CEU as a place for the study of religions
CEU's interest in the history of religions is not only motivated by purely academic or antiquarian interests alone, but also by concerns that arise from the University’s public mission. The university, like its local and international environments, finds itself in a situation when the idea that the disappearance of religion and the disenchantment of the world were of necessity correlative with modernity is being subjected to increasingly intensive questioning by a number of developments in countries both East and West. The realization that, whatever the reason, religion, on its own or enmeshed in politics, is going to be with all of us for a long time to come, sometimes in very obvious and indeed archaic forms, makes it appropriate to think of religious phenomena in new ways, religious phenomena being understood as at once individual sentiment, collective representations, scriptural texts, theologies, institutional and social and political forces.
The study of religion, therefore, appears of interest not only to historians of religion, theologians, or experts in particular religious traditions, but is a matter of general public interest. It is also the case that the study of religious traditions helps in the clarification of notions of tradition overall, that the intellectual history of religion is an important chapter in the intellectual history of humanity, and that a variety of mythological and ideological aspects of religion are of invaluable use in illuminating the study of public mythologies and ideologies, which they represent in accentuated and sometimes almost paradigmatic form.
It therefore appears to us that the best approach to the study of religion at the CEU starts from the interfaces between religion and other social and historical phenomena. It is also clear, however, that this in itself would be insufficient to give an adequate impression of the historical and social amplitude of religion, and that religious studies at the CEU need an institutional form which is not only derivative of disciplines with which it interfaces and which it crosses, but also one which brings to bear a considerable amount of expertise in the disciplines of the history of religions and comparative religion as such. The study of religion is a self-contained discipline in the humanities and social sciences, and has distinctive paradigmatic elements, some deriving from historical and philological studies, and some from anthropological and sociological studies, which need to be fully taken on board. In the present format, the thematic purview of the Center for Religious Studies takes up principally the three monotheistic religions, but would include civil religions as well (be they American or Roman). Other religions are brought in the context of more general methodological, conceptual and comparative discussions.
The CEU Center for Religious Studies
The CRS converges with and strengthens the particular profile of the CEU, and does not intend to duplicate religious studies as instituted in a variety of universities worldwide. The CEU finds itself in a region which was at the confluence of a variety of histories, religious and otherwise, and at the intersection of Ottoman (predominantly Muslim but by no means exclusively so), Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Jewish religious cultures. It would therefore seem appropriate to structure thinking about religious studies at the CEU from this confluence, working backwards into matters historical, and forwards into society and polity. In all cases, it should be understood from the beginning that an initiative like the one envisaged is not designed to promote interfaith or inter-denominational or intra-denominational dialogue (the last being significant for the Orthodox churches), but to undertake academic study.
Institutional structure and profile
The Center for Religious Studies (CRS, formerly the Religious Studies Program) began operation with the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation in 2005.
CRS is an academic forum at CEU fostering the study of religion. The mission of the center is to initiate and to coordinate research and the dissemination of resulting research by mounting academic events and fostering publications that address religion-related questions in critical ways.
The CRS collaborates with relevant departments and academic units at the CEU. It crosses the borders of disciplines, confessional and geo-political categorizations, and covers historical periods from ancient to modern times. With institutional contacts throughout the region and worldwide, the CRS provides an important site for academic research and communication.
As an independent unit, works through and supports the existing tissue of the university, while at the same time, it seeks to reach out to other institutions and organizations world-wide and to extend the present potential of CEU.
The Center for Religious Studies engages in a growing number of exchanges and joint activities with the international academic community. CRS participates in Erasmus student and faculty exchange and welcomes affiliate guest researchers. It is currently acting as the European location of the international project on the History of the Society of Jesus and has participated in the REFO500 International Project, dedicated to fostering and coordinating the study the impact of the Reformation on European society and beyond.
Jean-Louis Fabiani, CRS Director 2020-Present
Carsten Wilke, CRS Director 2016-2020, is a faculty member at both the CEU Departments of History and Medieval Studies, as well as contributing heavily to Religious Studies and Jewish Studies at CEU and the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies.
Aziz Al-Azmeh, CRS Director 2013-2016, is a member of the Beirat (Council) of the Excellence Cluster of Religion and Politics at University of Münster and and is the co-founder of the CEU Center for Religious Studies.
Matthias Riedl, CRS Director 2011-2013, is a member of the Political – Society for the Study of Medieval Political Thought, the Deutsche Vereinigung für Politische Wissenschaft – “Sektion Politische Theorie und Ideengeschichte”, the Deutsche Vereinigung für Politische Wissenschaft – Arbeitskreis “Politik und Religion”, Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Erforschung des politischen Denkens, and the Eranos Conference Group.
Nadia Al-Bagdadi, CRS Director 2005-2011, is director of the CEU Institute for Advanced Studies. She has organized and presented for the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies as well as for the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich's Excellenzcluster on Religious Transformations and is the co-founder of the CEU Center for Religious Studies.