How should one deal with religious diversity in the public sphere of liberal-democratic societies? What does ‘good citizenship’ mean, and which forms of religion and secularity are appropriate in contexts of religious diversity? How are normative principles such as freedom of religion and political equality invoked, and how do they actually function in liberal-democratic and pluralistic societies? Such questions are at the center of a research fellowship of Dr Christoph Baumgartner (Religious Studies).
During the academic year Baumgartner stays at the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt) to investigate controversies about religious issues such as the public display of images that some religious people experience as offensive and disrespectful (e.g. Andres Serrano’s art work ‘Piss Christ’, or Muhammad cartoons), the practice of not shaking hands with the opposite sex as an example of a bodily practice that disrupts and unsettles culturally predominant expectations and norms of civility, and about publicly shared time, such as the official calendar that includes holy days of certain religions, and the public commemoration – or ‘oblivion’ – of the past. He approaches such controversies from a political philosophical perspective that is informed by current research in anthropology, history, political theory, religious studies, and sociology.
political philosophical theory
The aim of this research is to provide a political philosophical theory that includes a concept of citizenship on the one hand, and a critical theory of religion and secularity on the other hand. This will help both researchers and policy makers to better understand conflicts such as those mentioned above, and to develop even-handed solutions for societies that aspire to be open and resilient with respect to the challenges resulting from religious diversity.
The Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt combines an Institute for Advanced Studies with permanent graduate and post-graduate programmes. International scholars from various disciplines are appointed as research fellows for set periods of time. Christoph Baumgartner will stay there until August 2020. The title of his research project is Civil Relations under Conditions of Religious Diversity.