This course is discontinued

KULH4011 – Negotiating Religion: Purity, Transculturality and Secularity

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Course content

After a long period of apparent secularity of Western modernity and the removal of religiosity to the private sphere, religion is back in the public sphere since the turn of the 21st century. Once again, religion seems to be crucial as a marker of cultural difference as well an anchorage for the construction of identity.  Consequently, religion and religiosity have returned as a field of academic interest and are being deeply discussed in history studies. In line with this attention to religion as a field of historical enquiry and as a starting point, this course has selected the topic of early modern Jesuit missionaries in South India. Their strategy of accommodation is characterized by a specific adaptability to the Indian or rather the Brahmin way of living, leading missionary success to an unknown degree. One of the key points in the Jesuits’ strategy was the distinction they made between religious and cultural spheres of human life. Thus, they could argue that the adaptations in the religious practice of the neophytes were only social customs and that their teaching remained purely and dogmatically Christian and Catholic. The history of this kind of evangelization is a promising interface between two central aspects of recent discussions:

1. Identity & transculturality: In the context of evangelization different religions and cultures meet and interact. Dogmatic content, normative orders, but also views of the world and everyday life are compared, distinguished, translated and mixed. We will discuss concepts regarding identity, hybridity and transculturality and their applicability in our research.

2. Secularisation and the Rise of the West: The separation between religion and other social spheres is one of the cornerstones of Western modernization theory and is assumed to be one of the Western specifics and thus, a reason for the rise of the West. This course will discuss sociological theories about differentiation and religious fields (Weber, Luhmann, Bourdieu) and how we can apply them to our Research.


Learning outcome

● You will acquire an insight into Jesuit missionary work.

● You will learn to discuss historical sources and research based in theory/ with a strong base in theory/in theory-based way – how to choose and to use theories suited to your questions and research.


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Recommended previous knowledge

The course will give you insight into the ongoing historical research and the application of anthropological and sociological theories to historical work. Therefore an interest in theoretical discussions is necessary.


The teaching consists of seminars or participation in research conferences. Students are expected to participate actively in class.


A 10-page term paper.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

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Facts about this course






Autumn 2014


Autumn 2014

Teaching language