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The work of the research group finds its expression in various publication formats. In addition to monographs, edited volumes and articles by individual members of the research group, we also make (preliminary) research results available for academic discourse in the form of working papers.

Furthermore, with the Companion to the Study of Secularity, the research group is pursuing a long-term, collaborative publication project that aims to make research on phenomena of the conceptual distinction and structural differentiation of "religion" accessible to a larger academic audience and thus to contribute to opening up a new field of research and facilitating interdisciplinary exchange.

Working papers as well as entries for the Companion to the Study of Secularity are reviewed by at least two peers from the research group prior to publication.

Latest Publications

Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz
The “White History”: Religion and Secular Rule in Buddhist Mongolia

nameWith the assertion of Buddhism as the dominant religion at the end of the 16th century, a new reflection on the relationship between the secular and the religious commenced among the Mongols. They adopted the Joint Twofold System of Governance formulated in Buddhist Tibet, and adapted it to the Mongolian cultural context. This system of governance is described in the work “The White History”, written in the late 16th century, with the epistemic distinctions between the religious and the secular discursively negotiated in the work. Although the impact of these distinctions on the social differentiations of Mongolian society during the Qing period (1644–1911) remains to be investigated, the “White History” nonetheless provides a valuable insight into pre-modern Mongolian notions of the distinction between the religious and the secular.
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Gudrun Krämer
#23: Religion, Culture, and the Secular: The Case of Islam

#23: Religion, Culture, and the Secular: The Case of IslamWhy jump into a sea, where everything is seemingly fleeting, floating, and fluid? There is not a single concept that offers solid ground to stand on: ‘religion’ is problematic, ‘culture’ elusive, ‘secularity’ contested, and ‘Islam’ one big question mark. ‘Identity’, to name that which looms so large in modern contexts, fares no better. Yet jump we must if we are to do more than critique conceptualisations that we consider flawed, and instead provide what is expected of academics: critical reflection that does justice to the subject at hand, while at the same time speaking to wider intellectual, moral, and political concerns. This paper contributes to the debate on multiple secularities by discussing conceptualisations of religion and culture and their relevance to articulations of secularity ‘in Islam’. Written from the perspective of historically grounded Islamic studies, with a focus on the period up to 1500, this paper nonetheless addresses current concerns, for while the secular and hints at secularity can be identified in pre-modern Muslim majority contexts, they only emerged as themes of theoretically informed debate in the modern period.
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Haraldur Hreinsson
Force of Words

A Cultural History of Christianity and Politics in Medieval Iceland (11th- 13th Centuries)

Force of Words

In this book, Haraldur Hreinsson examines the social and political significance of the Christian religion as the Roman Church was taking hold in medieval Iceland in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. By way of diverse sources, primarily hagiography and sermons but also material sources, the author shows how Christian religious ideas came into play in the often tumultuous political landscape of the time. The study illuminates how the Church, which was gathering strength across entire Europe, established itself through the dissemination of religious vernacular discourse at the northernmost borders of its dominion.

Hreinsson, Haraldur. Force of Words: A Cultural History of Christianity and Politics in Medieval Iceland (11th-13th Centuries). Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2021.

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Hubert Seiwert
Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline

Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline

The article discusses the connection between theory formation and historical research in the study of religion. It presupposes that the study of religion is conceived of as an empirical discipline. The empirical basis of theories is provide  primarily by historical research, including research in the very recent past, that is, the present time. Research in the history of religions, therefore, is an indispensable part of the study of religion. However, in recent discussions on the methods, aims, and theoretical presuppositions of the discipline, research in the history of religions largely is ignored. To shed some light on this blind spot, the article builds on the philosophy of science of Critical Realism. While the first part deals with the role of historical research in theoretical discourses of the discipline, the second part explains fundamental ontological and epistemological positions of Critical Realism and their implications for empirical research. On this basis, some methodological problems of theory formation in the study of religion are discussed in the third part. In particular, it is argued that it is impossible to validate empirically theories of religion that aim to explain what religion is. The concluding part sketches ways of theory formation in the study of religion that does not take religion as the explanandum but as the theoretical perspective that guides research.


Mark Q. Gardiner and Steven Engler: "Allies in the Fullness of Theory."
Stausberg, Michael: "The Abyss of Intransitivity: On Critical Realism and Theories of Religion."
Becker, Carmen: "Returning to the Empirical after the Discursive Turn? A Response to Hubert Seiwert."
Schmidt-Leukel, Perry: "Religion: Historical Fact or Interpretive Theory? A Response to Hubert Seiwert."
Taves, Ann: "Religion, Religious: Can Anti-Definitionalists Stay Tethered to the Study of Religion?"
Seiwert, Hubert: "Reply to the Responses."

Seiwert, Hubert. “Theory of Religion and Historical Research. A Critical Realist Perspective on the Study of Religion as an Empirical Discipline.” Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 28, no. 2 (2020): 207–36.

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