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Pluralisation and Marginality

Pluralisation and Marginality

Supporters of European unification often cite plurality in unity as an integral component of a common canon of values. Thus they also view the pluralisation of religion and culture, of life patterns and ways of life, as a defining mark of the continent and its societies in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. At present, however, this stance no longer seems to be the consensus. How did the valorisation of cultural, social and religious diversity change in the past? What concepts of unity were opposed to pluralisation? And what happened to those who were not perceived, or did not perceive themselves, to be part of the majority? In historical perspective, the current approach to plurality in Europe is remarkable above all for the positive value accorded dissimilarity and diversity. For even though plurality can be seen as a constant in European history since what Michael Borgolte has called the »discovery of diversity« in the Middle Ages, for centuries it was the ideal of unity and uniformity that reigned in social and religious contexts. Belonging to social collectives like religious communities, guilds, classes, and nations levelled differences and was placed above egalitarian inclusionary mechanisms, demands for loyalty, and exclusivist claims to religious truth. At the same time, this could lead to exclusion and to social or cultural stigmatisation. Notions of unity were opposed by dynamic processes of pluralisation, which could also include a conscious handling of marginality. 

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This research area focuses on the charged relationship between pluralisation and notions of unity, as well as on the significance of marginality for processes of pluralisation. Issues to be investigated therefore include: the diverse configurations in which pluralisation, unity and marginality stand in relation to one another; the mechanisms and possibilities of social self-positioning; perceptions of self and other; strategies for regulating co-existence; and various politics of affiliation and shared identity.

From the perspective of the historiy of religion, the focus is on forms of negotiating the exclusivist religious claims of all three major monotheistic religions and their intersection with cultural, political, and social differences. Four topics present themselves in this context. First, the charged and dynamic relationship between a stipulated »orthodoxy«, on the one hand, and religious deviance or a consciously chosen marginalisation, on the other. With a view to the conflict over unity, this also includes questions about religious tolerance and secularization. The containment of religious differences by means of politico-juridical regulations, attempts at theological consensusbuilding and everyday practices provides a second field of research within which the reciprocal relationship between pluralisation and marginalisation comes to the fore. Third, analogous processes can be found not only within Christianity but also in Judaism and Islam. Furthermore, modern European history exhibits manifold forms of mutual influence in religion and theology among the three monotheistic religions. Fourth and finally, pluralisation and marginalisation determine the relationships of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities around the world. In contact inside and outside of Europe, this is where perceptions and attributions of centre and periphery, and conceptions of religious communities, are negotiated.

With regard to historical studies, there are several topics as well that will help us gain new perspectives on our research questions. Building, among others, on current research into media, gender and humanitarian aid, a first focus can be placed on the genesis of representations and articulations relating to marginalised groups, that is on the political configurations and mechanisms of »advocacy« between a group’s own articulation and the intercession of others. Second, with regard to social history, the connection between marginality and religious violence in modernising societies since the nineteenth century is to be investigated. This puts a focus on the limits of plurality in everyday practices and lived environment. A third, longue durée question regards governance structures in politics and the state, specifically the organisation of imperial and democratic power in light of the challenges brought by diversity. Fourth, this research area can provide the basis for further historiographical reflection on the relationship between »European« and »global« history writing.

Controversia et Confessio 

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


Religious Persevation of Peace and Peace-making in Europe

Reformed Confessional culture in North and Baltic Sea regions

Religious Toleration and Peace (RETOPEA)

Battles over Belief

Global Humanitarianism Research Academy

The Egyptian Red Crescent

Engaging Europe in the Arab World

Catholic (Anti-)Imperialism

Media Representations as Sovereignty 

Generations of Shtadlanut and Zedakah – The Viennese Court Factor Family Wertheimer

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