Menue phone
all research fellows

PD Dr. Silke Gülker

Areas of Interest

  • sociology of knowledge
  • sociology of science
  • the relationship between science and religion
  • qualitative methods

Transcendence in Science

There is a problem in debates on science and religion: When talking about “science” on the one hand and “religion” on the other, willing or not, one constructs and reconstructs two distinct categories. However, both spheres, science and religion, are not as clear-cut and uncontested as the use of such categories might imply. The project examines the relationship between science and religion from the perspectives of sociology of knowledge and science studies. Theoretically, the research is based on a concept that is important in both science and religion: The construction of transcendence. In doing so, it seeks for overcoming the dichotomy of two categories but focuses on the fundamentally important question of how boundaries between something that is available (verfügbar) and something that is not available (unverfügbar) are constructed. In order to approach this complex topic, the project focuses on empirical studies in the field of stem cell research. Two ethnographic studies were conducted in international stem cell research laboratories, one located in the United States and one in Germany. Based on biographical interviews with the researchers and observations in the laboratories, the studies can identify in how far constructions of transcendence play a role in scientific work. For example, almost all members of the laboratories construct the concept of a species hierarchy as given and not available for human’s intervention. The same is true for the principle of disease. However, the boundary between availability and non-availability is not fix, but its construction and reconstruction is ongoing. 



Habilitatio in sociology, Leipzig University (Germany)

Since 2018

Research Associate, Institute for the Study of Culture, Leipzig University (Germany)


Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for the Study of Culture, Leipzig University (Germany)

Since 2014

Associate in the “Program on Science, Religion, and Culture“, Harvard University, Cambridge, (USA)


Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Research Group Science Policy Studies, WZB Social Science Center, Berlin (Germany)


PhD (Dr. phil.), Political Science, Free University Berlin

Relevant Publications

  • Gülker, Silke. From “Science and Religion” to “Transcendence in Science”,  or: What We Can Learn from the (History of) Science and Technology Studies. In Jones,  Stephen H.; Catto, Rebecca; Kaden, Tom (Eds). Science, Belief and Society: International Perspectives on Religion, Non-Religion and the Public Understanding of Science. Bristol: Policy Press, 2019.
  • Gülker, Silke. Religiöse Kommunikation im Labor: Konstruktionen von letztgültigem Sinn in der Stammzellforschung. In Schnettler, Bernt; Szydlik, Thorsten (Eds.) Religiöse Kommunikation und weltanschauliches Wissen. Kommunikative Konstruktionen unabweisbarer Gewissheiten und ihre gesellschaftlichen Wirkungen, Wiesbaden: Springer, VS, 2018.
  • Gülker, Silke. Einführung zu Bronislaw K. Malinowski: Magie, Wissenschaft und Religion. In Christel Gärtner, Gert Pickel (Eds.) Schlüsselwerke der Religionssoziologie. Springer VS, 2018.
  • Gülker, Silke. Transcendence in Stem Cell Research: A Research Perspective beyond the Science versus Religion Dichotomy. In: Alfieri, Fernanda; Nickelsen, Kärin (Eds) Science and Religion. Special Issue, Annali dell’Istituto storico italo germanico, 2017.
  • Gülker, Silke. Wissenschaft und Religion: Getrennte Welten? In Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 65 (41-42):9–15, 2015.