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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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2024

Religious Heritage between Scholarship and Practice

Todd H. Weir and Lieke Wijnia

Religious Heritage between Scholarship and Practice

This Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe was prompted by the convergence of two recent developments. In the realm of scholarship, heritage has now advanced to become a core concept in the study of religion. At the same time, national and international cultural agencies increasingly take into account the religious dimensions of heritage. By illuminating the space of convergence that lies between scholarship and practice, this handbook makes its specific contribution. Our starting point for this volume is the interaction we see taking place between university scholars and those in museums, government agencies, and church and heritage foundations who actively contribute to the making of heritage. Scholars and heritage professionals are not working in separate worlds but have jointly developed ethical and normative concerns and share many of the same intellectual curiosities.


The handbook is organized around three central areas of inquiry. The first is Heritage and Diversity and investigates how scholars and professionals are responding to the diversity of religion and culture in European societies. The second part examines Heritage between Religion and the Secular and asks how developments in religious heritage relate to the declining participation in traditional religions in many parts of Europe, but also to new secular-religious configurations. The third part investigates Heritage and Creativity and enquires how artistic means and curatorial practices are contributing to a new understanding of heritage as meaning making.


Weir Todd H., and Lieke Wijnia. “Religious Heritage between Scholarship and Practice” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe, edited by Todd H. Weir, and Lieke Wijinia, 3-14. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

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2024

European Jewish Heritage Today: An Interview with Emile Schrijver, General Director Jewish Cultural Quarter, Amsterdam

Todd H. Weir and Lieke Wijnia

European Jewish Heritage Today: An Interview with Emile Schrijver, General Director Jewish Cultural Quarter, Amsterdam

Todd H. Weir and Lieke Wijnia interview Emile Schrijver on the work of the Jewish Cultural Quarter and it's importance to the European Jewish Heritage.


Weir, Todd H., and Lieke Wijnia. “European Jewish Heritage Today: An Interview with Emile Schrijver, General Director Jewish Cultural Quarter, Amsterdam” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe, edited by Todd H. Weir, and Lieke Wijinia, 63-68. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

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2024

Counterhegemonic Heritage and Diversity in Berlin’s House of One: Designing Abraham’s Legacy

Marian Burchardt

Counterhegemonic Heritage and Diversity in Berlin’s House of One: Designing Abraham’s Legacy

Centering on the debates about the House of One, this chapter explores iconic multireligious architecture as a form of imagining, producing, and enacting religious pluralism and the way it challenges our understanding of how religious heritage is framed in public discussions and materially manifested in European cityscapes. Chiefly, much of the debate on the links among religion and heritage in Europe pivots on questions of how the secularization and religious pluralization of European societies potentially diminish the hitherto dominant role of Christian material patrimony in anchoring national identities and as collective points of reference.

The House of One may also be construed as writing forth a hegemonic heritage as it fosters state ideologies and governmentalities of diversity and multiculturalism and deprivileges the fluid and contingent identifications that weave the textures of culture in people’s encounters in everyday life. This seeming contradiction is the result of numerous paradoxes on which the House of One is premised: as a religious building that is erected in a highly secularized city; as a project that has emerged from interreligious dialogues but is largely funded by the state; as an interreligious endeavor that seeks to showcase diversity, but willy-nilly enshrines a monotheistic notion of heritage. It is this set of paradoxes that turns the House of One into an instance of hegemonic counterhegemony and that is at the bottom of the complex politics of heritage in our multicultural societies.

Burchardt, Marian. “Counterhegemonic Heritage and Diversity in Berlin’s House of One: Designing Abraham’s Legacy” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe, edited by Todd H. Weir, and Lieke Wijinia, 124-33. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

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2024

Heritage Discourse and Religious Change in Contemporary Europe

Todd H. Weir

Heritage Discourse and Religious Change in Contemporary Europe

This essay investigates religious diversification along three axes: secularization, pluralization, and spiritualization. Taking each in turn, it charts the complex ways that religious heritage has appeared in polemics on religion and politics, as well as in the normative stances regarding heritage practice that scholars, 23church organizations, museums, and government agencies have adopted. It offers evidence that in some regions of Europe, the divide between secular cultural heritage and religious tradition is eroding and meaning making around heritage is moving in a postsecular direction, parallel to certain developments in the religious field. Finally, it asks whether heritage itself is becoming a laboratory in which religious and spiritual movements are developing new resources and theologies.




Weir, Todd H. “Heritage Discourse and Religious Change in Contemporary Europe” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe, edited by Todd H. Weir, and Lieke Wijinia, 22-32. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

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2024

What is Religious —about— Heritage?

Birgit Meyer

What is Religious —about— Heritage?

To what extent does the heritage regime into which religious objects are transposed neutralize their religious value (and power) or, conversely, revitalize it in a new manner? In other words, how resilient is the religious dimension—enshrined in the “cult value”—in the frame of heritage? In the following I will address these questions by turning, first, to the move of religious objects into the domain of heritage and, second, to the accommodation of heritage in the domain of religion. While I find it illuminating to distinguish between religion and heritage as regimes that value and handle the very same thing differently, my aim is not to insist on their separateness, but to explore how they fold into and possibly mess up each other. In this way, I hope to spell out some of the challenges ensued by the category of religious heritage, which this volume is all about.

In all these investigations, the pursual of the question what is religious—about—heritage will lead us into the complex entanglement of religion and heritage, in which neither the regime of religion nor of heritage is able to fully contain the material things they protect and display

Meyer, Birgit. “What is Religious —about— Heritage?” In The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Europe, edited by Todd H. Weir, and Lieke Wijinia, 15-21. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023.

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2023

Book Review: "Hurt Sentiments: Secularism and Belonging in South Asia" by Neeti Nair

Vanya Vaidehi Bhargav

Book Review:

Neeti Nair’s Hurt Sentiments compares the trajectories of the state ideologies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to evaluate how far each has accommodated minority concerns. It also aims to explore how debates around hurt sentiments shaped and were shaped by rival ideologies of secular or religious nationalism. Hurt Sentiments is a contribution sure to provoke much discussion on the chequered trajectories of state ideologies in South Asia. It must be engaged with by anyone interested in the post-colonial trajectory, successes and failures of secularism in India and the evolving religion-state relationship in Pakistan and Bangladesh.


 Bhargav, Vanya Vaidehi. Review of Hurt Sentiments: Secularism and Belonging in South Asia, by Neeti Nair. H-Soz-Kult, 12 December 2023. www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-134525

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2023

Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm: From Hard Secularism to Soft Secularism [in arabic]

Housamedden Darwish

Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm: From Hard Secularism to Soft Secularism [in arabic]

Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, a notable Arab secularist, had undergone a significant evolution in his understanding of secularity/secularism over his extensive intellectual journey. This paper delves into the transformations within al-Azm’s perception of secularity/secularism, analyzing its nuanced progression from an initial phase of hard or rigid secularism resembling the French Laicité and “Turkish Ataturk” approach to a later phase characterized by a softer or more flexible form of secularism akin to the American and “Erdogan Turkish” styles. The study refrains from presenting a conventional narrative of secularity/secularism and, instead, employs the three fundamental theses of traditional secularization theories to elucidate the meaning of secularism and emphasize their normative implications concerning religion, modernity, and modernization. Additionally, the paper explores the critiques levelled at these theories and acknowledges the paradigmatic shift that has transpired over the past five decades in their understanding. The investigation into al-Azm’s evolving perspectives on secularity/secularism sheds light on the silent transformation he underwent, unaccompanied by explicit acknowledgments or self-criticism, and devoid of references to the evolving landscape of secularization theories within the social sciences.


Darwish, Housamedden. “Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm: From Hard Secularism to Soft Secularism [in arabic].”  Rowaq Maysaloon 1011 (2023): 286302.

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2023

From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression

Housamedden Darwish

From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression

This critical review delves into Kevin Mazur’s latest publication, Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression (2021), which scrutinizes the transformation of a peaceful civil movement into a civil war characterized by ethnic divisions. The review offers a comprehensive assessment of Mazur’s approach to answering the pivotal question: How did the Syrian conflict evolve along ethnic lines? Spanning 306 pages, the book’s central premise revolves around the notion that the Syrian uprising’s evolution into an ethnicized conflict can be attributed to a confluence of factors, with the predominant catalyst being the ethnically exclusive nature of the incumbent political regime. Of particular interest in this review is the emphasis on the sectarian or ethnic perspective – a prominent lens used to analyse the political and societal landscapes of the Islamicate Arab world. Mazur’s ethno-sectarian perspective, commendably, avoids succumbing to primordial essentialism. However, this review contends that a critical appraisal is warranted regarding Mazur’s conceptualization of Syrians’ identities solely through religious, ethnic, or sectarian affiliations. Similarly, the presumption that these affiliations inherently explain attitudes towards both the ruling regime and the uprising against it raises valid concerns. One notable critique lies in the characterization of Syrians within Mazur’s narrative. Strikingly, absent are depictions of Syrians as a unified populace, individual actors or civic entities. This stems from the book’s classification framework, which hinges on two primary criteria: an ethnic-sectarian criterion and a local or regional one. This duality, while serving analytical purposes, potentially undermines the complexity and diversity inherent within Syrian society. In conclusion, this review acknowledges the significant contributions of Mazur’s book, recognizing its role in shedding light on the ethnicized trajectory of the Syrian conflict. Nonetheless, it urges cautious contemplation of the assumptions underpinning the ethnic-sectarian perspective. The book’s dual classification approach warrants critical consideration for its potential to oversimplify the multifaceted nature of Syrian identities. Thus, while appreciating the book’s value, this review underscores the need to acknowledge its limitations in fostering a comprehensive understanding of the Syrian conflict’s intricate dynamics.


Darwish, Housamedden. “From Peaceful Civil Movement to Civil War and Sectarian Polarization: A Critical Review of Kevin Mazur’s Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression.” International Sociology 14, no. 5 (2023): 552-561.

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2023

Who Counts as ‘None’? Ambivalent, Embodied, and Situational Modes of Nonreligiosity in Contemporary South Asia

Mascha Schulz, and Johannes Quack

Who Counts as ‘None’? Ambivalent, Embodied, and Situational Modes of Nonreligiosity in Contemporary South Asia

People in South Asia who neither believe in god(s) nor engage in religious practices nevertheless often self-identify as Muslims or Hindus rather than—or in addition to identifying as atheists. The situational and contextual dynamics generating such positionings have implications for the conceptualization of nonreligion and secular lives. Based on ethnographic research in India and Bangladesh and focusing on two individuals, we attend to embodied and more ambivalent modes of nonreligiosity. This enables us to understand nonreligion as situated social practices and beyond what is typically captured with the term ‘religion’. Studying nonreligion also where it is not visible as articulated conviction or identity not only contributes to accounting for the diversity of nonreligious configurations but also offers significant complementary insights.


Schulz, Mascha, and Johannes Quack "Who Counts as ‘None’? Ambivalent, Embodied, and Situational Modes of Nonreligiosity in Contemporary South Asia" Religion and Society 14 (2023).

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2023

Introduction: An Anthropology of Nonreligion?

Mascha Schulz, and Stefan Binder

Introduction: An Anthropology of Nonreligion?

This introduction engages with recent scholarship on what has been dubbed ‘lived’ forms of nonreligion. It aims to profile the anthropology of the secular and non-religion, no longer treating it as a subdiscipline or ‘emerging trend’ but as a substantial contribution to general debates in anthropology. Drawing on the ethnographic contributions to this special issue, we explore how novel approaches to embodiment, materiality, moral sensibilities, conceptual distinctions, and everyday practices signal new pathways for an anthropology of nonreligion that can lead beyond hitherto dominant concerns with the political governance of religion(s). Critically engaging with the notion of ‘lived’ nonreligion, we highlight the potential of ethnographic approaches to provide a uniquely anthropological perspective on secularism, irreligion, atheism, skepticism, and related phenomena.


Schulz, Mascha, and Stefan Binder. "Introduction: An Anthropology of Nonreligion?" Religion and Society 14 (2023).

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2023

Global Perspectives on Religion as an Object of Historical and Social Scientific Study

Florian Zemmin

Global Perspectives on Religion as an Object of Historical and Social Scientific Study

Readers of this journal will need not much of an introduction to chal-lenges of the usefulness of “religion” as a category of transregional and transhistorical research. Who today would still plainly assert that religion is a universal phenomenon that can be identified in all human societies at all times? It has been no less than sixty years since the publication of Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s book The Meaning and End of Religion (1962), now canonical in the Study of Religion. Subsequently, post-colonial perspec-tives have heightened attentiveness to the nexus between knowledge and power more broadly. In the case of “religion”, this nexus arguably mani-fested itself in a modern Christian, sometimes said to be more specific liberal Protestant, understanding of religion that was spread (if not vio-lently institutionalized) globally through the support of colonial power. According to Timothy Fitzgerald’s The Ideology of Religious Studies (2000), the academic discipline itself has been complicit in formatting and estab-lishing such a normatively biased category of “religion”. In a special issue of this very journal dedicated to his book “Twenty Years After,” Fitzger-ald (2019) extends his critique beyond “religion” to include other master categories of the humanities and social sciences as ideological carrier of liberal capitalism.


Zemmin, Florian. Editorial for "Global Perspectives on Religion as an Object of Historical and Social Scientific Study." Special issue, Implicit Religion 24, no. 3–4 (2023): 271–79.

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2023

Spreading the Catholic Faith in the Periphery: Jesuit Mission in Polish Livonia (1625–1772)

Sebastian Rimestad

Spreading the Catholic Faith in the Periphery: Jesuit Mission in Polish Livonia (1625–1772)






The region of Latgale/Polish Livonia lies on the intersection between the Lutheran northern half of the Baltic region and the Roman Catholic southern part. Almost all of the local German nobility had accepted Lutheranism, but the region was politically a part of the Roman Catholic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Jesuit missionaries tried to re-Catholicise this region. The religious contact between the Catholic missionaries and the surrounding Lutheran and pagan countryside was diligently noted in the Jesuit reports, which became less polemical during the time period as the region’s inhabitants turned to the Catholic Church. While the missionaries were solitary fighters for Catholicism in 1625, they had become ordinary representatives of the local elite by 1772, when the region was ceded to the Russian Empire.


Rimestad, Sebastian. "Spreading the Catholic Faith in the Periphery: Jesuit Mission in Polish Livonia (1625–1772)." Entangled Religions 14, no. 6 (2023).

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2023

Hegemonic Confessions at the Baltic Periphery: Religious Contact in the Early Modern Baltic Region

Sebastian Rimestad, and Knut Martin Stünkel

Hegemonic Confessions at the Baltic Periphery: Religious Contact in the Early Modern Baltic Region






The Baltic region has always been situated on the crossroads of the three main branches of Christianity: Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. As such, it has provided ample material for studying religious contact. This special issue brings together four contributions analysing such cases in this region during the early modern period. It shows the value of the Baltic region as a multi-ethnic melting pot of different Christian denominations, held together primarily by the change-resistant land-owning class of Baltic Germans.


Rimestad, Sebastian, and Knut Martin Stünkel. “Hegemonic Confessions at the Baltic Periphery: Religious Contact in the Early Modern Baltic Region.” Entangled Religions 14, no. 6 (2023).

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2023

‘God Prepares the Way for his Light to enter into the terrible Darkness of Muscovy': Exchange and Mobility between Halle Pietism and Russian Orthodox Clergy in the 18th Century.

Daniel Haas, Eugene Lyutko, and Sebastian Rimestad

‘God Prepares the Way for his Light to enter into the terrible Darkness of Muscovy': Exchange and Mobility between Halle Pietism and Russian Orthodox Clergy in the 18th Century.

This contribution analyses the relationship between Halle Pietism and Russian Orthodoxy with a focus on the mobility of actors on both sides. This included Halle Pietists travelling to Russia, but also young Russians being invited to Halle to study theology. The paper uses unpublished sources from the Archives of the Francke Foundations in Halle to paint a comprehensive picture of this mobility of people, but also of ideas and literature, which might not have achieved the intended aims on either side, but was still an important episode in German-Russian relations that has received very little attention in existing research. The relationship is looked at over four distinct chronological stages from the final decade of the 17th century to the Catherinian era in the 1760s, with an additional section focusing on the Russian academic migration to Halle. Each of these stages must be seen both within the context of what happened in Russia at this time, as well as the developments in Halle. This paper takes all these aspects into account.


Haas, Daniel, Eugene Lyutko, and Sebastian Rimestad. “‘God Prepares the Way for his Light to enter into the terrible Darkness of Muscovy': Exchange and Mobility between Halle Pietism and Russian Orthodox Clergy in the 18th Century." Studia Universitatis Babeș-Bolyai Theologia Orthodoxa 68, no. 1 (2023):193–219.

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