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Pluralisation and Marginality

Pluralisation and Marginality

The dynamic relationship between pluralization and marginality in politics, religion and society from the 16th to the 20th century is central to the work of this research area. On the one hand, it investigates processes of diversification, as well as the tensions between them and completing concepts of unity. On the other hand, it examines the significance of marginality for processes of pluralization, and also ultimately of differentiation. The research area analyses processes for the regulation of plurality, strategies for marginalizing others and oneself, and practices of advocacy and affiliation.

The research area examines four manifestations of the relationship between pluralization and marginality, which structure the projects in four interlocking topic areas. Firstly, a number of projects follow intra- and interconfessional differentiations as strategies for creating differences. Secondly, the interplay between self-definition and external control is analysed through the prism of the actions of minorities in spaces of religious/ideological pluralism. Thirdly, the research area turns its attention to specific institutional mechanisms for regulating conflicts in the early modern period and the 19th century, taking the example of the regulation of differences of religion and worldview in the context of state-formation. Fourthly, a number of projects examine the depictions, forms of articulation and practices for representing marginalized groups and communities – in the form of advocacy for one’s own community and claims to advocacy for others in need of assistance.

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Advocates of European integration use the slogan "united in diversity" to depict the ideal of plurality as a fundamental characteristic of Europe. But is plurality really part of the DNA of Europe or is it an invention of the postwar period intended to legitimize the process of European integration? Research area 1 contextualises the emergence of the idea of a pluralistic Europe in the history of the modern era. By means of case studies from the religious and social history of Europe between the 16th and the 20th century, it sheds light on the negotiating of differences in politics, religion and society from the perspective of the dynamic relationship between pluralisation and marginality. On the one hand, processes of diversification are investigated, as well as the tense relationship between these processes and competing concepts of unity. On the other hand, the research area examines the significance of marginality for processes of pluralisation and, ultimately, of differentiation. How did the construction and perception of cultural, social and religious diversity and the way this diversity was negotiated change through history? And what happened to those who were not understood as part of the majority or who did not define themselves as part of the majority?

The research area investigates – partly with digital quantitative processes – four expressions of the relationship between pluralisation and marginality: (1.) strategies for the creation of differences, (2.) the interplay between self-definition and external control, (3.) institutional mechanisms for the regulation of conflicts, and (4.) the practices of articulation of marginalised groups and their advocates. These phenomena are researched using a diverse range of primary sources, ranging from ego-documents to journalism, images, and official documents. The projects can be divided into four topic areas, which are not thought of as mutually exclusive, but rather as interlocking.

Firstly, the research area investigates intra- and interconfessional differentiations. The example of controversies within Protestantism from 1548 onward shows how debates conducted through the print media, in which the emergence of different theological positions was manifested, could lead to the establishment of doctrine in a way that was consensus-oriented and excluded dissenters (I. Dingel et al., Controversia et Confessio). In the context of the historiographical treatment of these processes, the use of the term "orthodoxy" since the 18th century has facilitated the analysis of how categorisations emerged in academic discourse, which were then used in a polemically pointed way in the controversies between the competing doctrinal positions (C. Witt, Marginalisation). Finally, based on the Communion of Protestant Churches in Europe the research area investigates how in the 20th century interconfessional differences were interpreted as an expression of religious richness, and played a constructive role in specific forms of church community (C. Witt, GEKE).

Secondly, there is a focus on minorities and their actions in a religiously or ideologically plural space. For example, the Anabaptist congregations that existed from the 16th century illustrate how a partial social separation, which was chosen by the congregations in question, could be justified in religious normative terms, the arguments that could be employed to propagate it, and the reactions this could provoke in changing political contexts (H. Jürgens). Taking the example of the Catholic church in the Netherlands, a project is investigating how intra-confessional differences escalated to a schism between 1650 and 1750, towards which lay Catholics were forced to take a position in their daily practice (J. Geraerts). At the same time, an analysis of Jewish political action in France in the 19th century explores how minorities in society considered their own, but also the marginalised positions of others, and from this developed claims to rights and integration strategies (N. Duhaut).

The third focus of this research area is the regulation of religious and ideological differences in the context of processes of state formation. On the one hand, a comparative analysis of early modern religious treaties shows how efforts were made to contain religious diversity through political and legal provisions, through efforts to establish a theological consensus or through everyday practices aimed at ensuring coexistence, and how these approaches ultimately made religious diversity possible in the long term (I. Dingel, C. Voigt-Goy et al., EuReD). By contrast, a study of religiously-motivated acts of protest and violence in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries highlights the limits of state-regulated pluralism in everyday life and lifeworlds (E. Bouwers, S. Mehlmer, P. Techet).

Finally, the fourth focus enquires into depictions, articulation forms and practices for representing marginalized groups and communities. On the one hand, the political configurations and mechanisms of the advocacy and claims of members of the respective social collective are discussed (M. Thulin; N. Duhaut). On the other hand, the research analyses examples of advocacy that articulate the interests of other or related people in need, as occurred with humanitarian organizations. Here the focus is mainly on medial representations, gender distinctions and questions of global justice (B. Gißibl; E. Möller; J. Paulmann).

By investigating the dynamic relationship between pluralisation and marginality, the research area demonstrates how pluralisation processes dynamized the life of society and gave rise to experiences of difference that were strengthened or nullified by members of different political, social and religious groups through their everyday practices. Furthermore, the analysis of differentiation processes demonstrates the strategies through which religious and other minority groups were marginalized, or conversely the strategies though which they positioned themselves in relation to hegemonic discourses and laid claim to cultural sovereignty. Thirdly, the work of this research area documents the contested structuring and precarious acceptance of pluralistic orders and thus the reversibility of processes for regulating pluralism, as well as the durability of marginal positions. Ultimately, the research demonstrates how religious doctrinal formulations, academic concepts and legal norms emerged and became established in reaction to the unfolding of conflict within confessions, as well as societal pluralisation processes. Overall, research area 1 shows the historical conditionality of pluralisation processes and marginal positions, and thus confirms that the way differences were negotiated in Europe in the modern era was shaped by the respective time and place.

Battles over Belief

Catholic (Anti-)Imperialism

The Catholic laity and the Schism in the Catholic Church in the Dutch Republic, 1650–c.1750

Controversia et Confessio 

Economy, Kinship, and Jewish Politics: The History of the Wertheimer Family, c. 1615–1900

The Egyptian Red Crescent

Engaging Europe in the Arab World

Global Humanitarianism Research Academy

The History of Humanitarian Assistance in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Marginalization through historiography. Emergence, development and reception of the historiographical category "Orthodoxy"


Media Representations as Sovereignty 

Religious Persevation of Peace and Peace-making in Europe

Religious Toleration and Peace (RETOPEA)


Reformed Confessional culture in North and Baltic Sea regions