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Prof. Dr. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr


+49-341-97 37 721

Areas of interest

  • Islam in the western society
  • Secularization
  • Qualitative methods

Research project: Secularity as a challenge to the study of Islam. A sociology of science approach

For a variety of reasons, the perspective of secularity poses a challenge to Islamic studies and Islamic theology. First, it is highly contested in this field if, and to what degree, the theoretical perspectives of social or functional differentiation that are common in the research on Christianity, and often go along with notions of secularisation, can be related to Islam and its history; or if – quite the opposite – this perspective is alien to Islam. In this latter view, Islam is conceptualised as a ”way of life“, as opposed to a religion that is differentiated from a sphere which is then considered secular.
A second challenge to including the perspective of secularity in the study of Islam is the history of different (national, imperial, colonial, socialist) regimes that imposed forms of political secularism in an often authoritarian manner. Against that background, to include the perspective of secularity in the study of Islam seems to imply legitimisation, or even to propose concrete forms of separation between religion and the state. In this regard, notions of “tolerance”, “plurality” or “accommodation” are often suggested as alternatives to political secularism.
A third challenge is constituted by the very concrete conditions under which Islam exists in the present world: (a) In several countries of the “Islamic world“ the topic of secularity/secularism is viewed with great suspicion, which limits the possibilities for research, or may even make it dangerous for the researcher. (b) The presence of – often violent – Islamist movements, as well as of Islamophobic tendencies in Europe, but also (c) the attempts to integrate some kind of ’European’ Islam into the European systems of state/church relations highly politicise the scientific endeavour.
All these issues bear a heavy normative burden and provoke political positions of the researchers, which – as we assume – will also influence their scientific standpoints.
This project aims to research the entanglements between the scientific study of Islam and the social and political conditions under which it is undertaken. It is especially concerned with the perspectives of the researchers in that field. It aims to find out how they deal with these challenges, how they interpret the situation in their field of study, and how they position themselves within the field of political and scientific power relations.

Relevant Publications

  • Burchardt, Marian, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and Matthias Middell, eds. Multiple Secularities Beyond the West: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age. Boston: de Gruyter, 2015.
  • Schenk, Susanne, Marian Burchardt, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Religious diversity in the neoliberal welfare state: Secularity and the ethos of egalitarianism in Sweden.” International Sociology, 30/1 (2015): 3–20.
  • Burchardt, Marian and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, eds. Multiple Secularities: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age. Special issue of International Sociology, 28/6 (2013).
  • Burchardt, Marian and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Von Multiple Modernities zu Multiple Secularities: kulturelle Diversität, Säkularismus und Toleranz als Leitidee in Indien.” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 38/4 (2013): 355–74.
  • Burchardt, Marian, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and Ute Wegert. “’Multiple Secularities‘: Post-colonial variations and guiding ideas in India and South Africa.” International Sociology, 28/6 (2013): 612–28.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and T. Kaden. “Struktur und Identität des Nicht-Religiösen: Relationen und soziale Normierungen.” Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 53 (2013): 183–209.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and Thomas Schmidt-Lux. “Science versus Religion: The Process of Secularization in the GDR as a Specific Response to the Challenges of Modernity,” in Religion and politics in Europe and the United States: Transnational historical approaches. Edited by Volker Depkat and Jürgen Martschukat, 187–218. Washington/Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center/John Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  • Schuh, Cora, Marian Burchardt, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Contested Secularities: Religious Minorities and Secular Progressivism in the Netherlands.” Journal of Religion in Europe, 5 (2012): 349–83.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and Marian Burchardt. “Multiple Secularities: Towards a Cultural Sociology of Secular Modernities.” Comparative Sociology, 11 (2012): 875–909.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “'Forced' Secularity? On the Appropriation of Repressive Secularization.” Religion and Society in Central and Eastern Europe, 4/1 (2011): 63–77.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Multiple secularities and their normativity as an empirical subject: The Immanent Frame.” Accessed March 3, 2015.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, and Marian Burchardt. “Vielfältige Säkularitäten: Vorschlag zu einer vergleichenden Analyse religiös-säkularer Grenzziehungen.” Denkströme. Journal der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, no. 7 (2011): 53–71.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Atheist convictions, Christian beliefs or ‚keeping things open’? Patterns of World Views among three generations in East German families,” in Valuing older people: A humanist approach to ageing. Edited by Ricca Edmondson and Hans-Joachim v. Kondratowitz, 73–90. Bristol, Portland (OR): Policy Press, 2009.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “The Stable Third: Non-religiosity in Germany,” in What the World Believes: Analyses and Commentary on the Religion Monitor 2008. Edited by Bertelsmann Stiftung, 149–66. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2009.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, Uta Karstein, and Thomas Schmidt-Lux. “Forcierte Säkularität: Die Dauerhaftigkeit des erzwungenen Eigenen im Osten Deutschlands.” Vorgänge. Zeitschrift für Bürgerrechte und Gesellschaftspolitik, 48/3 (2009): 109–17.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. Forcierte Säkularität: Religiöser Wandel und Generationendynamik im Osten Deutschlands. Frankfurt/Main, New York: Campus, 2009.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Religion and Science or Religion versus Science? About the Social Construction of the Science-Religion-Antagonism in the German Democratic Republic and its Lasting Consequences,” in The role of religion in modern societies. Edited by Detlef Pollack and Daniel V. A. Olson, 224–47. New York: Routledge, 2008.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, Thomas Schmidt-Lux, and Uta Karstein. “Secularization as Conflict.” Social Compass, 55/2 (2008): 127–39.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika and Levent Tezcan, eds. Konfliktfeld Islam in Europa. Special issue of Soziale Welt, 17 (2007).
  • Karstein, Uta, Thomas Schmidt-Lux, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and M. Punken. “Säkularisierung als Konflikt? Zur subjektiven Plausibilität des ostdeutschen Säkularisierungsprozesses.” Berliner Journal für Soziologie, 4 (2006): 441–61.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika, Uta Karstein, and Ch. Schaumburg. “‘Ich würd’ mir das offen lassen‘: Agnostische Spiritualität als Annäherung an die ‚große Transzendenz‘ eines Lebens nach dem Tode.” Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, 13 (2005): 153–74.
  • Gärtner, Christel, Detlef Pollack, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, eds. Atheismus und religiöse Indifferenz. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2003.
  • Schmidt, Thomas, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Still the Most Areligious Part of the World: Developments in the Religious Field in Eastern Germany since 1990.” International Journal of Practical Theology, 7 (2003): 86–100.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Säkularisierungsprozesse und kulturelle Generationen: Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen Westdeutschen, Ostdeutschen und den Niederlanden,” in Lebenszeiten: Erkundungen zur Soziologie der Generationen. Edited by Günter Burkart and Jürgen Wolf, 209–28. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2002.
  • Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika. “Säkularisierte Gesellschaft,” in Soziologische Gesellschaftsbegriffe II: Klassische Zeitdiagnosen. Edited by G. Kneer, Armin Nassehi and Markus Schroer, 308–32. München, 2001.