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Prof. Dr. Johannes Quack

Senior Research Fellow

(09/2017–02/2018, 04/2019)

Areas of interest

  • traditions and history of Hinduism
  • (post-)secularity and non-religion, criticism of religion
  • religion and medicine
  • religion, knowledge, and ethics

Secularism and non-religion: ethnographic and biographic approaches

Rather than starting with the opposition of the “religious” and “secular”, this project explores how actors refer to religious or explicitly secular(ist) codes in everyday interactions and biographic narratives, and reflects their entanglements in different religious/secular normative orders. The project is based on ethnographic research into secular and rationalist activism in different parts of India, complemented by biographic interviews of different people who all consider themselves, and/or are, considered by others, as not (very) religious. Quack will reconstruct a selection of life histories with respect to their genesis, their social position(ing) in the Indian society, and the “reference problems” at stake. The observations, conversations and interviews in Hindi will be contrasted to those conducted in English with respect to implicit and explicit understandings of “religion” and apparently religion-like phenomena. On this basis, the genealogies of central terms and problems of translation in general will be addressed in the light of asymmetrical and entangled histories between India and Europe.


2014 - present

Assistant Professor (tenure track) and Chair, Socio/Cultural Anthropology, Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies (ISEK), University of Zürich (Switzerland)


Research Group Leader, DFG-Emmy Noether-Programme “The Diversity of Nonreligion”, Goethe-University Frankfurt (Germany)


Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg University (Germany)


PhD (Dr. phil.) in Socio/Cultural Anthropology, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University


Lecturer, Socio/Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies, Universities of Heidelberg, Lucerne, Hanover, Münster, and Tübingen


Magister Artium, Religious Studies, Philosophy & Socio/Cultural Anthropology, Heidelberg University

Relevant Publications

  • Quack, Johannes and Jacob Copeman. “’Godless people’ and dead bodies: materiality and the morality of atheist materialism.“ Social Analysis, 59/2 (2015): 20–61.
  • Quack, Johannes. “Possession and the Anti-Superstition Law in Maharashtra: An Actors' Perspective on Modernization and Disenchantment,” in The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State. Edited by William Sax and Helene Basu, 138–61. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Naraindas, Harish, Johannes Quack, and William Sax. “Entangled Epistemes,” in Asymmetrical Conversations. Edited by Harish Naraindas, Johannes Quack and William Sax, 1–25. New York: Berghahn, 2014.
  • Naraindas, Harish, Johannes Quack, and William Sax. Asymmetrical Conversations: Contestations, Circumventions and the Blurring of Therapeutic Boundaries. New York: Berghahn, 2014.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Porous Dividuals: Complying to the demands of a healing temple (Balaji) and a psychiatric out-patient department (OPD),“ in Asymmetrical Conversations. Edited by Harish Naraindas, Johannes Quack, and William Sax, 56–84. New York: Berghahn, 2014.
  • Quack, Johannes. “Outline of a Relational Approach to ‘Nonreligion’.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 26/4-5 (2014): 439–69.
  • Quack, Johannes. “’What do I know?’ Scholastic fallacies and pragmatic religiosity in mental health seeking behaviour in India.“ Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 16/4 (2013): 403–18.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Was ist ‚Nichtreligion‘? Feldtheoretische Argumente für ein relationales Verständnis eines eigenständigen Forschungsgebietes,“ in Säkularität in religionswissenschaftlicher Perspektive. Edited by Peter Antes and Stefen Führding, 87–107. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht unipress, 2013.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Ignorance and Utilization: Mental Health Care outside the Purview of the Indian State.“ Anthropology and Medicine 19/3 (2012):277–90.
  • Quack, Johannes. Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Berner, Ulrich and Johannes Quack. Religion und Kritik in der Moderne. Münster: Lit, 2012.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Organized Atheism in India: An Overview.“ Journal of Contemporary Religion 27/1 (2012): 67–85.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Einleitung: Religionswissenschaft, Religion und Kritik in der Moderne,“ in Religion und Kritik in der Moderne. Edited by Ulrich Berner and Johannes Quack, 9–31. Berlin: Lit, 2012.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Arten des Unglaubens als ‚Mentalität‘: Religionskritische Traditionen in Indien,“ in Religion und Kritik in der Moderne. Edited by Ulrich Berner and Johannes Quack, 115140. Berlin: Lit, 2012.
  • Kugele, Jens, Maud Jahn and Johannes Quack. „Memory, Religion and Museal Spaces.“ Journal for the Study of European Religions, 4/1 (2011): 134–56.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Is to ignore to deny? Säkularisierung, Säkularität und Säkularismus in Indien,“ in Religionspolitik, Öffentlichkeit, Wissenschaft: Studien zur Neuformierung von Religion in der Gegenwart. Edited by Martin Bauman and Frank Neubert, 291–317. Zürich: PANO-Verlag, 2010.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Bell, Bourdieu and Wittgenstein on Ritual Sense,“ in The Problem of Ritual Efficacy. Edited by William Sax, Johannes Quack, and Jan Weinhold, 169–88. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Quack, Johannes. „Reflexive Remarks on Science, Ritual and Neutrality in the Social Sciences,“ in Reflexivity and Discourse on Ritual. Edited by Udo Simon, 201–18. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.
  • Sax, William and Johannes Quack, eds. “Ritual Efficacy.” Special Issue of Journal of Ritual Studies, 24/1-2 (2010).
  • Quack, Johannes and Paul Töbelman. „Questioning Ritual Efficacy.“ Journal of Ritual Studies, 24/1 (2010): 13–26.
  • Quack, Johannes and William Sax. „Introduction: The Efficacy of Rituals.“ Journal of Ritual Studies, 24/1 (2010): 5–12.
  • Quack, Johannes, William Sax, and Jan Weinhold. The Problem of Ritual Efficacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.