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Articles

Here you will find an overview of the journal articles and articles published in edited volumes by the research group and its members.

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2020

Religion and the Postsecular: Reflection on the Indian Experience

Rinku Lamba

A lot of discussion about the place of religion in the public-political sphere has been generated by Jürgen Habermas’s introduction of the term “postsecular.” But, according to Charles Taylor, even the new openness to religion suggested by a postsecular perspective may not provide enough resources for enabling an appropriate understanding of secularism that is free from what he calls a fi xation with religion. For Taylor, it is a mistake to view secularism as a doctrine in which the state is pitted against religion. In place of the mistaken view, Taylor recommends interpreting secularity as something that requires the state to be neutral among all beliefs and not just religion-related ones. He says, “We think that secularism (or laicite) has to do with the relation of the state and religion; whereas in fact it has to do with the (correct) response of the democratic state to diversity”. While elaborating the problems with understandings of secularism that fi xate on religion, Taylor notes how the special concern with religion as the main problem relates back to Western history. For example, in France “the notion stuck that laïcité was all about controlling and managing religion”.


Lamba, Rinku. “Religion and the Postsecular: Reflection on the Indian Experience.” In Religion in the Era of Postsecularism. Edited by Uchenna Okeja, 123–47. London: Routledge, 2020.

2019

Gallery. Potent Substances in a Thirteenth Century Japanese Scroll Painting

Katja Triplett, Barbara Gerke, and Jan van der Valk

Each of the images in this gallery is part of a continuous sixmeter-long, hand-sketched Japanese scroll. It was painted in 1267 and depicts medicinal plants that were considered potent in the treatment of horses, and divinities related to equine medicine. The scroll was transmitted secretly by Sai Amidabutsu, who was probably a veterinarian working in the military cavalry service. In the absence of a title, the scroll is simply known as the Japanese Scroll of Equine Medicine (Ba’i sōshi emaki 馬医草紙絵巻). The different sections are reproduced here with permission of the Tokyo National Museum, which presents it as part of its e-museum database.



Triplett, Katja, Barbara Gerke, and Jan van der Valk. “Gallery. Potent Substances in a Thirteenth Century Japanese Scroll Painting.” In “Materiality, Efficacy, and the Politics of Potent Substances Across Asia.” Edited by Barbara Gerke and Jan van der Valk. Special issue, Himalaya 39, no. 1 (2019): 4–8.

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2019

Islamicate Secularities: New Perspectives on a Contested Concept

Markus Dreßler, Armando Salvatore, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr

In the colonial era, new distinctions and differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres took shape within inner-Islamic discourses, partly as a product of encounters with Western knowledge. This introduction conceptualizes these distinctions and differentiations in relation to Islam, drawing on Marshall Hodgson’s concept of the Islamicate, which we employ for our heuristic notion of Islamicate secularities. It charts the paradigmatic conflicts that shape the contested fields of Islamic and secularity/secularism studies. The introduction discusses the epistemological and political context of these debates, and argues that theoretical and normative conflicts should not hinder further empirical inquiries into forms of secularity in Islamicate contexts. It also explores promising theoretical and methodological approaches for further explorations. Particular emphasis is laid on the historical trajectories and conditions, close in time or distant, that have played a role in the formation of contemporary Islamicate secularities.


Dressler, Markus, Armando Salvatore, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. “Islamicate Secularities: New Perspectives on a Contested Concept.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 7–34.

2019

Validating Secularity in Islam: The Sociological Perspective of the Muslim Intellectual Rafiq Al-‘Azm (1865-1925)

Florian Zemmin

Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s book al-Islam wa-usul al-hukm (Islam and the foundations of power), published in 1925, is conventionally considered to be the first Islamic argument for secularism in Arabic. Two decades earlier, however, Rafiq al-‘Azm had made the same core argument for the separation of religion and politics in the journal al-Manar, the mouthpiece of Islamic reformism, which would later come to fiercely attack ‘Abd al-Raziq’s secularism. This article focuses on selected writings by al-‘Azm to illustrate the possibility of validating secularity from within an Islamic discourse. In addition to outlining his argument for the separation of religion and politics, I show that al-‘Azm reformulated Islam as a societal order that is conceptually distinct from Islam as a religion, and that he gave primacy to a sociological perspective on religion. Al-‘Azm was part of an elitist intelligentsia who discussed the issue of the modern order in the transcultural public sphere of colonial Egypt. In a period of conceptual transformations, individuals from the Islamic discursive tradition, like al-‘Azm, used islam and related terms to convey both religion and secular society. The use of islam to refer to both of these concepts might blur the distinction between religion and the secular but should, in al-‘Azm’s case, be read as an Islamic validation of secular order and thus as an Islamic contribution to multiple secularities.


Zemmin, Florian. “Validating Secularity in Islam: The Sociological Perspective of the Muslim Intellectual Rafiq Al-‘Azm (1865-1925).” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 74–100.

2019

The Political Regard in Medieval Islamic Thought

Neguin Yavari

Global intellectual history has attracted traction in the past decade, but the field remains focused on the modern period and the diffusion of Western political concepts, ideologies, and methodologies. This paper suggests that juxtaposing political texts from the medieval Islamic world with their Christian counterparts will allow for a better understanding of the contours of the debate on the space for politics, framed in primary sources as the perennial tug of war between religious and lay authority. The implications of this line of inquiry for the history of European political thought are significant as well. Many of the premises and characteristics that are considered singularly European, such as continuity between past and present, as well as a strong performative regard to political thought, are equally present in non-European (in this instance Islamic) debates. It is more a matter of perspective than essence that distinguishes the history of European political thought, and a wider perspective through juxtaposition of texts and concepts would enhance the global debate by introducing new questions from rarely visited quarters.


Yavari, Neguin. “The Political Regard in Medieval Islamic Thought.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 52–73.

2019

Secularity Through a ‘Soft Distinction’ In the Islamic Ecumene? Adab as a Counterpoint to Shari‘a

Armando Salvatore

This article highlights a ‘soft’ distinction in the regulation of human conduct which emerged through various epochs of Islamicate history: between adab as the marker of an ethical and literary tradition, on the one hand, and the normative claims covered by shari‘a and drawing particularly on the exemplary sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the hadith corpus, on the other. Adab became a counterpoint to the hadith-shari‘a discourse by relying on non-Prophetic and, in this sense, non-divine sources of knowledge. The first part of the study reconstructs the trajectory of adab in pre-colonial times while the second part explores crucial transformations occurring under the impact of European colonial modernity, whose discourse propagated a strongly autonomous notion of secular civility. The interventions of several Muslim reformers of the era contributed to make adab the hub of an autochthonous type of secularity. Here adab still works as a marker of a soft distinction – only that it now becomes a ‘double distinction’: both between a mundane and a prophetic tradition within the Islamic ecumene, and between an emerging Muslim secularity and the European colonial one.


Salvatore, Armando. “Secularity Through a ‘Soft Distinction’ In the Islamic Ecumene? Adab as a Counterpoint to Shari‘a.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 35–51.

2019

Politics of Taxonomy in Postcolonial Indonesia: Ethnic Traditions Between Religionisation and Secularisation

Martin Ramstedt

The article discusses the politics of taxonomy that drive the entangled dynamics of religionisation and secularisation of ethnic traditions in postcolonial Indonesia, and the associated sociopolitical context. Defined in accordance with both emic notions of agamasasi (religionisation) and the concept of religion-making originally advanced by Arvind-Pal S. Mandair and Markus Dressler in 2011, “religionisation” relates to three interrelated processes that have had distinct ramifications in the different periods of postcolonial Indonesian history: (1) the way in which the Indonesian state has reified and institutionalised ‘religion’ as a monotheistic, revealed, and scriptural world religion; (2) the state-sanctioned positioning of ‘religion’ as distinct from local forms of spiritual belief, resulting in the desacralisation and secularisation of the latter; and (3) the way in which adherents of ethnic spiritualities have reframed and transformed their respective traditions in order to reflect the state-defined notion of ‘religion,’ and, in doing so, also accepted and strengthened the state discourse of development and modernity. The article also supports Nils Bubandt’s observation that the boundaries between the secular and the spiritual have always remained porous in Indonesian society as even so-called secular Indonesian politicians have tended to fall back on locally flavoured mystical or magical beliefs and practices in order to secure their political power.


Ramstedt, Martin. “Politics of Taxonomy in Postcolonial Indonesia: Ethnic Traditions Between Religionisation and Secularisation.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 264-289.

2019

Transnationalizing Multiple Secularities: A Comparative Study of the Global Ismaՙili Community

Mohammad Magout

This article starts with and proceeds from empirical observations about the ways international Ismaՙili students at two institutes for Islamic studies in London draw boundaries between religion and other spheres in their everyday life. According to these observations, students from Ismaՙili communities in Iran, Tajikistan, and Syria tend to make more explicit distinctions between a religious domain and a secular one in comparison with their Khoja coreligionists of East African descent. In order to explain this disparity, structural, ideological, and social conditions in their respective countries and communities are analyzed using the framework of multiple secularities. It is argued that while Ismaՙili communities in Iran, Tajikistan, and Syria have each internalized a motif of secularity from its broader national context, Khoja Ismaՙili communities have developed their own form of secularity, which can be described in terms of internal secularization. This article makes a contribution to the multiple secularities framework by extending its application to the transnational domain and to the analysis of secularity within religious communities. Furthermore, the article offers a comparative approach to the study the role of religion in global Ismaՙilism.


Magout, Mohammad. “Transnationalizing Multiple Secularities: A Comparative Study of the Global Ismaՙili Community.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 150–79.

2019

Secular Atmospheres: Unveiling and Urban Space in Early 20th Century Iran

Sana Chavoshian

Drawing on sociological approaches to urbanism and secularization, as well as the affective turn in anthropology, this article explores the implementation of secular policies in Iran after the 1936 Unveiling Decree. I argue that constructing transparent social relations reflects the emergence of a new level of secular binds and relies upon the modalities of urban infrastructure and architecture. I find that modernization and secularization in Iran are interlinked by transformations in urban planning that tended to eliminate sites of ambiguity and to homogenize structures and forms of interaction in public and domestic spaces. The article makes use of autobiographical narratives that give witness to manifest changes in the urban atmosphere between the 1930s and 1950s. I will show how the Pahlavi regime took an active role in attempting to build a secular city by invoking segmentations and divisions in urban spaces to promote a secular atmosphere and limit religious ideas.


Chavoshian, Sana. “Secular Atmospheres: Unveiling and Urban Space in Early 20th Century Iran.” In “Islamicate Secularities in Past and Present.” Edited by Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Special issue, Historical Social Research 44, no. 3 (2019): 180–205.

2019

Health and Philosophy in Pre- and Early Imperial China

Michael ​Stanley-Baker

Though there was no single Chinese term that corresponds to the English word health, there were a variety of theories about bodily ideals. This chapter follows these theories through three periods of early Chinese history. A key notion is qi, or “vital breath,” that circulates through the body to preserve health; learning methods of breath control can thus prolong life. So-called “Daoist” philosophy draws a parallel between health in the individual and good order in the state, as well as nature or the cosmos as a whole, an idea furthered in medical works of the Han dynasty.


Stanley-Baker, Michael. “Health and Philosophy in Pre- and Early Imperial China.” In Health: A History. Edited by Peter Adamson, 7–42. Oxford philosophical concepts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

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2019

Potency by Name? ‘Medicine Buddha Plant’ And Other Herbs in the Japanese Scroll of Equine Medicine (Ba’I Sōshi Emaki, 1267)

Katja Triplett

Buddhist ritual healing and medical therapies included care for domestic animals, such as the horse. In pre-modern Japan, equine medicine (ba’i 馬医) was not restricted to the treatment of military horses; it was also practiced in a religious context. The Scroll of Equine Medicine (Ba’i sōshi emaki 馬医草紙絵 巻, 1267) is an enigmatic picture scroll held by the Tokyo National Museum. It extends to more than six meters and contains images of ten divine figures related to the healing of horses, followed by seventeen pictures of plants, and a postscript emphasizing that the content of the scroll should be kept secret. Many of the plants listed in the scroll are either associated with the world of Buddhism, e.g. Yakushi-sō 薬 師草, ‘Medicine Buddha plant,’ or with horses, e.g. metsu-sō 馬頭草, ‘horsehead plant.’ Previous analyses of the scroll largely focused on the botanical identification of the sketches of the plants. This article reviews current interpretations of the scroll and explores the question of whether the plant names were thought to empower the plants to be used as potent materia medica for veterinary purposes. Based on earlier analyses, I suggest a new interpretation of the scroll from a study of religions perspective taking into consideration that some of the plant names in the scroll indicate both health-related and salvific potency. I also address the possible use of the scroll. The scarcity of textual information and the choice of textual detail and imagery in this ‘secret’ scroll suggests that it was used in the context of an oral transmission and empowerment ritual. The scroll itself seems to have been an object of ritual empowerment, rather than a compendium of materia medica for practical daily use when caring for horses.


Triplett, Katja. “Potency by Name? ‘Medicine Buddha Plant’ And Other Herbs in the Japanese Scroll of Equine Medicine (Ba’I Sōshi Emaki, 1267).” In “Materiality, Efficacy, and the Politics of Potent Substances Across Asia.” Edited by Barbara Gerke and Jan van der Valk. Special issue, Himalaya 39, no. 1 (2019).

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2019

Crossmedia Flows of Documentary Images and the Transnational Communicative Figuration Surrounding Gestational Surrogacy in India

Nadja-Christina Schneider

The article is based on the assumption that documentary films are an important ‘channel of mediation’ (Strathern, 2002, Journal of Molecular Biology, 319(4), 985–993) that helps make visible the changing configurations of family, kinship and social reproduction. It further assumes that documentary images of egg donors, medical procedures, fertility clinics, delivery or labouring bodies of surrogates, and handing over of a ‘commodified’ newborn baby to the commissioning parents effectively convey the repercussions that gestational surrogacy has for all the medicalised bodies which are involved in the transnational processes of reproduction. Widely circulated and received documentaries such as Google Baby (2009), House of Surrogates (2013), Ma Na Sapna: A Mother’s Dream (2013) or Can We See the Baby Bump Please? (2013) often function as a starting point and major reference for the debate about this complex issue. But while academic or journalistic articles mostly refer to individual films and on the theme in focus, the different context(s) of the medium itself are less reflected upon.


Schneider, Nadja-Christina. “Crossmedia Flows of Documentary Images and the Transnational Communicative Figuration Surrounding Gestational Surrogacy in India.” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 9, no. 2 (2019): 1–24.

2019

Das Verhältnis von Recht, Religion und Politik im politischen Denken Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenfördes

Mirjam Künkler

Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, politischer Denker und Rechtsgelehrter, ist weit über akademische Kreise der Rechts- und Politikwissenschaft hinaus in der Öffentlichkeit als Richterpersönlichkeit und als „public intellectual“ bekannt. Ein großer Teil seines Werks ist dem Verhältnis von Recht, Politik und Religion gewidmet. Sucht man einen Schlüssel für das angemessene Verständnis der thematisch eine breite Spannweite umfassenden Texte, so kann dieser in der „Diktum“ genannten Aussage Böckenfördes gesehen werden, wonach der freiheitliche säkularisierte Staat von Voraussetzungen lebt, die er selbst nicht garantieren kann. Dieser formelhafte Satz hat Böckenförde die Charakterisierung eines „Einsteins des Staatsrechts“ (Heribert Prantl) eingebracht, aber auch ein angesichts der Zitationspraxis wachsendes Gefühl des Überdrusses bis hin zur Polemik hervorgerufen. In dem Satz liegt eine Problemanzeige verborgen, die jedes Nachdenken über das Verhältnis von rechtlich verfaßter politischer Ordnung und Religion prägt: nämlich ob und in welcher Weise gerade der Staat, der Freiheitsrechte garantiert und der demokratisch legitimiert ist, auf vorrechtliche Voraussetzungen angewiesen ist, die mit den Mitteln staatlichen Rechts nicht hervorgebracht werden können.


Künkler, Mirjam, and Tine Stein. “Das Verhältnis von Recht, Religion und Politik im politischen Denken Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenfördes.” In Politik, Recht und Religion. Edited by Andreas Anter and Verena Frick. 1. Auflage, 137-55. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019.

2019

Broadening and Homogenising the National Body

Markus Dreßler

This chapter explores the nexus of scholarship and politics in the work of Mehmed Fuad Köprülü. It pays particular attention to his conceptualization of Alevism as an Islamic “heterodox” and essentially a Turkish formation. This conceptualization homogenized the knowledge about Alevism and made possible the assimilation of the Alevis into Turkish nationhood in line with the larger project of nation-building in the early period of the Turkish Republic. Against this historical background, the chapter analyses the processes in which the terms ‘Alevi’ and ‘Alevilik’ gained their contemporary meanings as umbrella terms for a variety of ocak-centered communities. For new trajectories in the field of Alevi studies beyond nationalist and modernist frameworks to emerge, Markus Dreßler argues that understanding critical historicization of modern knowledge about Alevism and a critical dialogue with its own scholarly legacy are preconditions.


Dreßler, Markus. "Broadening and Homogenising the National Body: Fuad Köprülü and the Concept of Alevism." In Alevism between Standardisation and Plurality. Negotiating Texts, Sources and Cultural Heritage. Edited by Benjamin Weineck and Johannes Zimmermann, 235-249. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang (History of Culture of the Modern Near and Middle East, 40).

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