International conference examines religious phenomena in urban space

Under the title „Blurring Boundaries: Diffusing and Creating Urban Religion beyond Urban Space“, the Kolleg Research Group (KFG) „Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations“ at the University of Erfurt invites you to an international conference from 23 to 26 November. It will be organised by Professor Jörg Rüpke and Dr Emiliano Urciuoli and will take place at Ettersburg Castle (Weimar).

This conference intends to explore possible avenues of research and sources for the study of religious phenomena associated with or produced in urban space but diffused beyond and customized outside cities.

This conference is an invitation to think “urban religion” as a processual category that captures attempts to blur as well as to stress any topographical boundary between supposedly rural and urban religious traditions. We are not looking for fixing origins to given territorial habitats or confining survivals to certain spatial determinants (thus engaging in the production of urbanity and rurality ourselves). Instead, we are interested in observing and interpreting the ongoing traffic of religious signs, carriers, practices, and institutions across a more or less externally demarcated city border, thus testing their changes under different socio-spatial conditions.

Within the wide range of possible movements, in this exploratory conference our focus is on the direction of diffusion out of cities and towns directly into their hinterlands. Based on our group’s research framework, we are interested in questions as:

  • Which religious phenomena are diffused outside of the city?
  • How are they marked or perceived or “unseen” as urban?
  • Who are the agents of diffusion? How do they relate to the rest of rural societies?
  • Under what conditions is religious change induced beyond such agents?
  • How is change conceptualised, perhaps explicitly justified in spatial terms, that is, how is it renegotiated as either urban or rural?
  • How does such rurality in religious terms produce repercussions in urban religion?
  • How do such processes produce (our) sources and their legibility?

With contributions by Handan Aksünger-Kizil (Vienna), Roberto Alciati (Florence), William Elison (Santa Barbara),Laszlo Ferenczi (Prague), Audrey Ferlut (Lyon), Valentino Gasparini (Madrid),Barbara Happe (Jena), Jens-Uwe Hartmann (Munich), Marietta Horster (Mainz),Elisa Iori (Erfurt),Sara Keller (Erfurt),Rachna Mehra (Delhi), Katharina Mersch (Bochum), Jörg Rüpke & Emiliano R. Urciuoli (Erfurt), Yogesh Snehi (Delhi),Marika Vicziany (Melbourne), Benno Werlen (Jena), Ingrid Würth (Potsdam).

The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies (Kolleg-Forschungsgruppe/KFG) “Religion and Urbanity: reciprocal formations” investigates the historical contribution of religion to urbanization and the long-term co-constitution and co-evolution of religion and the urban. The Centre inquires what role religion has played for urbanity, how urbanity has changed religion, and how they continually influence one another. By focusing on religion, the goal is to gain insight into the formation of human settlements and thereby to describe different paths of urbanization and their inter-relationships with the development of religion (Rau, Rüpke 2020).

A series of conferences explores selected phenomena or concepts in order to lay the ground for further research. Until now, we have explored the concepts of urbanity and religion, heterarchy, co-spatiality, religion in proto-urban phases, neighbourhood religion, death in the city or ‘guides to urbanity’. Information on our bygone conferences and other events can be found on our website or the UrbRel Blog.

Discussion event: „I want to be happy NOW!“

The Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and the Catholic Forum in the State of Thuringia cordially invite all interested parties to an event on Monday, 25 October, dealing with modern life design and religious hope. It is entitled „I want to be happy NOW!“ and will take place in digital form. It starts at 6 pm.

The focus of the event is the book „Fulfilment in this world. How Contemporary Utopias Challenge the Christian Message of Salvation“ by Josef Römelt, moral theologian at the University of Erfurt. Moderated by Jörg Rüpke, Hartmut Rosa from the Max-Weber-Kolleg and Cornelia Richter from the University of Bonn will discuss this evening.

Registration for this event is now possible by email at After registration you will receive an access link.

Stream on Youtube

New publication: „Spätmoderne in der Krise – Was leistet die Gesellschaftstheorie?“

Under the title „Spätmoderne in der Krise – Was leistet die Gesellschaftstheorie?“ (Late Modernity in Crisis – What Does Social Theory Achieve?) a new book by Hartmut Rosa and Andreas Reckwitz will be published by Suhrkamp/Insel in October.

In times of profound social upheavals and manifest crises, the time has come for fundamental analyses that take a look at contemporary society as a whole, examine its structural features and dynamics and perhaps even point out ways out of the crisis-like development. Recently, Andreas Reckwitz and Hartmut Rosa have presented large-scale but very differently accentuated theories of society, which decisively determine the current debates on late modernity. In this joint book, they now enter into a critical dialogue.

Based on the shared concern that the analysis of modernity as a social formation belongs at the centre of a sociology that takes seriously its task of enlightening society about itself, they first unfold their own socio-theoretical perspectives in extensive essays: while Reckwitz chooses „social practices“, „contingency“ and „singularisation“ as guiding concepts, Rosa opts for „acceleration“, „increase“ and „resonance“. In the second part of the book, they again sharpen their positions, work out commonalities, but also mark fundamental differences – in a direct conversation moderated by Martin Bauer.

The authors
Hartmut Rosa is Professor of General and Theoretical Sociology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and Director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt.

Andreas Reckwitz is Professor of General Sociology and Sociology of Culture at Humboldt University Berlin and currently a Fellow at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles. In 2019, he received the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. The Society of Singularities was awarded the Bavarian Book Prize 2017 and was shortlisted for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in the non-fiction/essay category in 2018.

Andreas Reckwitz and Hartmut Rosa
Spätmoderne in der Krise – Was leistet die Gesellschaftstheorie?
Suhrkamp / Insel, Oktober 2021
ISBN: 978-3-518-58775-1
300 pages
28 EUR

Young female scientists at the University of Erfurt receive support in the Rowena Morse Mentoring Programme

The Thuringia-wide Rowena Morse Mentoring Programme (RMMP) enters its fourth round in November with 21 new mentees.

The interdisciplinary programme accompanies female doctoral candidates in the final phase of their doctorate and post-doctoral candidates in planning their individual career paths. During the twelve-month programme, the mentees network in peer mentoring sessions, receive individual advice from experienced professors from Thuringia’s universities in group mentoring sessions and can continue their education together in workshops.

The University of Erfurt is pleased that a total of six young women from the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Education as well as the Max Weber Kolleg will be supported in this round of the programme and wishes them every success in their academic endeavours!

Christina Williamson presents a working paper on ‚Sacred circles. Enclosed sanctuaries as urban repeaters in festival networks‘

Two parallel developments in the Hellenistic period concern urban religious form. One is the increasing tendency towards inter-urban, mondial festivals, with catchment areas at multiple scales ranging from the local region to across the Mediterranean. The other is the increasing tendency towards inward-facing sacred architecture, particularly peristyle sanctuaries, but also theatres and stadia. Until now these have been examined as separate developments emerging from either new institutional practices or new architectural conceptualizations of public and private space. I suggest instead that these were not only related developments, but stem from a third tendency in the Hellenistic era, that of cities to connect. The major festivals were resoundingly inclusive events, with regional and transregional theoric initiatives that could include local marginalized groups as well. The enclosure of this festival space may show similarities with other spaces within the urban topography that were exclusive per definition, but this is due to the logic of design in fostering social cohesion. Ritual profoundly amplifies the effect. The concentration of space and attention facilitates the common knowledge and collective emotional energy needed to create a transformative and transregional experience. These ‘sacred circles’ served as powerful repeaters of this festival network, transmitting a dynamic flow of ideas that spilled over into other areas. Cities began to resemble each other more and more as this cosmopolitan culture took hold across the Mediterranean and well beyond.

Marcus Döller presents a working paper on ‚Action and Sociality: Model of Infortune‘

In chapter 20 of my PhD project I am going to conceptualize a processual understanding of subjectivity on the one side and social reproduction on the other side. In referring to Rosa I show that both accounts are interwoven with each other on a level of social constitution and reproduction. I take Rosa to radicalize how we can think of transformation in subjective and social conditions of modernity. My systematical starting point and end point as well is the concept of “practical capacities”. This is the theoretical framework in which I want to place what human action as capacity of the subject could be. My suggestion is to understand creative actions as actualization of what I call “incapacities internal to capacities”. The chapter articulates this dialectic on the level of subjective action and social structure. In developing three different models in subjectivity (i), social revolution (ii) and nature (iii) I show that transformation has to think about regressive moments as moments of standstill. The concept of standstill is crucial for my elaboration of transformative action as liberation because it helps me to think transformation as producing something that is as well a fundamental resistance against the social order and transformative potential within the social reproduction at the same time. In order to understand liberation – the overall topic of all of my chapters – we have to understand both moments.

What Max Weber Always Wanted to Know about China – Two Doctorates on China Successfully Defended at the Max-Weber-Kolleg

With the appointment of Prof. Dr. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath as Fellow for Economics at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, a research focus on China was established at the same time, because he is not only an economist, but also a sinologist with intensive contacts to China. Under his supervision, two doctoral theses dealing with specific aspects of the Chinese economy were defended at the Max-Weber-Kolleg this week.

Ms Qian Zhao successfully defended her dissertation on „The Evolution of Modern Business Ethics in Reform China“ on 13 September 2021. In it, she deals – like Max Weber more than 100 years before her – with the religious and cultural roots of business ethics in China and examines the so-called „moral background“ (Gabriel Abend) of today’s business ethicists at business schools and in business associations. For this purpose, she not only examined extensive source material, but also conducted a large number of interviews, which have been incorporated into the material-rich writing. This work provides a broad overview of the foundations of business ethics ideas in contemporary China.

On 17 September 2021, Ms. Sisi Sung successfully defended her PhD thesis on „Managerial Careers of Women in China. An Economics of Identity Approach“. In this thesis, she examines the problem that although women in China have relatively equal rights in terms of both participation in working life and salary levels, this equality does not exist in the area of corporate management. Rather, women come up against so-called „glass ceilings“ here. For her study, Ms. Sung not only uses economic theories, but supplements them with insights from sociology and social psychology in order to draw a more holistic picture of this problem. Furthermore, by using both English and Chinese research literature, she is able to show how cultural gender stereotypes are effective all the way into research literature from economics, business studies or sociology.

„I am delighted that these two projects could be completed so successfully. The two doctoral researchers have benefited enormously from the research environment at the Max-Weber-Kolleg and have made great progress. But my colleagues at the Max-Weber-Kolleg have also learned a lot about China beyond the usual clichés,“ says Prof. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, who supervised both projects.