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Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of interest

  • Religion and Development
  • Social Change
  • Sustainability Transitions and Climate Change
  • Sociological Theory

Transnational Negotiations of Secularity: Development Collaborations between Northern Development Agencies and Religious Organisations in the Global South

The project explores the negotiation of secularity in the field of development collaboration. Transnational partnerships between development agencies in the Global North and religious organizations in the Global South constitute contact zones for different secularities. The involved actors have to develop strategies to deal with the simultaneous presence of different secularities. These may include adaptation or concealing strategies, or open negotiation processes seeking to determine a middle ground. The project studies these strategies for the case of collaborations between German development agencies and religious organisations in Latin America/Sub-Saharan Africa. Traditionally, the world of international development tended to regard religion as problematic for socio-economic development. However, this discourse has shifted in the last decades, increasingly perceiving religious organisations as crucial partners in local civil societies and highlighting their grass-roots reach and credibility as decisive resources for development projects. This lead to a readjustment – but not a dissolution – of the boundaries between the “secular” world of development and religion. In this context, development agencies have not only started to recognize the development potentials of religion, but also launched manifold collaborations with religious organisations. These include also partnerships between national development agencies in the Global North and religious organisations in the Global South. The latter often differ in the way in which they draw boundaries between religion and society, seeking power in other social spheres (e.g. economy, politics) and thereby challenging the Northern concept of functional differentiation. The project will undertake case studies of these collaborations in order to determine contact zones between different secularities, analyses in what way discrepancies in the secularities become manifest, and how actors address these.


2019 - 2020

Visiting Professor for Transregional Dynamics, Leipzig University (Germany)


Habilitation (Venia Docendi) in Sociology, Philosophical-Historical Faculty, University of Basel (Switzerland)

​2017 - 2018

Visiting Professor for Sociology of Religion, University of Münster (Germany)

2016 - 2018

Honorary Research Associate, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)

since 2013

Assistant Professor, Religion and Economics, University of Basel (Switzerland)

2011 - 2013

Researcher, Department of Sociology, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg (Germany)

Relevant Publications

  • Heuser, Andreas, and Jens Koehrsen, eds. Does Religion Make a Difference? Religious NGOs in International Development Work. Zürich, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2020.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Muslim NGOs and the Quest for Environmental Sustainability.” In Does Religion Make a Difference? Religious NGOs in International Development Work. Edited by Andreas Heuser and Jens Koehrsen. Zürich, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2020.
  • Koehrsen, Jens, Sascha Dickel, Thomas Pfister, Simone Rödder, Stefan Böschen, Björn Wendt, Katharina Block, and Anna Henkel. “Climate Change in Sociology: Still Silent or Resonating?” Current Sociology 38, no. 3 (2020).
  • Koehrsen, Jens, and Andreas Heuser, eds. Faith-Based Organizations in Development Discourses and Practice. Routledge studies in religion and politics. London, New York: Routledge, Taylor et Francis Group, 2020.     
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “From the ‘What’ and ‘How’ to the ‘Where’: Class Distinction as a Matter of Place.” Cultural Sociology 13, no. 1 (2019): 76–92.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Religious Tastes and Styles as Markers of Class Belonging: A Bourdieuian Perspective on Pentecostalism in South America.” Sociology 52, no. 6 (2018): 1237–53.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Religious Agency in Sustainability Transitions: Between Experimentation, Upscaling, and Regime Support.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, no. 27 (2018): 4–15.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Eco-Spirituality in Environmental Action: Studying Dark Green Religion in the German Energy Transition.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 12, no. 1 (2018): 34–54.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “When Sects Become Middle Class: Impression Management Among Middle-Class Pentecostals in Argentina.” Sociology of Religion 78, no. 3 (2017): 318–39.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. Middle Class Pentecostalism in Argentina: Inappropriate Spirits. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2016.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Pentecostal Improvement Strategies: A Comparative Reading on African and South American Pentecostalism.” In Pastures of Plenty: Tracing Religio-Scapes of Prosperity Gospel in Africa and Beyond. Edited by Andreas Heuser, 49–64. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition, 2015.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. “Does Religion Promote Environmental Sustainability? – Exploring the Role of Religion in Local Energy Transitions.” Social Compass 62, no. 3 (2015): 296–310.
  • Köhrsen, Jens. “How Religious Is the Public Sphere? A Critical Stance on the Debate About Public Religion and Post-Secularity.” Acta Sociologica 55, no. 3 (2012): 273–88.