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Mobility and Belonging

Mobility and Belonging

Mobility makes otherness especially visible. On the one hand, the movement of people, objects, and concepts lays bare existing political, social, cultural and religious boundaries that must be maintained, transgressed or renegotiated. On the other hand, it leads to the drawing of new boundaries and forms of more or less enduring entanglement. Against the backdrop of increasing mobility and entanglement in modern Europe, this research area will investigate what impact such movements had on the changing ways differences were negotiated between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Special attention will be given to voluntarily and involuntarily mobile actors, the question of affiliation in light of fluctuating boundaries, and the phenomenon of translation, which grew in importance as mobility increased.

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From the point of view of the history of religion, the focus is first on the transgression of boundaries between the confessions and religions, specifically how it is guided and facilitated by conversion. This form of mobility can be traced not only in connection with the Christian missionary societies on other continents, but also in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and in the Islam of the Ottoman Empire. A comparative study of conversion narratives in a European, inter-religious perspective is a desideratum. Of interest, secondly, is the tension between the preservation and transformation of religious traditions, which was a distinguishing characteristic of communities of religious refugees. The networks of communities built by these migrants, such as the Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire and the Puritans in North America, can give insight into the crossboundary dynamics of religious awakening and renewal movements. Third, the religious selfunderstanding of resolutely trans-confessional or inter-religious milieus will be studied. This selfunderstanding can be traced from humanist irenic circles to philosophical associations claiming a point of view »above« the monotheistic religions. Fourth, translations of religious and theological writings will be analysed. On the one hand, in the increasing vernacular diffusion of devotional texts throughout all the confessions, and in translations of the Koran, the dissemination of elementary knowledge about other confessions and religions comes to light. On the other hand, translations, by selecting specific texts for translation in specific ways, steer the reception of these texts, thus highlighting the drawing of religious boundaries and religious entanglement.

From the perspective of historical studies, the focus is first on individuals and groups that voluntarily crossed geographical borders. Their life stories provide a basis for studying practices of drawing and transgressing boundaries, the creation of cross-boundary networks and the increasingly solidifying entanglements these networks give rise to. Of especial interest are the economic and political actors who played a leading role in building the structures of global entanglements. A second focus will be on individuals who were forced to adopt a new home. The life stories of victims of persecution and refugees are especially revealing of the changing potential for action in local, national and international contexts, as well as for studying it with regard to the emergence of exclusive and inclusive concepts (like nation and nationality), political asylum and humanitarian aid. A third topic is the question of the political, social, regional and religious »belonging« of individuals and groups – a question that was continually raised by mobility and shifting boundaries. Belonging had to be (re-) defined and (re-)negotiated by those on the move and the societies confronted with them. When considering this question, it is important to distinguish between belonging as perceived by the individuals and groups themselves, and those ascribed to them by others. Account must also be taken of the fact that individuals always possessed multiple, overlapping affiliations. Especially informative is research into the modes of belonging of migrants, which disintegrated and reformed in border areas and in circumstances of transition. A fourth avenue of approach is provided by the phenomenon of translation, which is fundamental for exchange when mobility causes contact with the »other«. Here the interest concerns processes of selective knowledge and cultural transfer, as well as the media that facilitated and conveyed these translation processes. It may be asked, for example, how »radical« political, social and cultural ideas spread in the interplay between public censorship and clandestine dissemination.

The Case of Arab Secularists and their Opponents in Egypt

Migrants in Istanbul

Lives on the move. Mobile identities and belonging in the Iberian Atlantic (1580–1700)


Antislavery Discourse

Rooted Cosmopolitans and Transatlantic Mobilities  

Migration and Sociation

Mönchische Mobilität im transosmanischen Raum. Die Donaufürstentümer und das osmanische Südosteuropa zwischen dem 14. und 17. Jahrhundert


Multiple denominational belonging? Reception and censorship of the Mainz cathedral preacher Johann Wild OFM (1495-1554)

Transkonfessionelle Mobilität. Die russisch-orthodoxe Mission und das ostsyrische Christentum im Urmia-Gebiet (Iran), 1898–1917

On the edge of Europe? – Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus in German sources, c. 1650–1750