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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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2020

Religion and the Postsecular: Reflection on the Indian Experience

Rinku Lamba

A lot of discussion about the place of religion in the public-political sphere has been generated by Jürgen Habermas’s introduction of the term “postsecular.” But, according to Charles Taylor, even the new openness to religion suggested by a postsecular perspective may not provide enough resources for enabling an appropriate understanding of secularism that is free from what he calls a fi xation with religion. For Taylor, it is a mistake to view secularism as a doctrine in which the state is pitted against religion. In place of the mistaken view, Taylor recommends interpreting secularity as something that requires the state to be neutral among all beliefs and not just religion-related ones. He says, “We think that secularism (or laicite) has to do with the relation of the state and religion; whereas in fact it has to do with the (correct) response of the democratic state to diversity”. While elaborating the problems with understandings of secularism that fi xate on religion, Taylor notes how the special concern with religion as the main problem relates back to Western history. For example, in France “the notion stuck that laïcité was all about controlling and managing religion”.


Lamba, Rinku. “Religion and the Postsecular: Reflection on the Indian Experience.” In Religion in the Era of Postsecularism. Edited by Uchenna Okeja, 123–47. London: Routledge, 2020.

2019

Al-Amr bi-l-maʿrūf and the Semiotics of Sovereignty in Contemporary Iran

Neguin Yavari

In April 2003 when the Reformists (iṣlāḥṭalabān) were in government in Iran, Muṣṭafā Tājzāfa (b. 1956), a prominent reformist politician and public intellectual, published a short article entitled ‘Amr bi ma‘rūf, ta‘āwun wa taḥazzub’ (‘Commanding right, association and party formation’), calling for the revival of this salient religious duty as the solution to Iran’s contemporary political woes. Long considered the purview of theological debated, the concept of al-amr bi’l-ma‘rūf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar (or amr bi ma‘rūf wa nahy az munkar in Persian, ‘commanding right  and forbidding wrong’) is of Qur’anic origin and enjoys Qur’anic sanction. Its deployment by Tājzāda is an important strategic move to appropriate the mantle of doctrinal orthodoxy and legitimacy for Reformist politics.


Yavari, Neguin. “Al-Amr Bi-L-Maʿrūf and the Semiotics of Sovereignty in Contemporary Iran.” In Approaches to the Qur’ān in Contemporary Iran. Edited by Alessandro Cancian, 101–22. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.


2019

Religion and Globalization: The Formation, Disjuncture and Expansion of the Modern Religious System

Kyuhoon Cho

A theoretical breakthrough for the scientific study of religion in a modern context can be achieved when the scope of observation and analysis on religion is extended to the whole of global society beyond a series of theoretical perspectives on religion that are based on the paradigm of modernization. This article is aimed at providing a perspective through which to holistically observe the contemporary construction of religion in the processes of globalization. Leading social scientific theories of the 20th century on religion display a tendency toward the concentration on the Western religious landscape, the application of nation-state society as the basic unit of analysis and an epistemological dependency on the paradigm of the secularist and rationalist modernization. To get over such theoretical impasse, the 21st century theories of religion are requested to observe and explain the entirety of unprecedentedly high religious complicity that is caused by globalization. In this article, I recognize contemporary religious diversity as ‘global religion’, something formulated by the rise and transformation of the modern religious system in processes of globalization, and analyze it as a threefold phenomenon that can be divided into the schemes of ‘religion’, ‘post-religion’ and ‘post-secular’ that may differently appear, but are nevertheless connected to each other.


Cho, Kyuhoon. “Religion and Globalization: The Formation, Disjuncture and Expansion of the Modern Religious System.” Studies in Religion [Chonggyo yon'gu] 79, no. 1 (2019): 9–44.

2019

Premodern Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogues and the Formation of Comparative Concepts. How encounters between European missionaries and Japanese in the 16th and 17th centuries changed the conceptual world

Christoph Kleine

As a scholar of religion, I am for various reasons interested in the intercultural encounter between Japan and Europe and the resulting intercultural comparisons as well as the problems of cultural translation that accompany it. From a disciplinary perspective, the question of how the contested category 'religion' was transformed from an emic descriptive category - or a "western folk category" - to an etic comparative concept in the course of cultural encounters is of particular interest. This is because in recent years some representatives of religious studies have come to the conclusion that the concept of 'religion' is a specifically Western invention imposed on other cultures in the interest of asserting colonial interests and for the sake of establishing modern, liberal, secular nation-states all over the world. For this reason, it is argued, religion is not only useless and misleading if used as an analytical concept but even reproduces and reinforces a colonial or imperialist agenda. Therefore, it is asserted, the category 'religion' should be treated "as the object, not the tool, of analysis."


Kleine, Christoph. “Premodern Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogues and the Formation of Comparative Concepts: How Encounters Between European Missionaries and Japanese in the 16th and 17th Centuries Changed the Conceptual World.” NotaBene, no. 44 (2019). 

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2019

The Janus Face of Kātib Çelebi: Reflecting on the Ottoman Saddle Period

Florian Zemmin

With an interest in genealogies of modernity, this article analyzes Kātib Çelebi’s usage of concepts of collective life and history, highlighting their Janus-faced nature, which can moreover indicate conceptual transformations with potential significance for the Ottoman saddle period. I first introduce the metaphor of the saddle period, coined by Reinhart Koselleck to depict the transitional period between premodernity and modernity. Furthermore, I substantiate the productive potential of conceptual histories of Near Eastern languages, but also point to the hermeneutical pitfalls inherent in this avenue of research. Building on extant research, I then show the sense in which Kātib Çelebi pioneered a novel employment of devlet as referring to the whole social collectivity and also foreshadowed the collective singularity of history, with its desacralizing implications. On this basis, I suggest it is worthwhile to further explore the possibility that conceptual transformations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries later facilitated the conceptualization of the modern order under the influence of European hegemony.


Zemmin, Florian. “The Janus Face of Kātib Çelebi: Reflecting on the Ottoman Saddle Period.” Turcica 50 (2019): 327–54.

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2019

Disembedded Religion and the Infinity of References: Violated Feelings and Threatened Identities

Monika ​Wohlrab-Sahr

Disembedded Religion and the Infinity of References: Violated Feelings and Threatened Identities

The following considerations relate critically to the debate on religion and secularization during recent decades. For a long time, this debate, in Germany, was preoccupied with the question of whether what we presently experience – at least in Europe and North America – is mainly a process of secularization or one of individualization of religion. The latter interpretation assumes that religion has merely changed its institutional face, but has ultimately not diminished. In the US, the secularization thesis was countered with the argument that the vitality of religion depended on an open and competitive religious and spiritual market and was not a general development related to processes of modernization.


Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Disembedded Religion and the Infinity of References: Violated Feelings and Threatened Identities.” In Inside Out: Affect and Emotion in Multi-Religious Secular Societies. Edited by Christian v. Scheve et al. London: Routledge, 2019.

2019

Religionsbegegnung Als Katalysator Theologischer Rationalisierung: Am Beispiel Des Konflikts Um Die Verehrung Der Götter Im Japanischen Buddhismus Des 13. Jahrhunderts

Christoph Kleine

Religionsbegegnung Als Katalysator Theologischer Rationalisierung: Am Beispiel Des Konflikts Um Die Verehrung Der Götter Im Japanischen Buddhismus Des 13. Jahrhunderts

Christoph Kleine untersucht die Folgen des Aufeinandertreffens von Buddhisten und mehr oder weniger indigenen, nicht-buddhistischen Kulten in Japan. Die Auseinandersetzung der Buddhisten mit außerbuddhistischen Kulten und Mythen habe zwei widerstreitende Diskurse der Rationalisierung ausgelöst. Am Beispiel des buddhistischen Umgangs mit den einheimischen Gottheiten (kami) zeigt Kleine, wie die Unterschiedlichkeit der eingeschlagenen Rationalisierungspfade zu innerbuddhistischen Konflikten führte, die in Nonkonformismus-Vorwürfen gegen die Schule des Reinen Landes von Seiten des Mainstreams mündeten und zugleich eine Rationalisierungs-Dynamik in Gang setzten, an deren Ende eine neue Religion entstand, der Shinto¯. So könnten die durch interreligiöse Begegnung bzw. das Aufeinandertreffen heterogener Religionselemente stimulierten „theologischen“ Rationalisierungsprozesse am Ende religionsproduktiv wirken.


Kleine, Christoph. “Religionsbegegnung Als Katalysator Theologischer Rationalisierung: Am Beispiel Des Konflikts Um Die Verehrung Der Götter Im Japanischen Buddhismus Des 13. Jahrhunderts.” In Religionsbegegnung in Der Asiatischen Religionsgeschichte: Kritische Reflexionen Über Ein Etabliertes Konzept. Edited by Max Deeg, Oliver Freiberger and Christoph Kleine. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019.

2019

Secular Affect and Urban Exclusion: Feelings About Face Veils in Urban Space

Marian Burchardt and Mar Griera

Secular Affect and Urban Exclusion: Feelings About Face Veils in Urban Space

This chapter examines the imaginaries, ideas and sentiments that shape public discourses on Islamic face-veils in an urban context in Southern Europe. Through a qualitative case study on the regulatory politics of face coverings in public space, we explore the repertoires of justification employed and mobilized by local actors to legitimate (or contest) the ban. Our aim is to go beyond an analysis anchored in the religious-secular divide and offer a more nuanced and complex understanding of the causes and implications of the controversy by discussing its relationship with secular affect, urban dynamics and historical trajectories. In particular, we discuss the notion that Islamic face-veils disturb the sense of tranquility of other urban residents and explore how the (perceived) Islamization of urban space is related to other kinds of urban disturbances such as nudity and prostitution.


Burchardt, Marian, and Mar Griera. “Secular Affect and Urban Exclusion: Feelings About Face Veils in Urban Space.” In Secular Bodies, Affects and Emotions: European Configurations. Edited by Monique Scheer, Nadia Fadil and Birgitte Schepelern Johansen, 185–98. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

2019

Gallery. Potent Substances in a Thirteenth Century Japanese Scroll Painting

Katja Triplett, Barbara Gerke, and Jan van der Valk

Gallery. Potent Substances in a Thirteenth Century Japanese Scroll Painting

Each of the images in this gallery is part of a continuous sixmeter-long, hand-sketched Japanese scroll. It was painted in 1267 and depicts medicinal plants that were considered potent in the treatment of horses, and divinities related to equine medicine. The scroll was transmitted secretly by Sai Amidabutsu, who was probably a veterinarian working in the military cavalry service. In the absence of a title, the scroll is simply known as the Japanese Scroll of Equine Medicine (Ba’i sōshi emaki 馬医草紙絵巻). The different sections are reproduced here with permission of the Tokyo National Museum, which presents it as part of its e-museum database.



Triplett, Katja, Barbara Gerke, and Jan van der Valk. “Gallery. Potent Substances in a Thirteenth Century Japanese Scroll Painting.” In “Materiality, Efficacy, and the Politics of Potent Substances Across Asia.” Edited by Barbara Gerke and Jan van der Valk. Special issue, Himalaya 39, no. 1 (2019): 4–8.

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2019

Islamicate Secularities: New Perspectives on a Contested Concept

Markus Dreßler, Armando Salvatore, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

Islamicate Secularities: New Perspectives on a Contested Concept

In the colonial era, new distinctions and differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres took shape within inner-Islamic discourses, partly as a product of encounters with Western knowledge. This introduction conceptualizes these distinctions and differentiations in relation to Islam, drawing on Marshall Hodgson’s concept of the Islamicate, which we employ for our heuristic notion of Islamicate secularities. It charts the paradigmatic conflicts that shape the contested fields of Islamic and secularity/secularism studies. The introduction discusses the epistemological and political context of these debates, and argues that theoretical and normative conflicts should not hinder further empirical inquiries into forms of secularity in Islamicate contexts. It also explores promising theoretical and methodological approaches for further explorations. Particular emphasis is laid on the historical trajectories and conditions, close in time or distant, that have played a role in the formation of contemporary Islamicate secularities.


Dressler, Markus, Armando Salvatore, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Islamicate Secularities: New Perspectives on a Contested Concept.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 7–34.

2019

Validating Secularity in Islam: The Sociological Perspective of the Muslim Intellectual Rafiq Al-‘Azm (1865-1925)

Florian Zemmin

Validating Secularity in Islam: The Sociological Perspective of the Muslim Intellectual Rafiq Al-‘Azm (1865-1925)

Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s book al-Islam wa-usul al-hukm (Islam and the foundations of power), published in 1925, is conventionally considered to be the first Islamic argument for secularism in Arabic. Two decades earlier, however, Rafiq al-‘Azm had made the same core argument for the separation of religion and politics in the journal al-Manar, the mouthpiece of Islamic reformism, which would later come to fiercely attack ‘Abd al-Raziq’s secularism. This article focuses on selected writings by al-‘Azm to illustrate the possibility of validating secularity from within an Islamic discourse. In addition to outlining his argument for the separation of religion and politics, I show that al-‘Azm reformulated Islam as a societal order that is conceptually distinct from Islam as a religion, and that he gave primacy to a sociological perspective on religion. Al-‘Azm was part of an elitist intelligentsia who discussed the issue of the modern order in the transcultural public sphere of colonial Egypt. In a period of conceptual transformations, individuals from the Islamic discursive tradition, like al-‘Azm, used islam and related terms to convey both religion and secular society. The use of islam to refer to both of these concepts might blur the distinction between religion and the secular but should, in al-‘Azm’s case, be read as an Islamic validation of secular order and thus as an Islamic contribution to multiple secularities.


Zemmin, Florian. “Validating Secularity in Islam: The Sociological Perspective of the Muslim Intellectual Rafiq Al-‘Azm (1865-1925).” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 74–100.

2019

The Political Regard in Medieval Islamic Thought

Neguin Yavari

The Political Regard in Medieval Islamic Thought

Global intellectual history has attracted traction in the past decade, but the field remains focused on the modern period and the diffusion of Western political concepts, ideologies, and methodologies. This paper suggests that juxtaposing political texts from the medieval Islamic world with their Christian counterparts will allow for a better understanding of the contours of the debate on the space for politics, framed in primary sources as the perennial tug of war between religious and lay authority. The implications of this line of inquiry for the history of European political thought are significant as well. Many of the premises and characteristics that are considered singularly European, such as continuity between past and present, as well as a strong performative regard to political thought, are equally present in non-European (in this instance Islamic) debates. It is more a matter of perspective than essence that distinguishes the history of European political thought, and a wider perspective through juxtaposition of texts and concepts would enhance the global debate by introducing new questions from rarely visited quarters.


Yavari, Neguin. “The Political Regard in Medieval Islamic Thought.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 52–73.

2019

Secularity Through a ‘Soft Distinction’ In the Islamic Ecumene? Adab as a Counterpoint to Shari‘a

Armando Salvatore

Secularity Through a ‘Soft Distinction’ In the Islamic Ecumene? Adab as a Counterpoint to Shari‘a

This article highlights a ‘soft’ distinction in the regulation of human conduct which emerged through various epochs of Islamicate history: between adab as the marker of an ethical and literary tradition, on the one hand, and the normative claims covered by shari‘a and drawing particularly on the exemplary sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the hadith corpus, on the other. Adab became a counterpoint to the hadith-shari‘a discourse by relying on non-Prophetic and, in this sense, non-divine sources of knowledge. The first part of the study reconstructs the trajectory of adab in pre-colonial times while the second part explores crucial transformations occurring under the impact of European colonial modernity, whose discourse propagated a strongly autonomous notion of secular civility. The interventions of several Muslim reformers of the era contributed to make adab the hub of an autochthonous type of secularity. Here adab still works as a marker of a soft distinction – only that it now becomes a ‘double distinction’: both between a mundane and a prophetic tradition within the Islamic ecumene, and between an emerging Muslim secularity and the European colonial one.


Salvatore, Armando. “Secularity Through a ‘Soft Distinction’ In the Islamic Ecumene? Adab as a Counterpoint to Shari‘a.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 35–51.

2019

Politics of Taxonomy in Postcolonial Indonesia: Ethnic Traditions Between Religionisation and Secularisation

Martin Ramstedt

Politics of Taxonomy in Postcolonial Indonesia: Ethnic Traditions Between Religionisation and Secularisation

The article discusses the politics of taxonomy that drive the entangled dynamics of religionisation and secularisation of ethnic traditions in postcolonial Indonesia, and the associated sociopolitical context. Defined in accordance with both emic notions of agamasasi (religionisation) and the concept of religion-making originally advanced by Arvind-Pal S. Mandair and Markus Dressler in 2011, “religionisation” relates to three interrelated processes that have had distinct ramifications in the different periods of postcolonial Indonesian history: (1) the way in which the Indonesian state has reified and institutionalised ‘religion’ as a monotheistic, revealed, and scriptural world religion; (2) the state-sanctioned positioning of ‘religion’ as distinct from local forms of spiritual belief, resulting in the desacralisation and secularisation of the latter; and (3) the way in which adherents of ethnic spiritualities have reframed and transformed their respective traditions in order to reflect the state-defined notion of ‘religion,’ and, in doing so, also accepted and strengthened the state discourse of development and modernity. The article also supports Nils Bubandt’s observation that the boundaries between the secular and the spiritual have always remained porous in Indonesian society as even so-called secular Indonesian politicians have tended to fall back on locally flavoured mystical or magical beliefs and practices in order to secure their political power.


Ramstedt, Martin. “Politics of Taxonomy in Postcolonial Indonesia: Ethnic Traditions Between Religionisation and Secularisation.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 264-289.

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