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Religious Dynamics and Cultural Diversity


Professor Gerard Wiegers

Members of the research group

dr. H.J. Borsje
dr. D.A.L.E. van Dalen
dr. P.J. Forshaw
S. van Esdonk MA
J.C. Greer MA
prof.dr. W.J. Hanegraaff
prof.dr. J.W. van Henten
dr. A. Kateman
G. Kwantes MA
dr. R.L.A. van Leeuwen
prof.dr. P.J. Margry
dr. M. Pasi
dr. U.L. Popp - Baier
S. Roggeveen MSc
dr. C.H.C.M. Vander Stichele
prof. K. van der Toorn
N. Wamelink MA
prof.dr. G.A. Wiegers
M.A. Zuber MA

Description of the research programme of the research group

This interdisciplinary research group focuses on historical and current practices of religion in Europe, situated in its wider Mediterranean, Eurasian and global, contexts, as a complex, plural field that is characterized by continuous processes of change and transformation over time.
Contrary to traditional notions of a monolithic “Christian occident” (das Christliche Abendland), our emphasis is on religion in Europe in its full social and cultural diversity and a keen interest in aspects of memory, cultural heritage and identity. We are particularly focusing on processes of discursive transfer and exchange of practices and ideas in and between Jewish, Christian, and Islamic communities, the literary transmission of “pagan” and other traditions within these contexts and the emergence, since the 18th century, of a new religious landscape under the impact of processes of modernization, secularization, individualization, romanticization, commercialization, as well as – beginning in the second half of the 19th and gaining particular force from the second half of the 20th century onwards – of migration and globalization. Complex processes of competition by means of polemics and apologetics, persecution, exclusion and syncretism, innovation and inclusion by means of selective borrowing can be observed in all these contexts.
The research group intends to be not just multidisciplinary, but also interdisciplinary and even transdisciplinary: participants come from a variety of specialisations and disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. historical research, textual analysis, anthropology, sociology, psychology, study of the arts, methodological approaches and history of science), but are encouraged to collaborate across traditional disciplinary and geographical boundaries.
In order to stimulate such an approach, the research output will be categorized not according to the affiliation of scholars to specific disciplines, but on the basis of the actual contents of their various publications from year to year and existing or upcoming collaborations in research projects.
The research group organizes lectures, seminars, meetings, and workshops, and will serve as a platform for the discussion about and preparation of funding applications. As such, it aims to become a centre of expertise for bringing together and coordinating all research concerned with religion at the University of Amsterdam. Scholars from all disciplines in the Faculties of Humanities and of the Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Amsterdam may participate.

Envisaged results

Monographs; articles; PhD theses; public lectures; seminars; meetings and workshops. Each year the research group produces an annual report about the previous year, with short descriptions of the current individual projects and the participants’ research output.

Societal relevance

Research into the social and historical dynamics and cultural diversity of religion is unquestionably of great relevance to society. For instance, many of the political and social conflicts that dominate world news are linked directly to the internal dynamics of monotheistic religions and their complex involvement in processes of modernization, secularization, individualization, and so on. Much of what happens around us today is impossible to understand without analyzing its embeddedness in a longue durée of specifically European polemic and apologetic religious discourse. The particular strength of this program is that it brings together social scientific, comparative and historical approaches, and studies not only the role of the dominant monotheistic and scriptural religions but combines this with a unique emphasis on the underestimated relevance of pagan, heterodox, or esoteric discourses for understanding the emergence of modernity and the processual dynamics of the contemporary “religious supermarket”.