Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies Research Departments Comparative Study of Religion

Comparative Study of Religion

An informed and scholarly study of religion requires a comparative and interdisciplinary approach. In this department, religion is addressed in all its forms and appearances. Historians, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists are working together to critically investigate religion as a cultural factor that is so influential in the modern world. Our expertise covers method and theory in the study of religion, the changing faces of religion in a global perspective, as well as the historical dimension of current religious discourses. Of particular importance for our research and teaching is the critical analysis of constructions of “Eastern” and “Western” forms of religion.

Scholarly and Societal Relevance

Religion is in the news on a daily basis and permeates every corner of human affairs. It is an influential aspect of human life, which has shaped civilizations and identities in all parts of the world—and throughout the ages. Combining historical, cultural and social-scientific perspectives on religion as a human phenomenon, the research and teaching in this department offers a unique contribution to a solid analysis of religion in its societal context.


All staff members operate within the framework of comparative study of religion. New research is discussed in monthly meetings. Our shared research efforts come together in the following collaborative research program:

“Religion on the Ground: Practices and Discourses in Social Transformation”

Religion is always embedded. In studying religion on the ground we focus on the concrete and lived aspects of religion in their social, cultural, and historical settings. We investigate how religion is co-constitutive of individual and collective identities and practices. We understand religion as a category in society that can take on very different and continuously changing forms rather than as a universal given. In an interdisciplinary and comparative way, we apply this angle to concrete issues of crucial relevance for contemporary societies, such as the psychological functions of religion in coping with illness and loss or the role of media in political ideology from Europe to Asia. We study the role of religion in processes of globalization as well as the challenges to religious identity and tradition that come with migration and the search for a new ‘home.’

Religion on the ground refers to various locations of religion in society, locations not in the sense of a given and clearly demarcated space but as a ‘field of negotiation’ where religious ideas, practices, and discourses are at play. From this perspective, we find religion in unexpected places, such as the natural sciences, immigration policies, or the work of humanitarian organizations. Religion on the ground, therefore, means that we understand religion as being involved in general cultural, political, and aesthetic dimensions and that we study religion in connection with these diverse fields. It is in people’s everyday lives that religion becomes important. Our research makes this importance visible and provides new insights into the underlying dynamics of embedded religion.

Last modified:03 January 2022 10.16 a.m.