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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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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).

2019

Religion und religiöse Tradition: Unterscheidungsdiskurse zu den Grenzen des Islams

Markus Dreßler

Drawing on the example of the discursive field of Islam, this article poses the question of how scholarly discourse can represent object language discourses of religious distinction. This necessarily requires engagement with the intricate dynamics between object language and metalanguage. As a first step, the article discusses Talal Asad’s conception of Islamic orthodoxy and its underlying concept of discursive tradition. Drawing on examples from North American Sufi discourses and the modern Turkish discourse on religion, the text discusses, as a second step, the dynamics of object language boundary construction and the confinement of “Islam” that it produces. The final part of the article introduces, in  contradistinction to the static family tree model, a dynamic concept of religious tradition, which enables us to focus on the overlaps and interactions between religious formations of low density and on processes of religionization. 



Dreßler, Markus. "Religion und religiöse Tradition. Unterscheidungsdiskurse zu den Grenzen des Islams." Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 27, no. 1 (2019): 48–77. 

2018

Sacred Space

Ursula Rao

Mircea Eliade (1961) begins his classical study of the sacred and the profane with a chapter on sacred space. He conceives of sacred spaces as opposite to profane spaces. They consist of spiritual centers that break up the homogeneity and neutrality of geographical space and by doing so provide nodal points around which cultural universes can be constructed. Sacred spaces are ambivalent.They are located in the here and now and at the same time function as openings, thresholds, portals to another world, a world of gods and spirits, a larger universe, the cosmos.This formulation encapsulates the conflicting conceptualization of religious sites as simultaneously places and spaces. In social geography space and place are posed as opposites. Places are demarcated locations that result from homemaking activities. People inscribe their individual or collective selves into a territory and thereby create meaning and identity. In contrast space is conceived as nonmaterial and expansive. It is unspecific, unmarked and boundless. While religious space is often identified with concrete places it is also endless, extending the human world into another realm. Religious action demarcates sacred sites. The latter root people and divine powers in a shared territory.However, while they belong to people, they are not constrained by the limits of the human world. In order to comprehend the ways in which spiritual power is enshrined in landscapes it is useful to consider their association with material objects, collective rituals, and bodily orientations.


Rao, Ursula. “Sacred Space.” In The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Vol.  35. Edited by Hilary Callan, 1–7. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2018.

2018

Women as Islamic Authorities: What A Forgotten History Means for the Modern Middle East.

Mirjam Künkler

Although the history of Islam includes numerous examples of women transmitting hadith (i.e., sayings of the prophet), writing authoritative scholarly commentaries on the Quran and religious law, and issuing fatwas (rulings on questions of Islamic law), women rarely perform such actions today. Most Muslim countries, including those in the Middle East, do not allow women to serve as judges in Islamic courts. Likewise, few congregations would turn to women for advice on matters of Islamic law, or invite women to lead prayer or deliver the sermon (khutba).

For decades, Sudan and Indonesia were the only countries that permitted female judges to render decisions on the basis of the Quran and hadiths (which are usually conceived as a male prerogative only). And only recently have religious seminaries in Turkey, Morocco, Iran, and pre-war Syria opened their highest degree programs to women, thus enabling them to develop the expertise in Islamic law required to issue fatwas. 


Künkler, Mirjam. “Women as Islamic Authorities: What A Forgotten History Means for the Modern Middle East.” Issue brief, Rice Universitys Baker Institute for Public Policy, Houston, Texas, February 10, 2018. 

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2018

Secularity beyond the West: Religion-state relations in the modern era

Mirjam Künkler, John Madeley, Shylashri Shankar

In his magisterial ‘A Secular Age’, Charles Taylor interrogates the nature of secularism in the West and its gradual emergence over five centuries. Taking this work as their lead, Mirjam Künkler, John Madeley and Shylashri Shankar have edited a new volume which investigates whether Taylor’s conclusions regarding secularity can also be applied to other regions. This detailed study finds that his thesis is not readily applicable to other parts of the world where religion-state relations remain strong and religious belief cannot readily be reduced to one option among many.


Künkler, Mirjam, John Madeley, and Shylashri Shankar. “Secularity beyond the West: The Continued Prevalence of the Marker State.” London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Religion and Global Society Blog, October 2018. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/religionglobalsociety/2018/10/secularity-beyond-the-west-religion-state-relations-in-the-modern-era/.

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2018

The Bureaucratization of Religion in Southeast Asia: Expanding or Restricting Religious Freedom?

Mirjam Künkler

Although the narrative of the secular state is pervasive, most countries in the world do regulate the religions in their jurisdictions in one way or another, and thus, public commitments notwithstanding, do not abide by a secular-separationist ideology. The data by political scientist Jonathan Fox is instructive in this regard. His Religion and State Dataset illustrates that not only do the majority of authoritarian states in the world interfere with the religious lives of their citizens by suppressing, promoting, and molding various elements of their majority and minority religions, but democracies also do so, albeit with different means and generally on a lower scale. By funding religious education, imposing censorship on religious or secular content, and granting tax breaks to some groups but not others, democracies, too, interfere in the religious market. In most states in the world, therefore, there is little evidence of a “free” religious marketplace. To the contrary, most religious markets are characterized by state-driven distortion of the competition for the faithful. And, as Fox has established, state-driven regulation of religion has even increased since 1990. Worldwide, since the end of the Cold War, states have placed higher restrictions on minority religions and greater regulations on the majority religion.


Künkler, Mirjam. “The Bureaucratization of Religion in Southeast Asia: Expanding or Restricting Religious Freedom?” Journal of Law and Religion 33, no. 2 (2018): 192–96. 

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2018

Religion als konfliktärer Faktor im Zusammenhang mit Rechtsextremismus, Muslimfeindschaft und AfD-Wahl

Gert Pickel and Alexander Yendell

Die aktuellen Diskussionen im extrem-rechten Spektrum sind in starkem Maße durch ihren Bezug auf die gegenwärtige Migration geprägt. In diesem Zusammenhang werden auch die Anknüpfungspunkte der rechtsextremen Bewegungen und Parteien an Themen der Mitte der Gesellschaft – durchaus kontrovers – diskutiert, übersteigt doch die Abwertung von Geflüchteten und Asylbewerbern bei Weitem das sonstige rechtsextreme Potenzial in der deutschen Bevölkerung. Dabei ist bislang unklar, inwieweit es sich bei diesen Haltungen gegenüber Geflüchteten und Zuwanderung um erste Tendenzen einer gesellschaftlichen Ausbreitung rechtsextremer Einstellungen handelt. Auch ist noch offen, ob die Polarisierung der Bürger in ihren Einstellungen zu Flucht und Migration den gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt oder gar die demokratische politische Kultur (Almond & Verba, 1963; Pickel & Pickel, 2006) in Deutschland gefährdet und einer Radikalisierung von Teilen der Bevölkerung Vorschub leistet (Pickel & Pickel, 2018). Ein Ansatzpunkt zum Verständnis dieser Dynamik könnten die Bezüge auf die religiöse Zugehörigkeit von Geflüchteten sein, die in den öffentlichen Debatten hergestellt werden.

Pickel, Gert, and Alexander Yendell. “Religion als konfliktärer Faktor im Zusammenhang mit Rechtsextremismus, Muslimfeindschaft und AfD-Wahl.” In Flucht ins Autoritäre: Rechtsextreme Dynamiken in der Mitte der Gesellschaft. Edited by Elmar Brähler and Oliver Decker, 217–42. Forschung psychosozial. Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2018.

2018

Entwicklung der Religiosität in Deutschland und ihre politischen Implikationen

Gert Pickel

Religiosität ist die individuelle Ausprägung des Religiösen. Ihre Verteilung in einer Bevölkerung gibt Auskunft über die soziale Bedeutung von Religion in einer Gesellschaft sowie über ihre aktuelle gesellschaftliche Tiefenwirkung. Struktur und Verteilung von Religiosität sagen auch etwas über die Legitimität von religiösen Gemeinschaften aus. So kann etwa eine Kirche als Sozialform des Religiösen über kurz oder lang nur dann gesellschaftliche Bedeutung besitzen, wenn Gläubige mit Bezug zu ihr existieren und sie eine hinreichende Zahl an Mitgliedern repräsentiert.


Pickel, Gert. “Entwicklung der Religiosität in Deutschland und ihre politischen Implikationen.” In “Religionspolitik.” Edited by Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Special issue, Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 68, 28-29 (2018): 22–27.

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2018

Konfessionslose in Deutschland

Gert Pickel

Die Anzahl der Mitglieder der christlichen Kirchen in Deutschland ist sinkend. Im Gegensatz dazu ist eine kontinuierliche Zunahme von Konfessionslosen festzustellen. Diese Entwicklung deutet in die Richtung eines Säkularisierungsprozesses. Aber auch andere Interpretationen sind möglich. So könnten die Konfessionslosen zwar in Distanz zur Organisation Kirche stehen, aber persönlich, individuell religiös sein. Der empirisch abgesicherte Beitrag kommt zu dem Schluss, dass Konfessionslose eine vielfältige Gruppe sind, allerdings diese Vielfalt begrenzt ist. Die meisten Konfessionslosen sind auch nichtreligiös oder religiös indifferent. Nur eine kleine Gruppe von vier ermittelten Typen besitzt noch religiöse Spurenelemente. Der wichtigste Grund für die beobachtete Entwicklung ist die Erosion religiöser Sozialisation in den letzten Jahrzehnten. Dies bedeutet: Religiöses Wissen und Anschlussfähigkeit an religiöse Kommunikation erodieren. Auch Spiritualität ist dabei kein Ersatz. Im Gegenteil, eine nicht unwesentliche Zahl der Kirchenmitglieder der evangelischen und katholischen Kirche in Deutschland bezeichnen sich ebenfalls als nichtreligiös oder glauben nicht mehr an Gott. Es existiert eine enge Verbindung zwischen christlicher Religiosität und Kirchenmitgliedschaft, aber eben auch zwischen Konfessionslosigkeit und Nichtreligiosität. Die soziale Seite von Kirche spielt dabei eine positive Rolle für die Mitgliedschaft. Zukünftig ist ein Weiterlaufen des bislang beobachtbaren Prozesses einer zunehmenden Entkonfessionalisierung und Entkirchlichung Deutschlands sehr wahrscheinlich.


Pickel, Gert. “Konfessionslose in Deutschland.” In Handbuch der Religionen. Edited by Michael Klöcker and Udo Tworuschka, 1–28. Bamberg: Mediengruppe Oberfranken, 2018.

2018

Religion als Ressource für Rechtspopulismus? Zwischen Wahlverwandtschaften und Fremdzuschreibungen

Gert Pickel

Aufgrund der Säkularisierungprozesse seit 1945 bestand in Sozialwissenschaften ein relativ stabiler Konsens hinsichtlich eines fortschreitenden Bedeutungsverlustes von Religion für Politik in den Demokratien des Westens. Die aktuellen Diskussionen um Integration, Islam, religiöse Pluralisierung und Populismus fechten diese Annahme an. Es stellt sich die Frage, in welchem Verhältnis Religion und Religiosität zu den seit 2015 verstärkt zu beobachtenden rechtspopulistischen Tendenzen in den europäischen Demokratien stehen. So weist eine Studie der amerikanischen NGO PEW gerade Christen als besonders anfällig für die im Rechtspopulismus wichtige Ablehnung von Migration aus. Das deutsche Beispiel zeigt unterschiedliche Positionen von Christen zu rechtspopulistischen Inhalten, es besteht allerdings keine klare Richtung des Effektes von christlicher Religiosität. Finden sich bei einer Gruppe an Christen wahlverwandte Vorstellungen zu rechtspopulistischen Argumentationen, besteht bei vielen Christen eine starke Opposition gegenüber Rechtspopulismus und seinen Inhalten. Möglich ist eine verstärkte Polarisierung in der kirchlichen Mitgliedschaft gegenüber der Gesamtbevölkerung. Wichtiger ist, dass Religion in anderer Weise eine tragende Rolle in den Debatten zum und des Rechtspopulismus einnimmt. Die (zugeschriebene) religiöse Zugehörigkeit ist der Schlüssel für den Argumentationsbogen des neuen Rechtspopulismus und stellt eine zentrale Grundlage des Erfolges rechtspopulistischer Gruppierungen dar.


Pickel, Gert. “Religion als Ressource für Rechtspopulismus? Zwischen Wahlverwandtschaften und Fremdzuschreibungen.” Zeitschrift für Religion, Gesellschaft und Politik, no. 2 (2018): 277–312.

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2018

Approaching Emptiness: Buddhist Pilgrimage in Japan

Katja Triplett

Pilgrimage to religious sites and secular travel culture have been closely linked for many centuries in Japan. Pilgrims in the Japanese Buddhist context usually visit a series of temples that form a fixed set or ‘circle’ of Buddhist sites thought to be miraculous. The circulatory Buddhist pilgrimage to thirty-three sites in and around the old capital of Kyoto – the Saikoku pilgrimage – is one of the most enduring complex religious institutions known. The article examines possible reasons for the undiminished success of the pilgrimage, highlighting the role of foundation legends and miracle tales in the management of memory. The narratives reveal bureaucratic site administration and are connected to the act of mapping of paths both through the physical and the spiritually endowed landscape.


Triplett, Katja. “Approaching Emptiness: Buddhist Pilgrimage in Japan.” In Approaching the Sacred: Pilgrimage in Historical and Intercultural Perspective. Edited by Ute Luig, 59–89. Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2018.

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2018

Religious Superdiversity and Urban Visibility in Barcelona and Turin

Marian Burchardt, Irene Becci, and Mariachiara Giorda

The links between religion and urban space have attracted the interest of an increasing number of sociologists over the last decade. Starting from a critique of the assumption that urbanization leads to the decline of established religions, scholars have focused on the vitality of urban religion spawned by religious innovations, urban religious events, and transnational migration (Hervieu-Leger 2002; Casanova 2013; Orsi 1999). In order to analyse this complex context of multiple urban diversities emerging from new waves· of immigration, scholars have drawn upon the concept of superdiversity, coined by Vertovec (2007). Starting from the observation that the number and type of religious communities settling in European cities after the Second World War have multiplied spectacularly, in this chapter we explore how in contemporary European cities, different historical memories, each storing a variety of collective religious and secular experiences, are layered upon one another: materially and symbolically in architecture, immaterially in urban religious imaginaries, and socially through the coexistence of multiple religious mobilizations and expressions.

Burchardt, Marian, Irene Becci, and Mariachiara Giorda. “Religious Superdiversity and Urban Visibility in Barcelona and Turin.” In Religious Pluralism and the City: Inquiries into Postsecular Urbanism. Edited by Helmuth Berking, Silke Steets and Jochen Schwenk, 83–103. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

2018

The Social Construction of Reality (1966) Revisited: Epistemology and Theorizing in the Study of Religion

Markus Dreßler

This paper takes the social constructivist approach, formulated by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, as a starting point for an investigation into epistemology and theorizing in the contemporary study of religion. It discusses various strands of scholarship in dialogue with social constructivism and questions in particular the reductionism of radical constructivist positions. Exploring the boundaries of the classical social constructivist paradigm, the article argues that students of religion should consider the implication of social, historical, embodied and material structures in the production of knowledge about religion. For that purpose, it draws on various soft realist approaches to stress the importance of remaining attentive to positionality (reflecting on the sites from where we theorize) and contextuality (reflecting on the inter-relation of discourse and materiality) in theorizing “religion”. Finally, the article suggests that soft realist positions can be integrated in a slightly broadened social constructivist framework for the study of religion.

Dressler, Markus. "The Social Construction of Reality (1966) Revisited: Epistemology and Theorizing in the Study of Religion." Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 2018: 1-32, doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15700682-12341434

2017

Secularization – an empirically consolidated narrative in the face of an increasing influence of religion on politics

Gert Pickel

With this research Gert Pickel proposes an updated version of secularization’s narrative, contrasting it with the growing phenomena of religious pluralism, secular-religious polarization, and religiosity’s politicization in Europe. This article focuses especially on the European religious landscape of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, analyzing the empirical developments in its indices of secularization, namely at the individual level. For this purpose, the author calls upon several statistical data that consider individuals’ attitudes towards religion, bearing in mind the different levels of modernization, as well as the political, religious and historical-cultural vicissitudes of the different countries. Despite religious affair’s proliferation in public debate, this article concludes that secularization remains empirically more convincing than the narrative of the return of religions. However, we are still far from speaking of a secular Europe.


Pickel, Gert. “Secularization – an empirically consolidated narrative in the face of an increasing influence of religion on politics.” Politica & Sociedate. Revista de Sociologica Politica 16, no. 36 (2017): 259–94.

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