Invitation to the international conference of the research group „Religion and Urbanity“

The research group „Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations“ (FOR 2779) at the University of Erfurt invites all interested parties to the international conference „Blurring Boundaries“ at Ettersburg castle in Weimar from 24 to 26 November 2021. The focus will be on research approaches and sources for the study of religious phenomena that are connected to or produced in urban space, but are also disseminated and adapted outside of cities.

The aim of the conference organised by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke and Dr. Dr. Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli is to think of urban religion as a processual category that attempts to blur and emphasise any topographical boundary between supposedly rural and urban religious traditions. The origin of religious practices or forms of organisation is explicitly not to be fixed to territorial habitats or their continued existence limited to spatial determinants. Rather, the interest is in the constant circulation of religious signs, carriers, practices and institutions across a more or less externally drawn city boundary.

Speakers are: Handan Aksünger-Kizil (Vienna), Roberto Alciati (Florence), William Elison (Santa Barbara), Laszlo Ferenczi (Prague), Audrey Ferlut (Lyon), Valentino Gasparini (Madrid), Behnaz Ghazi (Graz) 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) and Ingrid Würth (Potsdam).

The research group „Religion and Urbanity“ is based at the Max-Weber-Kolleg and has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since 2018 (FOR 2779). It investigates the long-term co-constitution and co-evolution of religion and urbanity. It asks about the role religion plays in the emergence of urbanity, how urbanity has changed religion and how they keep influencing each other.

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

Max-Weber-Kolleg supports „Jena Declaration on Cultural Sustainability“

In the „Jena Declaration on Cultural Sustainability“, numerous signatories call for a cultural approach to sustainability policy. The declaration is implemented in the three programme lines art, education and civil society, which are coordinated in a cooperation between the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt, the FSU Jena and the HfM Franz Liszt Weimar. The launch event on Thursday 9 September at 3pm will be broadcast live.

The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 came into force on January 1, 2016. In this Agenda, the member states committed themselves to doing everything possible over the following 15 years to achieve 17 goals for sustainable development in the world. These goals include ending poverty; education and a healthy life for all; and achieving sustainable production and consumption. Increasingly, experts are now pointing out that despite immense political, legal and financial efforts, the global community is about to miss its last chance to achieve these UN Sustainable Development Goals in time. Merely increasing existing resources does not appear to be sufficient to implement Agenda 2030.

A network of renowned international institutions, such as the Club of Rome, the World Academy of Art and Science, the Academia Europaea, and the German and Canadian UNESCO Commissions, is therefore now calling for a clear change of strategy through a new cultural approach. On the initiative of Professor Benno Werlen, UNESCO Chair on Global Understanding for Sustainability at Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, more than 30 institutions have already adopted “The Jena Declaration”, in which they define a new cultural approach through which the Sustainability Goals can still be achieved.

Speakers at the launch event at 3 p.m. on 9 September 2021 will include the Co-President of the Club of Rome, Mamphela Ramphele, the President of the World Academy of Art and Science, Garry Jacobs, as well as important co-signatories to the Declaration such as Prof. Hartmut Rosa, Secretary-General of the German UNESCO Commission, Dr Roman Luckscheiter, the President of the Leibniz Association, Prof. Matthias Kleiner, but also, the German climate activist Luisa Neubauer and artists from Afghanistan, Iran and South Africa, among others.

It will take a broad-based global social movement to change thinking and action“
Top-down measures to tackle global challenges, which have dominated so far, cannot take sufficient account of the diversity of cultural and regional differences. For example, many global programmes are poorly adapted to actual local living conditions and therefore find little acceptance. “It will take a broad-based global social movement to change thinking and action for the transition towards sustainable prosperity. This requires fine tuning to local needs and conditions,” emphasises Garry Jacobs, President of the World Academy of Art and Science and one of the first signatories to the Declaration. The primary aim is to get such a movement up and running. 

In order to accelerate and deepen the necessary societal change, the United Nations and political decision-makers must approach more directly the most important actors of change: individuals with their everyday routines and habits. The aim of “The Jena Declaration” is to draw greater attention to the way in which human activities are embedded culturally, regionally and historically. Building on this, the network is calling on everyone to develop inclusive solutions tailored to local conditions. This requires first of all a respectful appreciation of, and regard for, cultural diversity. „The fact that young people worldwide are assigned a central role in the realisation of the programme of the Jena Declaration on Sustainability is particularly noteworthy and, in my view, absolutely necessary. Without the ideas, the demands and the commitment of the generation of tomorrow, it will not be possible to overcome the great social challenges. Today’s generation is obviously finding it very difficult to do so. Therefore, young and old, hand in hand for sustainable improvement, that can be the key,“ emphasises Prof. Uwe Cantner, Vice-President for Young Researchers and Diversity Management for of Friedrich Schiller University.

World Secretariat in Jena
The Declaration’s programme accordingly aims to reach people of all ages – especially younger generations – and of diverse cultural, social and regional backgrounds, and to make it easier for them to act locally in the spirit of global sustainability.

The necessary change extends into all areas of life, as Mamphela Ramphele, Co-President of the Club of Rome, points out, using education as an example: “Humanity has the opportunity to learn from the multiplicity of interconnected planetary emergencies upon us. To learn the lesson we have to embrace nature’s wisdom reflected in indigenous knowledge. At the same time we need to break down the knowledge silos in our outdated education systems.”

Implementation of the declaration will take place along the three programme lines “Art”, “Education” and “Civil Society”. These will be coordinated by a World Secretariat established at the University of Jena in cooperation with the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (Max-Weber-Kolleg) of the University of Erfurt and the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar. “It is a special opportunity for Thuringia and Germany to be able actively to shape future sustainability policy together with such influential partners and a broad social movement,” says Professor Benno Werlen, head of the coordination office.

Further information and access to the live stream event via the declaration website.

ONLINE WORKSHOP: Transnational Political Movements and the Imaginaries of the Homeland

Some of the crucial normative transformations resulting from ‘globalization’ are driven by transnational political networks, and are mediated by the social imaginaries that these networks create. Now, it might seem obvious that transnational networks tend to create ‘globalist’ or ‘internationalist’ imaginaries, and this is what research on such network imaginaries often assumes. Our workshop focuses on a different type of network imaginary: Its goal is a comparative discussion of transnational networks that are sustained by, and recreate, a specific imaginary of the homeland, and that sustain forms of political critique which owe their plausibility to this imaginary of the homeland. Diasporic communities often convey a stronger sense of difference, of being a ‘people’ with ‘roots’ outside their countries of residence. Here, the creation and maintenance of highly ‘modern’ global networks is reinforced by a ‘traditionalist’ notion of home. At the same time, this ‘traditionalist’ notion is itself a product of multiple ‘modern’ networks between the countries of origin and settlement. While the idea of the homeland has always been linked to excesses of the imagination (see GDR poet Thomas Brasch’s description of nostalgia for the homeland: „Ich will dort bleiben / wo ich nie gewesen bin“), the modern long-distance network, by offering a rather selective access to what happens in the homeland, makes it much easier for new fantasies about this homeland to emerge. Often, the resources enabling long-term activism within the ‘homeland’ are made available through diaspora networks driven by this kind of selective imaginary. It is also through these kinds of political mobilizations that ‘globalization’ has triggered a ‘politics of differentiation’ (Glick Schiller), and an ethnicization of difference.

The Workshop will take place from 28th till 29th May 2021. The detailed program you can find here.

If you are interested in participating please send a mail to Andreas Pettenkofer (andreas.pettenkofer(at)

Sanam Roohi shares insights on the current situation in India

Solidarity protest at University of Erfurt

Against CAA and police brutality on protesting students in India

By Sanam Roohi

On Friday, 20 December 2019 some 40 people including students of University of Erfurt and Fachhochschule Erfurt, members of the Max Weber Kolleg, and other concerned citizens and students from Thuringia gathered in solidarity with the protestors and students of different universities and educational institutes who were protesting against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 and were met with brutal police violence on 15 December 2019. Those gathered unequivocally condemned the highhandedness of the government of India and this police brutality on protesters, in the spirit of solidarity with the students and protestors in India.

Why protest CAA?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed by the two houses of Indian Parliament and became an Act on 12 December 2019. The Act amends the existing Citizenship Act of 1955 to explicitly make ‘illegal’ migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religions who came to India prior to 2014 as eligible for Indian citizenship. It ostensibly leaves out of its purview persecuted Muslims from these countries, the Rohingyas from Myanmar and Tamils from Sri Lanka. The Act is highly discriminatory and arbitrary at best, violating secular ideals of the Indian constitution. Yet, if taken together with NRC or National Register of Citizen, it will be devastating for the social fabric of the country.

What is NRC?

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah has reiterated time and again that the Citizenship Amendment will be followed by the nationwide implementation of NRC by 2024 to throw out ‘infiltrators’ or illegal immigrants. Once adopted, every person living in India will have to prove with documents that they are a citizen of the country to have their names included in this register. If they do not have requisite documents, they will be deemed living illegally and stripped of their citizenship and thrown in detention camps. We learn this from the limited enrolment of NRC in the North East Indian state of Assam between February 2015 and August 2019 after which almost 1.9 million people failed to get their name registered in the NRC and many were put in camps.

Many poor citizens in India do not have proper documents like birth certificate and because many have not finished school, they do not have their school leaving certificates too. Not only will NRC be an administrative nightmare for the bureaucracy it will create unparalleled fear among Indian citizens. While Hindus too can be excluded from the NRC, the Citizenship amendment act indicates that Hindus will get citizenship even if they are illegal or without documents. But Muslims, unable to prove their citizenship will be deemed illegal!

Taken together with the anti-Muslim sentiments prevalent in India since the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 and again in 2019, it has created a lot of fear among the Muslim citizens of the country.

Protests and police brutality

The passing of the bill to an Act was followed by widespread protests from Indian citizens who argued that it goes against the principle of secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to everyone irrespective of their religion. Students joined in the protest at some universities – prominent among them were Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. On the night of 15 December, the police stormed into these university campuses, entered canteens, girls and boys hostels, prayer rooms and libraries and physically assaulted students, including those who were not protesting, to instil fear. Students were flushed out and campuses were vacated in the middle of the night, some were arrested and the whereabouts of a few Aligarh students is unknown. These incidents of police brutality inspired other universities across India and abroad to join in the protest. Apart from attacking university spaces, the police in large parts of central and Western Uttar Pradesh, Mangalore in Karnataka and Assam opened fire killing more than 30 people, most of them in the state of Uttar Pradesh within 24 hours between 20-21 December 2019. The state government also arrested more than a thousand protestors to instil fear.

Despite police brutality, the protests have not stopped but spread from one city to another in the last one and a half months. These protests are unprecedented in the history of independent India. It is for the first time Muslim women, many of them wearing hijab have come out to the streets to protest in large numbers, joined in sizeable numbers by anti-right groups, left organisations, student bodies, lawyers groups, Sikh community members and ordinary citizens who stand against the CAA and NRC. Shaheenbagh area in Delhi has become a symbol of this non-violent resistance of the current right-wing government. Women of Shaheenbagh have come out to protest against the CAA and NRC and have shown exemplary spirit in taking care of each other in turns as others sit out to protest. Women of other cities like Kolkata and Mumbai have followed suit.

Meanwhile, the government has not only continued with the CAA, it has also started rolling out NRC in Uttar Pradesh and in Karnataka.

Book Launch in context of ‚Akademische Jahresfeier’ of the Max-Weber-Kolleg

Religious Individualisation: Historical Dimensions and Comparative Perspectives

ed. by Martin Fuchs, Antje Linkenbach, Martin Mulsow, Bernd-Christian Otto, Rahul Parson und Jörg Rüpke, Berlin: de Gruyter 2019, 2 Vol., 1416 pages

Presenters during the book launch were Jörg Rüpke and Martin Mulsow as speakers of the Kollegforschungsgruppe ‘Religious Individualisation in Historical Perspective’, and Martin Fuchs and Antje Linkenbach as long-term participants in the project. Bern-Christian Otto and Rahul Parson were unfortunately unable to participate in the event.

Jörg Rüpke introduced both the topic of the KFG and the publication. Following this Martin Fuchs, Antje Linkenbach and Martin Mulsow gave a summary overview of the key theoretical and comparative aspects of the publication.

Martin Fuchs

Starting point of the KollegforschungsgruppeReligious Individualisation in Historical Perspective, which came to an end in December 2018 after ten years of intensive work and discussion, and of the book publication launched today[1] has been the combined critique of modernization theory and of Western-centrism still prevailing in conceptualizations in both, the Social Sciences and Religious Studies. Individualization is not a privilege of the West, or even the modern West. This implies that, instead of regarding individualization as a drawn-out, linear and teleological process which reaches its climax in the modern, post-Christian West, we have taken the lens of individualization instead to uncover, and look closely into, a plurality of different processes, across several world-regions and across various religions. From a historical perspective, religious individualization appears as a discontinuous development, covering processes of short- or medium-term durée, and processes that are reversible.

The concept of “religious individualization” can thus be described as a polythetic umbrella term, a heuristic tool that permits engaging with multi-facetted phenomena. Dimensions covered include: the enhancement of religious self-determination, the pluralisation of religious options (or the emergence of spaces of choice); the facilitation of religious deviance; the development of elaborated notions of the self; or the realisation of intense experiences.

Such experiences can denote an inner strength, which allows voicing outspoken critique of social besides religious conditions that affect one’s life, or they can give the strength to mobilise and organise for a betterment of such conditions. Such elements of critique are not exclusive to modern, and meanwhile often non-religious forms of individualization. We actually do encounter moments of critique, of dissatisfaction with religious regulations and dogmas, or with social rules and practices in a wider sense, as well as with the structures of power within religious as well as political contexts, in many modern as well as pre-modern settings; and we regularly discovered that processes of critique connect with increases in religious individualization.

We should perhaps specify our procedure here in two ways: Firstly, individualization should not be mistaken for individualism, or even methodological individualism. One rather has to differentiate between the ideal of individualism; the ontogenetic process of individuation (as the flipside of socialization); and historical processes of individualization. Secondly, individualization refers to more than just individual cases of deviance and difference. What is particularly interesting, as it can also become paradoxical, are the diverse modes of institutionalisation of religious individualisations. This includes the institutionalization of (social or cultural) imaginaries as well as behavioural patterns (patterns of bodily, emotional, spiritual self-practices), but also institution building: modes of conventionalization; processes of group formation; of standardization and ritualization of certain ways of communication, including communication with something beyond direct human grasp; establishing textual canons and traditions; or even the establishment of ‘regimes’ of religious individualisation. Thus, individualization can have paradoxical consequences, can result in its contrary, de-individualization. Or one can see both forms side by side. But, one also encounters cases of creation of forms of sociality or community that provide relatively unconstrained social (including religious) spaces for enabling the development of personal options or paths’.

In this publication, ‘self’ stands as a placeholder for the practices, experiences and representations of humans circumscribed in different ways as person, even persona, identity, individual, in part also subject and actor or agent, respectively as ‘patient’ of someone else’s actions. What has to be emphasized: we understand the concept of Self or individual, like the other concept of Religion, as inherently relational:

Regarding religion, talking of religion or religiosity firstly means talking of a relationship people think to have to something else, something beyond, or something felt inside, but in every case something that is not immediately available. At the same time, secondly, no religious individual can neglect his or her relationship to other people, and there are various religious positions that equally give this relationship prominence. Finally, the concern of an individual for him- or herself is often also conceived in relational terms, as ‘self-relation’.

Regarding the notion of “self”: in a way, religious individualization underlines the pragmatist insight into the “primary sociality” of humans, and of selves. What many regard as the very core of religiosity, self-transcendence, is essentially relational. We distinguish three dimensions of self-transcendence: (i) Rather conventionally, the experience of something beyond direct human grasp, something often substantialised as ‘the’ transcendent, but something with which individual actors want to connect or feel connected. The beyond (which may be a ‘within’) can be experienced as deepening or widening the (everyday) self, or even as contributing to its actual and authentic formation. (ii) In a wider and at the same time more profane sense, reference is to a self, or the image of a self, that reaches out to the world beyond him- or herself and experiences some powerful connectivity to something larger or broader in which it feels included, but which, on the face of it, can equally denote non-religious contexts – as in cases of ‘collective effervescence’, to employ Émile Durkheim’s much quoted term. (iii) The phrase refers to those social relations of a self that impact and connect him or her directly and inwardly with others, and become in this way adjuncts of a self. Under the last auspices, ‘transcending selves’ then relates in an emphatic sense of the term to what a person or self shares with significant others, what we have included under the concept of “dividuality”.

Antje Linkenbach

When we understand individualisation (here religious individualisation) as contingent possibility of freeing oneself from social constraints and given authorities, we have to acknowledge that there are always moments that counteract individualisation.

Firstly: conditions, which stimulate individualization (often in form of deviance) can – in the long run – solidify and allow for stabilisation and institutionalisation of individualisation. It can even happen that in this process new constraints emerge – in form of new authorities, formation of new traditions, or standardized, stereotyped behaviours, a process that could seriously undermine individualization.

Secondly: Individualization does not mean that we shed away all forms of social bonds or moments of relationality – with fellow beings, things / objects and manifestations of the transcendent, and that we have a clear-cut and one-dimensional identity. Far away from being a closed, a buffered Self – to speak with Charles Taylor – even in modern social constellations the individual person is porous and permeable, as it is also partible. Individuality is always paired with dividuality.

The first aspect was subject of studies engaging in the search for ‘institutionalisation’, “conventionalisation”, and de-individualization (Part III of the publication). Scholars asked: How do processes of religious individualisation in all their multifacetedness gather stability over time and become relevant not just for a select few but for a significant number of people?  Their agenda was to move away from the analytical focus on individual actors in favour of broader social dynamics that indicate processes of enhanced dissemination, stabilisation (e.g., through ritualisation), standardisation (e.g. through the canonisation of texts), or even the establishment of ‘regimes’ of religious individualisation. Of interest were also processes that eventual relapse into de- or non-individualisation. The case studies cover different religious environments and historical scenarios, but also approach the research problem from two different angles.  One part traces the institutionalisation of religious individualisation with a focus on ‘practices’, particularly ritual practices, but also economic and legislative practices. Other studies analyse the institutionalisation of religious individualisation by looking at ‘texts and narratives’, especially taking into consideration the nexus of authorship, texts, and audience.

The second aspect evolves around the concept of dividuality. Dividuality was made prominent in Melanesian anthropology to indicate that persons are multi-authored and composite beings. However, the researchers of the Kollegforschungsgruppe use ‘dividuality’ not in an essentialist way that confronts western and non-western ideas and realities of personhood. Moreover they understand it complementary to the concept of the individual and thus underline the co-existence of relational/dividual and individual aspects of the human Self. Human beings are constituted by both dividual and individual qualities. Therefore, dividuality is an umbrella concept that has an ontological and a historical dimension: The ontological perspective brings the (primary) relational sociality of the human being into focus. Relationality, as conditio humana, implicates openness, partibility and vulnerability of the human subject even in its fully individuated form and in all social constellations, including modernity. The historical perspective brings into focus that dividuality is a lived social reality and concrete social praxis and allows exploring ideas and realities of permeability and partibility on the one hand, of closeness and boundedness on the other, in particular historical and socio-cultural contexts as well as in particular areas of life and particular situations.

The contributions on ‘dividuality’ are compiled in Part II of the publication and engage with the different aspects of the concept: dividuality as relational pre-condition of humanity and human sociality; as partibility, and as porousness or permeability. It covers – as the other parts of the book – debates and practices in different historical periods and geographical spaces – it moves between ancient Rome and Greece, medieval, early modern and modern Europe as well as the Near East, India and the Pacific.

Martin Mulsow

The investigation of the history of religious individualisation is in many cases, as it turned out, an investigation of the history of interconnections, of cultural entanglements, onewhich examines the different ways in which cultural boundaries have been crossed. By ‘history of interconnections’ the KFG means an inquiry in the sense of ‘entangled history’ or ‘histoire croisée’, which analyses the reciprocal interactions and transfers between different cultural contexts, regions, religions, and reference systems. It therefore picks up new developments in history and applies them to our concern with individualisation.

Such an inquiry involves an increased focus on ‘boundary-crossing’ interactions and exchanges, in which diverse cultural and religious traditions encounter one another and in which ideas and practices that strengthen or trigger individualisation processes are transferred. We could see that migrations of ideas and practices created complex interactions with consequences for religion long before the great breakdowns of tradition within and outside Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Seen from this angle, the insights gathered by the KFG can be used to trace the vertical, or ‘deep time’, dimension of these processes of transformation.

In our volume, we consider two types or conditions of interconnections, on the one hand through individuals or groups of cultural brokers and on the other hand by structural relationships of exchange. Cultural brokers can be religiously deviant individuals – in Europe for instance ‘Beguines’, ‘visionaries’, ‘spiritualists’ or practitioners of ‘learned magic’, who were not always aware of the diverse transnational paths that their sources had taken, but also religious entrepreneurs, including missionaries such as the Jesuits in China, Japan, and India, merchants, soldiers and researchers across highly variegated cultures. Such people are found across periods and continents, beginning with ‘Chaldeans’, ‘sorceresses’, ‘magi’, ancient astrologers, entrepreneurial ascetics in India and elsewhere, prominent bhaktas, gurus, or saint-poets. Often they are members of the elite but sometimes also of subaltern classes, like Roman military personnel. Again it is important for our volume that these impulses are by no means to be found only in Europe or from the early modern period onwards, but also in ancient and medieval as well as non-European societies. In the context of religion, such processes emerge above all when they coincide with phases of religious pluralisation. Then these encounters – for instance between the Portuguese Jesuit Monserrate and the Mughal ruler Akbar – provide proofs of the crosscivilisational circulation of ideas, concepts and practices.

As for structural relationships of exchange and interconnection across cultural and religious boundaries, we speak of ‘interconnectional regimes’. That means network structures in which structural conditions like principles, rules, norms, and expectations – on both sides – make long-term interconnections possible. Examples for these structures are religious orders, missionary societies but also imperial formations like the Roman, Ottoman or the Mughal Empire, in which various religious strands, ethnic groups, and also particular officeholders interact.

These are the basic assumptions of our volume. And now we would like to invite you to leaf through the table of contents of the publication. You will surely find topics or aspects that interest you and that you can address with your own questions.

[1] Just to add: this publication is not the only result of the work of the KFG, there are several other publications of the research group.

Call for Papers ‚Beyond the timeline: How to write History (for example of the Middle Ages) in different ways‘

It is part of human experience that developments happen from earlier to later stages. Hence, the courses of these developments are usually written from the time that has longer gone to those times that are closer to us. Such a chronologically progressing historiography is generally accepted,though theoretically and methodologically admitted that researching narrating the past always happens from a present by looking backwards into the past. The question then can be raised to what extent it is reflected, that such a chronological account implies a kind of causally determined history of reception inaddition to the impact our own, contemporary viewpoints have. The historian of early Christianity and the medieval times, Markus Vinzent has recently criticised this type of historiography of reception of the past. In his book of the year 2019 ‚Writing the History of Early Christianity. From Reception to Retrospection‘ (Cambridge University Press) Vinzent introduces the perspective of

retrospection as a criticial method of historiography and exemplifies this by several showcases from the‘beginnings’of Christianity. One of the basic ideas of retrospection is that writing history must by necessity be progressive (as all our thinking and writing is progressive),while its (re-)construction is always done in a regressive mode, working anachronologically against the timeline. If this is recognised, continuities and linearities disappear. Vinzent‘s historiographical method of retrospection dissolves the difference between sources (oranoriginal, authoritativereference text) and secondary literature and questions past authorities (auctoritates). Retrospection rather foregrounds the author of the historiographical production as subject of history which targets different objects of the past. Does retrospection mean,we should simply turn back the time line and alter the direction of writing history,or what changes when we approach history deliberately anachronologically? Can we give up–without the loss of a critical instance–the difference between sources and interpretations? Are not timelines and chronologies essential elements of the work of historians?

Beyond a chronologically oriented historiography, the workshop will explore examples from the Middle Ages (not only, however) to discuss several methods and forms of historiography. Potential topics could be: (1)Into which directionof time shouldwe write? What impact does the timeline have in narrating history? Can we,an dif so, how can we alter the direction of writing history?

(2)Beyond the timeline: What is the meaning of time in historiographical concepts? What differences does retrospection make in historiography? How can one write retrospectively? Writing retrospectively, does it lead to novel forms of history (particulary of the Middle Ages)?

(3)Narrativity and time: What additional insights do weget from narrative elements in historiographical productions? What is the meaning of Flashbacks and Flashforwards in narrating history? What do we learn from contrafactual or virtual history? What happens, if historians become agents of history?

The workshop invites contributions from history, literature, cultural studies, philosophy, religious studies, cultural anthropology, sociology and related subjects. We particularly invite young scholars to contribute to the workshop. The workshop will be based on pre-circulated papers. In these contributions which will be distributed to the conference participants at the latest a fortnight before the workshop. During the workshop the papers shall be introduced by their authors and will then discussed. The evening lecture will be given by Prof. Dr. Markus Vinzent who is going to present his new book. Please submit your paper proposal with an abstract (ca. 500 words). Abstracts and papers can be presented in German or English and will be discussed in both languages. We are working towards a third party funding of the workshop.

For more information:

An International Conference is taking place at the Max Weber Kolleg on ‚The Shadow Side of Gratitude‘

The Conference takes place from 3-5 July

The aim of the interdisciplinary conference “The Shadow Side of Gratitude” is to bring together experts from a range of fields to examine the potentially darker side of this everyday social emotion and valued human excellence.

In recent years there has been growing academic interest in the topic of gratitude, in psychology, philosophy and education, amongst other fields. Psychologists have examined the role of gratitude in promoting wellbeing and fostering good social relationships. Philosophers have pondered the conceptual contours of gratitude and have debated whether gratitude is always a virtue, while educationalists have looked at whether and how gratitude should be fostered in the young.

While many experiences of gratitude are life-affirming, the concept may not be as straightforwardly positive as many people have assumed. It is not uncommon for gratitude to be experienced with mixed emotions, such as embarrassment, shame and guilt. Beneficiaries may be suspicious of benefactors’ motivations in bestowing favours, gifts and compliments which could serve an ulterior purpose. It could be argued that gratitude to benefactors serves to keep marginalised groups in their place, and that cultivating gratitude makes a virtue out of an unwanted dependence on others.

For more information: