elaborate ritual culture of yin-yang divination, esoteric Buddhism, and kami worship in Japan, all of which involve “demonic” and protective deities. It explores images of two epidemic demons that serve humans as guardians and protectors against epidemic disease: Tenkeisei 天刑星, the Star of Heavenly Punishment, and Gozutennō 牛頭天王, the Bull-Headed Divine King. Tenkeisei ultimately merged with Gozutennō, who is also conflated with the deity Susanoo 素戔嗚.

Triplett, Katja. “Putting a Face on the Pathogen and Its Nemesis. Images of Tenkeisei and Gozutennō, Epidemic-Related Demons and Gods in Medieval Japan.” Asian Medicine, no. 16 (2021): 193–213.

2021

Asian Medicine and COVID-19: Ethnologies, Histories, Reflections

Michael Stanley-Baker and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim

Asian Medicine and COVID-19: Ethnologies, Histories, Reflections

Everyone is waiting for a safe vaccine. A snake winds its way around a syringe as if it were the rod of Asclepius. Will a new drug render harmless the virus at the center of the picture, which has trapped the entire globe in a pandemic? On the left a biomedical doctor relies on antibodies hovering over him like a speech bubble. Stethoscope, ECG, and computer-assisted sequencing are his instruments. On the right is a traditional doctor. He tries to classify the new disease into classical interpretations of humoral theory, symbolized by the tree of physiology and pathology in Tibetan medicine above him. A Chinese doctor would perhaps recommend licorice root, red sage, or mandarin orange peel to recover from a mild course of disease. Everywhere the virus can infect us, but for all the difference in access and medical training, masks and protective clothing are mandatory for all.


Stanley-Baker, Michael, and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim. “Asian Medicine and COVID-19: Ethnologies, Histories, Reflections.” Asian Medicine, no. 16 (2021): 1–10.

2021

Historicizing Secularity: A Proposal for Comparative Research from a Global Perspective

Christoph Kleine and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

Historicizing Secularity: A Proposal for Comparative Research from a Global Perspective

Drawing upon the critique of secularization theory, especially its lack of historical depth, this article outlines a research agenda that focuses on a specific – but fundamental – aspect of secularization: it aims at the historicization of conceptual distinctions and institutional differentiations between the religious and the secular. The authors employ the heuristic concept of ‘secularity’ to refer to these demarcations, and argue that secularization studies should give due consideration to their historical predecessors in various world regions. This seems important against the background of enduring criticisms, which consider such distinctions and differentiations either as an exclusively Western achievement or as a colonial imposition on non-Western regions. Taking into account the development of different historical paths, the authors highlight the transcultural, but in its concrete shape nevertheless culturally specific emergence of distinctions and differentiations related to religion, and propose secularity as a tertium comparationis for comparative research in this field. The authors introduce two different religious and societal settings in the medieval period – Japanese Buddhism and Islam in the Middle East – in order to illustrate the divergent ideational and structural backgrounds to the development of relations between the religious and the secular.

Kleine, Christoph, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Historicizing Secularity: A Proposal for Comparative Research from a Global Perspective.” Comparative Sociology 20 (2021): 287–316.

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