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Prof. Dr. Sita Steckel

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • History of Medieval Europe
  • Inner Dynamics of Latin Christianity
  • Religion and Politics
  • Differentiation Theories

Beyond church and state. Re-assessing the emergence of secularities in the European Middle Ages

During my stay at the CASHSS „Multiple Secularities“, I would like to engage with the centre’s transdisciplinary framework from a historian’s perspective. As a historian of medieval Europe with an interest in historical theory, I mainly aim to provide a critical assessment and revision of older and current views of the role of the European Middle Ages for the emergence of specific concepts of secularity.

A key aim of my work in Leipzig is to revisit narratives and historical processes of a separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’. Given the continuing prevalence of master narratives of an early emergence of secularity in Europe, particularly in the form of a narrative of separation of church and state, I plan to engage in a detailed critical analysis and historicization of late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century historiography of medieval secularities (often: secularisation theories), including current debates as far as they touch on the European Middle Ages. 

In a critical analysis and summary of recent medievalist work on relevant issues of European history, I will also attempt to summarise new findings and approaches from specialised historical studies which concern historical secularities in medieval Europe.  My particular focus will be on relations between political actors and religious elites, but also on the political handling of religious diversity in Christian medieval polities, including practical and spatial arrangements.

Finally, I also hope to present potential alternatives to the traditional narratives concerning European secularities of the medieval centuries. In particular, I hope to elaborate the effect of medium-range dynamics of differentiation and pluralisation for the transformation of historical regimes of secularity, providing a descriptive frame for European cultural dynamics that is open to transculturally comparative perspectives.


2019 - 2025

Principal Investigator Cluster of Excellence „Religion and Politics. Dynamics of Tradition and Innovation“, University of Münster. Directing subproject C03-17: “Observing religion. Criticism and apologies of religious diversity within Latin Christianity, c. 1050–1350”.

2012 - 2020

Junior Professor for the History of the High and Late Middle Ages, University of Münster

2010 - 2011

Volkswagen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University, Cambridge/MA

2008 - 2012
2004 - 2008

Assistant Professor Historisches Seminar, University of Münster

Relevant Publications

  • Steckel, Sita, and Matthias Pohlig, eds. Über Religion entscheiden/Choosing my Religion: Religiöse Optionen und Alternativen im mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Christentum/Religious Options and Alternatives in Medieval and Early Modern Christianity. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2021.
  • Steckel, Sita, and Sabrina Corbellini. “The Religious Field during the Long Fifteenth Century: Framing Religious Change Beyond Traditional Paradigms.” Church History and Religious Culture 99, no. 3-4 (2019): 303-29. 
  • Steckel, Sita. “Historicizing the Religious Field: Adapting Theories of the Religious Field for the Study of Medieval and Early Modern Europe.” Church History and Religious Culture 99, no. 3-4 (2019): 331-70.
  • Steckel, Sita, and Christina Brauner. „Wie die Heiden – wie die Papisten: Religiöse Polemik und Vergleiche vom Hochmittelalter bis zur Konfessionalisierung.“ In Juden, Christen und Muslime im Zeitalter der Reformation/Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Reformation Era, edited by Matthias Pohlig, 41-91. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2019.
  • Steckel, Sita. “Verging on the Polemical: Exploring the Boundaries of Medieval Religious Polemic across Genres and Research Cultures.” Medieval Worlds Comparative and Interdisciplinary Studies 7, no. 1 (2018). 
  • Steckel, Sita. “Differenzierung jenseits der Moderne: Eine Debatte zu mittelalterlicher Religion und moderner Differenzierungstheorie.“ Frühmittelalterliche Studien 47, no. 1 (2013): 307-52.
  • Steckel, Sita. „Säkularisierung, Desakralisierung und Resakralisierung: Transformationen hoch- und spätmittelalterlichen gelehrten Wissens als Ausdifferenzierung von Religion und Politik.“ In Umstrittene Säkularisierung. Soziologische und historische Analysen zur Differenzierung von Religion und Politik, edited by Karl Gabriel, Christel Gärtner, and Detlef Pollack, 134-75. Berlin: Berlin University Press, 2014.