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The Study of Religion as an Area of Conflict: Three Outsider Perspectives

Panel Chair: Horst Junginger | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

With Edmund Hardy (1852-1904), Eduard Erkes (1891-1958) and Hans Alexander Winkler (1900-1945), the panel takes three outstanding German historians of religion into account who equally failed to overcome the academic outsider positions they were entrenched in. In contrast to their exceptional skills, the Catholic Hardy, the Social Democrat Erkes and the Communist Winkler did not fit into the mainstream of religious studies for political reasons, but also as a consequence of their lacking willingness to make compromises in scientific regard. Considering their life and work against the background of four different political systems in Germany shows interesting similarities with the relatedness of marginality and productivity typical of the academic study of religion as a whole.

Fritz Heinrich

The Study of Religion in the German Empire: Edmund Hardy’s Critique of Friedrich Max Müller in Historical Context

In 1898 Edmund Hardy published a programmatic article in the first issue of the Archiv für Religionswissenschaft with the title “Was ist Religionswissenschaft?”. In it, the Catholic scholar of religion offered an approach to the relatively new discipline that came close to our modern understanding of cultural studies. Three years later the same journal brought one of the first historiographical descriptions of the study of religion written by him. Besides a profound overview on the research that had been done up to his times, Hardy criticized here Friedrich Max Müller’s idea of a perception of the infinite (“Wahrnehmung des Unendlichen”) as being unable to sufficiently explain the origins of religion, countering with the almost untranslatable sentence: “Der Mensch ist ein alter Praktikus” (man is focussed on practical issues since ever). Despite his political and religious engagement, and also despite his scholarly abilities, Hardy remained a solitary person in his private life as well as in the study of religion. The disruptions in his biography and the physical breakdown at the end of his life offer insights in the academic field of the early study of religion in its political, religious, ideological, and scholarly context.

Horst Junginger

The Knowledge of the Powerless and the Power of Knowledge: The Strange Case of Hans Alexander Winkler

As expressed in the general description of the panel on the study of religion as an area of conflict, its topic is the predisposition of three outsider scholars for political and ideological biases and secondly the one of the discipline itself. Therefore the argumentation has to run through their biographies. I thought the relationship between knowledge and power in Bacon’s use of the Latin aphorism to be clear enough, even without pointing bluntly to the ideological context. Surely the participants of the IAHR conference will be able to understand the nexus between the output of intellectuals and their rewarding with money and status addressed in the last sentence of my abstract. This holds true for the parallelization of one’s individually experienced marginality with the academic study of religion as well.

Udo Mischek

Eduard Erkes (1891-1958): A Cultural-Materialist Critique of Religion in the Weimar Republic

Eduard Erkes, a historian of Chinese culture at the University of Leipzig, is commonly known as a sinologist but was a scholar of religion in the true sense of the word as well. He belonged to the few academics who made use of a materialist approach. Being a member of the Social Democrats since 1919, Erkes participated actively in adult education. In 1925 he published a booklet on how God was created (Wie Gott erschaffen wurde) in the left wing and freethinking journal Urania-Monatshefte. It came as no surprise that Erkes lost his position as adjunct professor and curator of the Leipzig Museumof Ethnography when the Nazis assumed power. After the war he was appointed full professor of Chinese studies at the University of Leipzig. A closer look into his writings makes clear how far his scholarly engagement in the academic study of religion was related to the political and ideological context of three different political systems.


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