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Theologies and Religious Studies in Postwar Germany

Panel Chair: Johann Hafner | Friday, August 28, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Postwar Germany showed an accurate balance of two mainline Christian denominations that dominated the religious field. This situation was diversified during the decades since the reunification in 1989, especially through the establishment of Jewish and Islamic theologies at state universities. It took great legal efforts and did not prevent from some scandals to find the academic place besides Jewish and Islamic Studies, besides Area and Religious Studies, and other sciences related to religion. The line between religious and secular approaches to religion is clear as long as it is determined by institutional conditions. But the line gets blurred when it comes to methods: theological research and non-theological research alike are applying historical, sociological, philosophical et al approaches. The panel will explore the frictions between methodological practice and institutional frameworks and the opportunities of the German model as well.

Guiseppe Veltri

Daughters or Stepchildren of the "Wissenschaft"?: Jewish Studies and Jewish Theology in 19th Century

The lecture focuses on two basic elements of the so-called Wissenschaft des Judentums: the philological study of Judaism, promoted and prospected by Leopold Zunz, and the theological study of teachers and rabbis as suggested by Abraham Geiger. It faces two different patterns of university teaching and learning which developed from the same spirit of academic concerning: to give a grounded education to whom is seriously interested in Jewish religion, history, and literature. Zunz, saw the integration of “Jewish studies,” or “the science of Judaism,” into the body of German university education as one precondition for emancipation. Geiger's predominant interest was the theological education of teacher referring to the new spirit of study of Jewish religion in an institution which could guarantee also the official acknowledgement of the curriculum. Both of them were following an utopian project which run aground because of the Prussian lack of political understanding of Judaism and minorities.

Walter Homolka

Utopia became Reality: Jewish Studies and Jewish Theology well established in Germany

When the Science of Judaism evolved at the beginning of the 19th century it intended both theological and secular studies to prove the general value of Jewish culture and civilization. Access to the public university system was denied until after the Shoa. Since then, Judaic Studies have been established at various German universities and in 2013 the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam was opened. Utopia became reality and both branches of the Science of Judaism, religious & secular, have become an undisputed part of the German academic scene: using similar tools for differing aims. Louis Jacobs in “A Jewish Theology” (1973, p. 14-15): “The historian of the Jewish religion tells us what it is that Jews believed in former ages. The task of the theologian is to draw on the findings of the historian but to ask what it is that Jews can believe today.”

Bekim Agai

Islamwissenschaft, Islamic Studies and Islamic Studies: Convergences and delineations

Islamic-Theological Studies are a latecomer in Germany. When the German Council of Science and Humanities published its “Recommendations on the Advancement of Theologies and Sciences Concerned with Religions at German Universities” in 2010 it included a recommendation to establish Islamic-Theological studies a discussion took place within the established Orientalist discipline of “Islamwissenschaft” asking for the scientific possibility a another academic discipline studying Islam from a scientific perspective. The new representatives of Islamic-Theological Studies responded to the critique, trying to explain communalities and differences between the old and the new subject. One was the basic difference between an insiders and outsiders point of view. In my paper I will describe the context of the process of establishment, give an inside in the debates and will explain why the assumption that the difference of insiders and outsiders perspective is misleading.

Johann Hafner

Separation and Confusion of Theology and Religious Studies

The ongoing decrease of membership and influence of the main Christian churches provokes the question, if Christian theologies should maintain their predominance at state universities. This is expressed in conflicts about the refusals to hire university professors at Christian faculties, because they lack the required confessional profile. Materialiter there is a widening gap between theologies, which represent a specific denomination on the one side, and religious studies on the other side, which have to cover also non-Christian religions. Who is doing the job of non-confessional research on Christian cultures? Where are Catholic or Protestant Studies? The talk will investigate, to what extent theological research already left its realm by importing not only sociological or historical methods but also theories. Since methods are not innocent, it often leads to reconstruction of their Christian traditions under secular premises. This might lead not to an appeasement but to more conflicts in the future.


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Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)