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Research Clusters

The CRCPD coordinates a number of research clusters on themes relevant to its mission. These clusters are interdisciplinary, and open to interested researchers from other faculties and universities who are interested in participating. A description of each cluster is below. If you are interested in joining one of the clusters, please contact the cluster convenor.

Current research clusters:

- Sexuality, Gender and Multiple Modernities

- Religion and Development

- The Postsecular and Political Belonging

- Freedom of Religion or Belief: Critical and Cross-cultural perspectives

- Religion and Global Institutions

- Religion, Peace and Security

- Science, Religion and Philosophy

Please scroll down for detailed descriptions of each cluster's research activities.

Sexuality, Gender and Multiple Modernities Cluster

Co-convenors: Kim Knibbe and Brenda Bartelink

The boundaries between the religious and the secular are constantly negotiated and renegotiated within contemporary modernity. Perhaps nowhere is this process of negotiation more acute than in relation to conceptions of gender and sexuality across diverse cultural contexts. This research cluster problematizes dominant secular understandings of gender and sexuality and recognizes that religion plays a significant role in how gender identities and roles are formulated and enacted. Further, religion significantly shapes the way sexuality is experienced and expressed.

This cluster studies the ways that religious and secular understandings of gender and sexuality shape people and are used by people to shape themselves. The research of this cluster departs from an understanding of modernity as multiple, encompassing different historical trajectories in which religion and secularity have different roles.

Research project, funded by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research NWO, starting soon:

Sexuality, Religion and Secularism. Cultural encounters in the African Diaspora in the Netherlands.

Abstract: This project studies the different ways sexual well-being is understood and approached in the African Diaspora in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, a secularist notion of sexual well-being is dominant. Within this understanding of sexual health, religion and tradition are often seen as obstacles for a responsible approach to sexuality. The clashes and misunderstandings this can produce became clear during the controversy around media reports on so-called “ HIV-healings” that were supposedly taking place in African dominated Pentecostal churches in Amsterdam. In contrast, in many African countries religion, as well as ‘traditional’ healing practices and teachings of adolescents by elders may play a large role in how sexual well-being is understood and approached. The project is sub-divided into three sub-projects, corresponding to three different groups of actors and perspectives on the intersections of these different approaches: organisations working from a sexual health paradigm both secular and religious, religious actors in the African Diaspora and African migrants in the Netherlands themselves.

Upcoming activities:

Panel “Religon, gender and sexuality and the ‘crisis of meaning’” at the NGG conference, Nijmegen Thursday and Friday October 29-30.

Currently there are several students carrying out research and following traineeships with organizations.

Religion and Development

Co-Convenors: Brenda Bartelink, Knowledge Centre Religion and Development and Erin Wilson, CRCPD

Development cooperation has emerged as an important field for transnational relations between people, communities and organisations in Europe and the Global South. Religion has been fundamental in shaping this field, however professionalization of development has also led to an increasingly secular development practice. Being focussed on human rights, global citizenship, democracy and human flourishing, religion has increasingly been ignored as important to development and social change by powerful international players in the field. Yet most societies in which development organisations work are "religious" in some sense of this word, variously defined. They are not secularized in the same way as Western cultures. As such, it is important to ensure that a plurality of voices and perspectives on what is development and what is most beneficial for particular communities have a place in development theory and practice. Moreover, the world is changing rapidly; new actors such as China and transnational diaspora communities change development relations fundamentally. The Human Development Report 2013 therefore speaks of the Global Rise of the South. In Europe large development frames have become scrutinized, and people increasingly connect to people in the Global South personally, through small-scale, private initiatives. This not only has economic and geopolitical implications, but will also give space for new networks and relations in which people work together based on shared values and agendas. This will influence the role of religion in sustainable development and social change, and raise new questions on how religion relates to transformation.

The aim of this research cluster is to study these developments and contribute to theoretical and practical debates on the role of religion in development. It takes a post secular perspective in the sense that neither secular nor religious frameworks are understood as possessing a monopoly on what constitutes the best way to pursue development, equality, justice and emancipation. The cluster is however interested in exploring the questions, tensions and dilemmas that arise within this changing transnational field of development. The cluster also aims to work in cooperation with development organisations.

The research cluster is currently developing plans for several activities on Religion and Development, including a series of webinars and online debates, conference presentations and research projects, in which academic knowledge and practical experiences of people involved in the field of development are brought together.

The Postsecular and Political Belonging

Co-Convenors: Erin Wilson and Luca Mavelli

Contemporary global governance structures in relation to human rights are premised on a fundamental conundrum. While the rights of individuals have never been more clearly and extensively articulated, the ability to access these rights is largely dependent on membership within a sovereign state. This establishes a significant power imbalance between the state and the individual. Nowhere is this power imbalance more acute than in the context of migration, in particular the rights of asylum seekers and stateless persons.

Yet conceptualizing political belonging as membership of a state is only one amongst numerous options for organizing relationships and rights between individuals and communities. Alternative conceptions include membership of communities that are not defined by arbitrary territorial boundaries, but are instead premised on alternative markers of shared identity and shared values.

The advent of postsecularism in global politics invites scholars to reconsider the contributions of religious thinkers and actors to pressing global problems, including problems of migration and statelessness. This cluster brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines to consider what contemporary theology and the practices of faith-based actors in relation to migration and asylum might contribute to rethinking notions of political belonging, and how this might contribute to developing more effective protection mechanisms for the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons.

Freedom of Religion or Belief: Critical and cross-cultural perspectives

Convenor: Erin Wilson

Researchers: Ton Groeneweg, Christoph Gruell, Shireen Azam

The right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is becoming an increasingly visible part of global politics, with growing emphasis on this right in the foreign policy of a number of states and in the activities of civil society organisations. What are the dynamics contributing to this rise in significance of FoRB amongst these actors? What are the implications of promoting human rights, particularly one as sensitive as FoRB, as part of foreign policy? What are the points of convergence and dissonance between American and European perspectives on FoRB and how is this right and its associated social and political values (such as tolerance, pluralism, diversity, multiculturalism) understood across diverse cultural contexts? What new cleavages and power imbalances may be created by the growing emphasis that is being placed on FoRB? This research cluster explores these and other related questions through scholarly, policy and civil society focused events, research projects carried out in partnership with civil society organisations and seminars and workshops. Its approached is informed by anthropological, sociological and political approaches to the study of religion and FoRB, drawing on the work of scholars such as Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Wendy Brown, Winnifred Fallers Sullvan, Lori Beaman and Benjamin Berger, amongst others. Please contact the convenor, or check the forthcoming events page if you would like to participate in the cluster and its activities.

Religion and Global Institutions

Convenor: Dr John Rees, University of Notre Dame Australia

A broad spectrum of international organisations (IOs) recognise religion as an important factor in policy development and often engage in policy discourse with global religious organisations (GROs) that represent single or multiple religious faiths at the international level. The Religion and Global Institutions research cluster will examine religion and international policy from the perspective of both IOs and GROs.

Research on religion in the policy domains of IOs is based on three objectives:

i)                   Assess the effectiveness of religious actors to shape international policy agendas

ii)                   Investigate whether IOs influence the behaviour and beliefs of religious actors

iii)                 Re-examine the origins of select IOs from a post-secular perspective

Research on GROs in international relations (IR) is based on three objectives:

i)                   Define and apply ‘global religious organisation’ as an actor category in IR discourse

ii)                   Critically compare the interests and agendas of single-faith GRO and multi-faith GRO actors

iii)                 Evaluate the interests of GROs against those of other faith actors in the international system

The research cluster aims to produce peer-reviewed publications, media commentary, and policy advice on select themes and contexts relevant to the critical study of politics and religion in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

Religion, Peace and Security Cluster

Co-convenors: Simon Polinder and Frank Ubachs


In the 21st century religion has become an important factor in global developments and international security. Policy-makers and academics increasingly recognise religion as a major factor in a large number of conflicts and their resolution, yet this important issue remains under-theorised within the social sciences and humanities. This research cluster will contribute to deepening research and practice on the role of religion in conflict, violence, security and peacebuilding.

The cluster is presently engaged in two separate but related research projects. The first project broadly maps approaches to the study of religion and global politics on both sides of the Atlantic, aiming to heighten awareness of and deepen exchange amongst European and North American scholars. We recognise that different approaches and methods dominate research on religion in these different contexts, but that there is much to be gained from collaboration and mutual exchange. This project aims to facilitate such exchange.

The second project focuses more acutely on the role of religion in conflict settings, with the particular focus on Southeast Asia. This geographic focus acknowledges the on-going acute conflicts in the region where religion plays a role, including in Indonesia and Myanmar, and aims to address a significant gap in knowledge about such conflicts. The historic ties between the Netherlands and the Southeast Asian region, particularly Indonesia, also makes such a focus timely and relevant.

Science, Religion, and Philosophy Cluster

Co-convenors: Elizabeth Fernandez, Jay Johnston and Emily Thomas

Science and religion are two methods that humans use to approach a deeper understanding of the universe in which we live and our place within it. Unfortunately, there has also been a great deal of conflict between the roles of religion and science in society. In recent times, the scientific community has seen the rise of an atheistic naturalism, with several prominent scientists stating that God and/or religion is no longer needed as we grow to understand our universe on a deeper physical level. On the other hand, several religious creationists deny scientific progress, with evolution and the Big Bang being favorite targets. While the divide is not all pervasive, vocal partisan thinking has made interdisciplinary dialog challenging. This cluster explores this phenomenon, if science and religion can co-exist as methods to understand our universe, and what it means to be religious in today’s scientific society.  

In addition, this cluster explores the religious and philosophical implications of some of the most recent scientific findings. This cluster examines the philosophical significance of some of these discoveries, from extrasolar planets to evolution, and investigates what it means to be human in our ever-changing view of the world.

Finally, humankind is now seeing the results of advanced scientific studies, such as the rise of artificial intelligence, the ability to create human brains in the lab, and advanced cybernetics. All of these cause us to confront yet-unexplored ethical boundaries. Because of this, new ethical and philosophical questions will arise and need to be addressed. In addition, new ethical issues have arisen in recent years due to the effects of technology on our environment.  Therefore, we also include a focus on religion, climate change and environmental ontologies.

Last modified:August 28, 2015 17:49