The Making and Unmaking of the Religious
Religion has risen to the fore of public debate worldwide, frequently identified as a cause of conflict, as a source of solidarity, and as major political force. Existing scholarship struggles to grasp these global transformations due to disciplinary fragmentation, a tendency toward Eurocentric bias, and an overemphasis on bounded religions. The proposed Cluster of Excellence begins from the premise that comprehending contemporary religious reconfigurations requires genuinely interdisciplinary conversations linking the making and unmaking of the religious across time and place. To reorient the academic study of religion, this cluster departs from the conventional focus on predefined ‘religions’. Instead it advances basic research on ‘the religious’, encompassing a range of religious formations, from fluid religiosities to established religious traditions, and institutionally formatted religious domains.
The cluster draws on a unique concentration of research strengths at the University of Göttingen and its partners at the Göttingen Campus, including the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. It integrates third-party funded collaboration, such as BMBF-funded transregional networks and the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre ‘Education and Religion’. Scientifically, the cluster will analyse sociocultural micro-dynamics of making and unmaking the religious across historical time periods and cultural settings, ranging from Europe, to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The focus on these micro-dynamics will reveal practices of drawing the boundaries that demarcate religious from non-religious domains and that delineate inter- as well as intrareligious differences.
The cluster will study practices of religious boundary-drawing across three research areas: (1) regulating the religious – law, networks, and dissent; (2) knowledge and the religious – texts, concepts, and contexts; and (3) materiality of the religious – objects, bodies, sounds, and spaces. The cluster will integrate comparative methods with the study of transregional entanglements, and it will develop new research tools for studying the religious in a digital age. Structurally, the cluster aims to broaden and deepen existing collaborations, with formats ideally suited to defining and exploring the intellectual contours of innovative research fields. It will pursue a recruitment strategy designed to attract the best early career researchers, and will create an international hub for scholars across Asia, Europe, and North America committed to reorganising the interdisciplinary study of religion. In sum, the proposed Cluster of Excellence is designed to make intelligible the unsettled and contested nature of religious boundary configurations, past and present, near and far, thereby enriching public discourse on religion and the religious in Germany and abroad.
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