Research Group „Religion and Urbanity“ awards scholarships

The research group „Religion and Urbanity. Mutual Transformations“ at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt will again award scholarships in 2021/22. The Max Weber College accepts applications until January 8, 2021.

The DFG-funded research group is headed by the historian Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau and the religious studies scholar Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke. It is concerned with the question of how religion and urbanity – cities and urban lifestyles – have shaped each other in the course of history. This will first be examined using individual cities or networks of cities from antiquity to the European modern period and contemporary India, and compared across continents and epochs. Is it possible to think one without the other?

The scholarships now being offered will be awarded for a period of three to six months to researchers working in the humanities, especially in (religious) history or in the fields of sociology and urban studies with a focus on historical and religious developments. For further information on scholarship requirements and modalities please refer to the Call for applications. Organisational questions can also be directed to Dr. Elisa Iori (elisa.iori(at)

Database on religion and urbanity is online

The DFG-funded research group „Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations“ (FOR 2779) of the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt has now gone online with a database on religion and urbanity at the publishing house De Gruyter.

The database contains some 200 case studies and theoretical texts, making important research contributions on the interplay between religious change on the one hand and changes in urban spaces and urban lifestyles on the other, as well as on practices and discourses of urbanity publicly accessible. The contributions focus on questions concerning the role of religious actors, practices and ideas in the emergence and ongoing development of cities and urbanity, the role of urban actors, spaces and practices, and the discourse on urbanity in the emergence and development of religious groups and religion. „The background of our project is a rich research on the city in many disciplines, which, however, often neither bring together the different global spaces nor past and present developments – this is especially true for the topic of religion and urbanity,“ says Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke, who, together with Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau, heads the research group and is responsible for the database. „At the end of the research project in the year 2022, a three-volume handbook in digital and printed form is to be produced, documenting the research thrust initiated by the project and making it tangible for further research. But we didn’t want to hide the results for years, we wanted to put them up for discussion right from the start. Hence the form of a digital ‚journal‘ – seemed appropriate to us.

„The authors of Religion and Urbanity Online are currently mainly members of the research group, Fellows of the Max-Weber-Kolleg and conference guests,“ adds Prof. Dr. Susanne Rau. „But we would also like to encourage other researchers who are dealing with the general topic of religion and urbanity to submit contributions, which will then be reviewed in a peer-review process. We have just published an open ‚invitation‘ for this in our blog.“


Ranjeeta Dutta gives a working paper on ‚Unequal Spaces, Equal Access: Negotiating Religion in the Temple Town of Srirangam in Early Modern South India‘

The present paper will examine the ways in which sacrality and urbanism provide the basis of relations of social dominance influenced by caste, occupational hierarchies and ritual rankings of the social groups. On the basis of a case study of the craftsmen at Srirangam, the paper will discuss the ways in which unequal social spaces were created within the city reflected in the existence of different streets around the temple, the distance of each of which from the temple was directly proportional to the social status of the inhabitants residing in those streets. Various religious groups associated with the temple interacted with this hierarchical urban morphology and developed followings by creating spaces of ‘equal’ access through inclusivistic ritual activities within the temple. While these ritual spaces had a semblance of equal access, in many ways the social hierarchy of caste was still maintained within the temple. In many ways, the temple provided an arena of competitive control of resources and followers for different religious groups. These religious groups dovetailed between social hierarchies and fluidity of the city boundaries lending dynamism to religion and urbanity.

Ranjeeta Dutta is going to present a working paper on ‚‘Temple Town’ as a Typology for Understanding Religion and Urbanity: The Case of Srirangam in Early Modern South India‘

This paper will first discuss the category of ‘temple town’ and ‘temple
urbanism and temple urbanization’ in South India as presented in the historical research and try to understand the viability of such phrases/terms as typologies for understanding religion and urbanity. Secondly, it will explore the development of Srirangam as an urban centre around a single cultic focus of the Ranganathasvami temple. An attempt will be made to analyse the processes through which the temple became the centre of diffusion not only for religious ideas and Srivaishnava community identities, but also of societal and political aspects of urbanism and urbanity that influenced its character and settlement patterns in the early modern period, from the fourteenth to eighteenth century CE.