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Research Area 1

Establishing Difference: Religious-Political Conflicts and Efforts to Create Consensus

The mutual permeation of politics and religion developed in the early modern period a productive dynamic which lasted into the 20th century, and which saw "Europe" develop into a laboratory for a consensus-building approach to the treatment of religious-political difference. This research area investigates the basic process through which the religious-political diversification in the aftermath of the Reformation changed into the basic format of European life-worlds by gradually taking on concrete institutional form, though it continued to be repeatedly contested.

These processes are reinterpreted as transformations of the continuing interconnection between religion and politics, as the general trend was initially determined by the continuing desire of the actors to (re)create a unified order in the face of religious-political differences. The failure of all efforts to this end made necessary the development of new procedures, which were often only intended as temporary arrangements, for the resolution of conflicts and for ordering the polity. However, these gradually established themselves as a generally-accepted basis for social and political stability. The idea of an overarching "pax et concordia" could only have a future if the ideal of religious "unitas" was relinquished. The development of the knowledge cultures, cross-border, trans-European contact, an increasingly unbiased perception of other religions, and other trends which would previously have been labelled heterodox set in motion a process of profound change. Traditional ideals were relinquished, or reinterpreted and transferred into new, supposedly more robust concepts for ordering the daily relationship between religion and politics.

The aim of this research area is to reconstruct this process of change in the life-world interconnections between religion and politics in a history of conjunctures which spans the usual time period boundaries within the modern era. This trend history is investigated in three modules. These concentrate on

  1. the justification and critique of religious-political differences, as manifested in the emergence of a culture of confessional controversy – which was reflected in theological debate – and in the critical relativisation of this culture in informal and university-based scholarly networks;
  2. attempts to regulate religious-political differences, which manifested themselves in the development of religious settlements and social orders, but also in the development of a practise of social protest;
  3. the representation of religious-political differences and the resolution of these differences in the visual, linguistic and musical media.

Each module includes fundamental and evaluatory projects which deal with the overarching topic of the module on the basis of sample topics.

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1. Culture of confessional controversy and the knowledge cultures of the modern era

In the religious-theological field, actors employed forms of debate which were borrowed from the academic context and transferred them to contexts where they had a much greater effect on public discourse. This resulted in the emergence of a specific "culture of confessional controversy". This culture contributed to a clarification of positions, and also gave rise to confessionalism. Efforts to overcome contradictions thus ultimately resulted in the hardening of confessional differences. This development was reflected upon critically in the context of newly emerging knowledge cultures. University-based and informal scholarly networks increasingly call into question confessional antagonism, during which they also reverted to ideas of general humanity. Interactions between Christianity and Judaism and between Christianity and Islam, which were growing deeper, also played an important part in this process.

a) Political Hesychasm in the Danubian Principalities

b) The Literature and Culture of Controversy in the Post-Interim Period

c) Correspondence and Controversy – the Correspondence Networks of Matthias Flacius Illyricus (in preparation)

d) Socinian Networks and their Influence on the Early Enlightenment


2. State and societal strategies for dealing with conflict

With the growing realization that it was impossible to ultimately resolve the hardening religious-political differences by military means, diverse new processes for promoting peace and regulating difference emerged in Europe. Interaction between diplomatic, legal and theological experts played a role in developing and elaborating these processes further. In addition to effective peace agreements between states, this resulted in specific religious settlements within territories or within states, the provisions of which were considered temporary from the start. However, the potentially violent conflicts which were kept under wraps by legal means in this way remained latent within society and often re-emerged later as circumstances changed to give rise to new crises.

a) Religious Persevaration of Peace and Peace-making in Europe (1500–1800): Digital edition of Early Modern religious Peace Treaties

b) Religious Settlements and the Communication of Theological Experts

c) Dress Regulations and Religious Plurality

d) Battles over Belief: Religion and Violence in Catholic Europe (1848–1914)


3. Representations of religious-political differences and of the resolution of these differences

Symbolic communication played a central role in the treatment of religious-political difference. Visual, linguistic and tonal media which reached large sections of the population played a role in the escalation and resolution of conflicts. These media also had a feedback effect on the treatment of difference which was both productive and partly normative in nature.

a) Righteousness and Peace Kiss Each Other – Representations of Peace in Early Modern Europe

b) Blasphemy in Europe from 1500

c) Between the Home Front and the Battlefield – Protestant Theology and Practice in World War I

d) Migrants in Istanbul: Difference and Belonging in the Ottoman World, 16th-18th Century