Religious Nonconformism and Cultural Dynamics

The research training group on Religious Non-Conformism and Cultural Dynamics researches issues of religious non-conformism in a wide variety of geographic and historical frameworks. Religious non-conformism is defined as forms of religious behaviour and faith that differ from the types of religion predominant in a society and that are normally given negative sanctions. Some of the things that indicate negative sanctions are social and legal discrimination, repression and even persecution. There is religious non-conformism in the form of prophets (as defined by Max Weber), heresies, sects or religious minorities discriminated against in all complex societies. The pivotal concept for the research training group’s research operates on the assumption that religious non-conformism constitutes an essential element of the religious sphere and not just some form of deviance from the dominant religious and social constructs of meaning and ways of life that should be contemplated in splendid isolation. Instead, religious non-conformism is a potential resource for alternative ways of interpreting the meaning of life, establishing social values and creating ways of life, which makes it an element of cultural tension and dynamism.

Our project revolves around three axes of knowledge:

  1. the tension between religious non-conformism and conformity, in other words the dominant forms of living one’s life and giving it (religious) meaning. This tension emerges more or less in the form of conflicts and runs the gamut from discrimination to violent suppression on the one hand and verbal rejection all the way up to violent rebellion on the other hand.
  2. the innovative potential and transformative dynamism of religious non-conformism.
  3. the social formation, internal networking and media representation of religiously non-conformist groups and social environments.


Our research training group places the study of religious non-conformism in an interdisciplinary and comparative context. Religious studies, the sociology of religion, regional studies and historical disciplines link up to provide doctoral students with an environment where they can discuss their own research projects in an overarching theoretical and comparative cultural framework. This strategy combines training for up-and-coming scholars on a high level of qualification while actively involving them in an interdisciplinary research project. Altogether, this spells out an academic curriculum on a substantially higher level than simply analysing issues in isolation and providing counselling for each individual discipline.

 

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