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Prof. Dr. Christel Gärtner

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • Sociology of religion and culture (religious education and transformation processes, contemporary religion(s), religion and the media)
  • Social theories and micro-sociology (socialization, youth and adolescents, biographies, historical and familial generations, habitus and patterns of interpretation)
  • Methods of hermeneutic and historical social research

Secularity as a point of reference in how people position themselves biographically

The religious field in Germany has changed profoundly during the 20th century, Germany transforming into a predominantly secular society in the second half. Even if non-belief is not a modern phenomenon, certain social conditions are required for a secular habitus to develop, one that neither requires its bearers to justify themselves, nor forces them to accept social disadvantages. We can observe that those born after 1970 position themselves in their phase of adolescence in a primarily secular social context. The secular has become, at the latest in this generation, a form that no longer needs explanation or justification and by which people interpret meanings and shape their own lives.

Nevertheless, church and religion are still part of social reality and people encounter these institutions in certain situations – be it at school through religious education, or (especially in West Germany) through family and friends at religious rituals. This also applies to individuals growing up in families where religion has no relevance either in everyday life or for how they relate to the world.

Using data from family interviews, I will concentrate on secular worldviews and relationships with the world that develop from lived values and their transmission in the family. I will reconstruct in detail how a non-religious habitus develops in socialization over several generations, becomes entrenched in later biographical positioning, and shapes how a person relates to the world, including her view of religion. By using contrasting cases, I hope to gain more precise insights into the structure of secular worldviews, but also into the motives that underlie demarcations between secular and religious spheres; when people use the secular as a marker to distinguish themselves from religion in general or only from specific religions, whether and when it is a matter of material or symbolic demarcations.


2019 - present

Principal Investigator and Head of Research Project: „The Transmission of Religion Across Generations: A Comparative International Study of Continuities and Discontinuities in Family Socialization”, Center for Religion and Modernity, University of Münster


Awarded the title “Außerplanmäßige Professorin” (Associate Professor), Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, University of Münster


Interim Professor for Sociology of Religion at The Institute of Sociology, University of Münster

Relevant Publications

  • Gärtner, Christel, Lilo Ruther, and Linda Hennig. “Die Konfirmation im familiengeschichtlichen Kontext: Möglichkeiten der Glaubensvermittlung und Vergemeinschaftung.” In Familienreligiosität: Ausgangspunkt und Aufgabe für evangelische Bildung im Lebenslauf, edited by F. Schirrmacher et al., 133-46. Münster: Waxmann (forthcoming).
  • Gärtner, Christel, and Heidemarie Winkel, eds. Exploring Islam beyond Orientalism and Occidentalism: Sociological approaches. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 2021.
  • Gärtner, Christel. “The Gendered Perception of Islam in Western Societies: Problematizing Culturalist and Feminist Approaches.” In Exploring Islam beyond Orientalism and Occidentalism: Sociological approaches, edited by Christel Gärtner, and Heidemarie Winkel, 89-110. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2021.
  • Gärtner, Christel. “Individual Religiosity: Religious Self-Description Among Young People.” In Western and Eastern Perspectives on Religion and Religiosity, edited by Sarah Demmrich, and Ulrich Riegel, 21-32. Münster: Waxmann, 2021
  • Gärtner, Christel. “Religionssoziologie Wolfgang Eßbachs: Resultat und Zeugnis eines Gelehrtenlebens.” Soziologische Revue 44, no. 2 (2021): 183–93.
  • Gärtner, Christel: “Die Wissenschaftsreligion als ein Religionstypus der europäischen Moderne: Die Religionssoziologie Wolfgang Eßbachs.” Ethik und Gesellschaft 29, no. 1 (2021).
  • Gärtner, Christel, and Gert Pickel, eds. Schlüsselwerke der Religionssoziologie. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 2019.
  • Gärtner, Christel: “Religious Change as a Challenge: Sociological Approaches in the Interpretation and Explanation of Religion. Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 27, no. 2 (2019): 268-95.
  • Gärtner, Christel. “Die normative Krise der 1960er Jahre: Der Wandel von Familie, Geschlechterverhältnis und Sexualität.” In Normative Krisen: Verflüssigung und Verfestigung von Normen und normativen Diskursen, edited by Christel Gärtner, Thomas Gutman, Walter Mesch, and Thomas Meyer, 161-93. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.
  • Gärtner, Christel. “Change in Religious Conduct of Life within the Dynamics of Generational Transfer. In Religion im Kontext/Religion in Context: Handbuch für Wissenschaft und Studium, edited by Annette Schnabel, Melanie Reddig, and Heidemarie Winkel, 337-51. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2018.
  • Gärtner, Christel. “Religiöse Lebensführung/Biographie.” In Handbuch Religionssoziologie, edited by Detlef Pollack, Volkhard Krech, Olaf Müller, and Markus Hero, 1001-19. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2018.
  • Gärtner, Christel and Zehra Ergi. “Die Aneignung von Männlichkeit bei Adoleszenten türkischer Herkunft im komplexen Verhältnis von Migration, Herkunftskultur und gesellschaftlichem Kontext. In Religion und Geschlechterordnungen, edited by Kornelia Sammet, Friederike Benthaus-Apel, and Christel Gärtner, 293-324. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2017.
  • Gärtner, Christel, Karl Gabriel, and Detlef Pollack, eds. Umstrittene Säkularisierung: Soziologische und historische Analysen zur Differenzierung von Religion und Politik. Berlin: Berlin University Press, 2014.