FSP Religion & Emotion


Two good reasons motivate the Religion & Emotion research program at the Herzog August Bibliothek. On the one hand, the enormous rare book collection of the library refers to the religious traditions of Europe and on the other hand, our post-secular present is increasingly confronted with the social dynamics of religion. The research focus builds on approaches from cultural studies, including ethnology and anthropology; the origin and mode of action of religious emotions form the research topic. Using a praxeological perspective, it deals with the media of religious mediation, the materiality and the body. Questions on the role of material culture in shaping religious emotion, on the connection between personal and social appropriation, on the encounter of different religions and on the mobilization potential of religion outline the research program.

The affective turn in the study of religion has inspired research to think beyond a number of long-lived dichotomies -- the body-mind dualism, the separation of rational thinking and irrational feeling, the opposition of mind and matter – and has led to a better understanding of how psyche and body shape each other with the participation of society. The conceptual character of Doing emotions outlines in a programmatic way that feelings are created and called by means of practices. From this point of view, emotions are less what we have than what we do. Analysing religious emotions therefore means searching for the underlying emotional practices. These include repetitive body practices, ways of defining and labeling emotions and how religious objects or images were dealt with. Emotions are not individually unique but of social origin in the sense that people are born into or move into such an emotional vocabulary and repertoire, which they consequently adapt and modify.

Religion is understood here as a practice of mediation, in which media and materiality play the central role for the orientation and experience of the transcendental. A wide variety of media can be included in the study: Words, texts, images, sounds, artefacts and bodies. Everything that serves to convey the imaginary can be described as a medium. For example, contemplation on images is embedded in religious traditions, form and communicate religion, and affect semantics in prayer texts convey modes of behaviour and emotions. In particular, the materiality of religion has moved to the centre of attention. The central assumption is that objects and their use, evaluation and attraction are not something that is added to religion, but cannot be separated from it. To renounce the concept of a supposedly inwardly constituted spiritual religiosity in favour of a materialistic perspective means to examine the material coordinates of religious practice in order to explore the conditions for feelings, senses, spaces and performances of faith.

The program is not limited to the research on Christianity. Different religions and spaces are to be brought into contact with each other, and we intend go beyond operate disciplinary and epochal boundaries. In view of the global significance of religious hatred, the genesis and mechanisms of the phenomenon can be researched from a multidisciplinary perspective for different religions and with an epoch-spanning view with a benefit. The focus on Religion & Emotion transcends spatial, epochal and subject-related borders, however, topics on European early modernity in its global interdependence take a leading perspective in the program.


Funding: HAB
Duration: since July 2019
Head: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gleixner
Contact: remotion@hab.de

Image source: Johann Benjamin Brühl: Radierung, 18. Jahrhundert. Herzog August Bibliothek: Graph. A1: 355a