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Prof. Dr. Adrian Hermann

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • Religion as a global category
  • Buddhist Modernism
  • Global Christianity
  • Religion in Southeast Asia
  • Religion in the Philippines
  • Religious modernisms in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Religion and audiovisual media

Relating and Distinguishing Between Religion and Science in Thailand and the Philippines in the 19th and Early 20th Century

Building on the hypothesis that the emergence of ‘religion’ as a global category is characterized by the establishment of a number of “distinctions of religion” (Hermann 2015; Hermann 2016), I argue that one key distinction of religion is the distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘science.’ My project will contribute to an investigation of the history of Southeast Asian traditions of secularity by tracing the history of this distinction through two case studies. The first case study pertains to encounters between Buddhist elites and Christian missionaries in nineteenth-century Thailand. The second looks at the early history of the ‘Iglesia Filipina Independiente’ (IFI), an independent Catholic movement in the Philippines around 1900.
In Thailand, a core element of the development of Buddhist modernism in the nineteenth century was the contentious relationship between Buddhist descriptions of the cosmos and the Western scientific knowledge spread by Christian missionaries and other actors.
Debates on this subject can be found in a number of publications including the periodical Bangkok Recorder, and, in particular, the 1867 book Nangsue Sadaeng Kitchanukit [A book explaining various things] by Chaophraya Thiphakorawong (1813–1870). I will also consider the role that “media of scientific space” played in transformations of the cosmo-geographical imagination in nineteenth-century Thai Buddhist modernism. Christian missionaries used instruments and devices – maps, globes, compasses, and astronomical models – in their debates with Buddhists in Thailand and beyond and deemed them essential to their challenging traditional notions of space.
In the Philippines, the establishment of the IFI in 1902 by the Ilustrado intellectual Isabelo de los Reyes y Florentino (1864–1938) and the former Roman Catholic priest Gregorio Aglipay (1860–1940) was accompanied by the publication of two short-lived periodicals and a number of books mainly written by de los Reyes. In his writings, de los Reyes explores the relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘science’ and locates his new church and the history of religion in the Philippines in a global framework. I will explore this in detail by analyzing his main works, in particular “Mitologia Ilocana” (in La España Oriental, 1888), La Religion del Katipunan (1900), Catecismo de la Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1905), and Biblia Filipina (1908). In these texts, de los Reyes repeatedly reworks his theology in order to integrate results from the natural sciences and, in doing so, develops a concept of a ‘modern’ and ‘scientific’ Christianity. De los Reyes also develops the nascent comparative perspective that can be found in IFI periodicals from 1903/04 into a global perspective on the religious history of mankind.
By working through these case studies, I will attempt to address key questions in the current debate about equivalents of ‘religion’ in non-Western languages and cultures. To meaningfully speak of ‘religion’ as a global category, thereby indicating that there is something that connects discourses on ‘religion’ (including variants in European languages, such as ‘religione’ and ‘religião’) and discourses on, for example, ‘zongjiao,’ ‘shūkyō,’ ‘bada,’ and ‘āgama,’ a fundamental change of approach is needed. We must move away from current approaches that focus on proving the existence (or lack thereof) of non-Western or premodern ‘equivalents of religion.’ Drawing on Lydia H. Liu’s notion of “translingual practice,” I suggest that we reconceptualize the search for ‘non-Western equivalents’ as an investigation of the historical processes through which hypothetical equivalences are established.


​since 2017 ​

Professor of Religion and Society and Director of the Department of Religion Studies, Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, University of Bonn (Germany)


Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and World Christianity, University of Hamburg (Germany)


Post-Doctoral Scholarship of the Swiss National Science Foundation, Utrecht University and Stanford University (Netherlands & USA)


Post-Doctoral Fellow, History of World Christianity, LMU Munich (Germany)


Post-Doctoral Fellow, Study of Religion, University of Basel (Switzerland)


Phd (Dr. phil.), Study of Religion, University of Basel 

Relevant Publications

  • Hermann, Adrian. “A Call for a Permissible Plurality Within Theory-Building in a Time of Excess.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 30, no. 4 (2018): 487–97.
  • Koschorke, Klaus, Adrian Hermann, and Frieder Ludwig. "To give publicity to our thoughts": Journale asiatischer und afrikanischer Christen um 1900 und die Entstehung einer transregionalen indigen-christlichen Öffentlichkeit Journals of Asian and African Christians around 1900 and the making of a transregional indigenous-Christian public sphere. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2018.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Distinctions of Religion: The Search for Equivalents of ‚Religion‘ and the Challenge of Theorizing a ‚Global Discourse of Religion.” In Making religion: Theory and practice in the discursive study of religion. Edited by Frans Wijsen and Kocku von Stuckrad, 97–124. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2016.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Studying religion, audiovisual media, and the production of the ‘religious real’: introducing a review symposium on Birgit Meyer’s Sensational Movies (2015).” Religion 46, no. 4 (2016): 611–29.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Publicizing Independence: Thoughts on the Filipino ilustrado Isabelo de los Reyes, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and the Emergence of an Indigenous-Christian Public Sphere.” Journal of World Christianity 6, no. 1 (2016): 99–122.
  • Koschorke, Klaus, Adrian Hermann, Phuti E. Mogase, and Ciprian Burlacioiu, eds. Discourses of indigenous Christian elites in colonial societies in Asia and Africa around 1900: A documentary sourcebook from selected journals. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2016.
  • Hermann, Adrian. Unterscheidungen der Religion: Analysen zum globalen Religionsdiskurs und zum Problem der Differenzierung von,Religion‘ in buddhistischen Kontexten des 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhunderts. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Imagining Mount Meru: Mediale Bedingungen religiöser und wissenschaftlicher Imaginationsräume und der Wandel kosmo-geographischer Raumvorstellungen im buddhistischen Modernismus des 19. Jahrhunderts.” In Religion – Imagination – Ästhetik: Vorstellungs- und Sinneswelten in Religion und Kultur. Edited by Lucia Traut and Annette Wilke, 235–69. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “True facts of the world‘:: Media of Scientific Space and the Transformations of Cosmo-Geography in Nineteenth-Century Buddhist-Christian Encounters.” In Asian Religions, Technology and Science. Edited by István Keul, 11–30. London: Routledge, 2015.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “The Early Periodicals of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1903–1904) and the Emergence of a Transregional and Transcontinental Indigenous-Christian Public Sphere.” Philippine Studies. Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints 62, no. 3 (2014): 549–65.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Differenzierungsnarrative: Narrationsbezogene Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von ,Religion‘ und ,Wissenschaft‘ in modernen buddhistischen Kontexten.” In Konstruktionsgeschichten: Narrationsbezogene Ansätze in der Religionsforschung. Edited by Gabriela Brahier and Dirk Johannsen, 295–318. Würzburg: Ergon, 2013.
  • Hermann, Adrian. “Buddhist Modernism in 19th century Siam and the Discourse of Scientific Buddhism: Towards a Global History of ,Religion‘.” Journal of the South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion 5 (2011): 37–57.