"Religion" is negotiated in a variety of social contexts (e.g., in court, in diversity management, in schools), is considered an important factor in identity formation ("identity politics"), is often attributed a central role in conflicts, and is used to classify groups, practices, and material structures. These are just some of the functions and roles currently ascribed to religion.
The widespread belief that "religion" plays little role in postmodern, late capitalist societies is slowly giving way to the realization that it is still a powerful concept and perceptual scheme. The M.A. programme "Religion in the Public Sphere" addresses exactly this structuring power of "religion" and other central concepts of contemporary societies, gets to the bottom of the prevailing conflicts and points out alternatives. The geographical focus is on European societies. However, this focus is de-centered by a comparative look at other geographical regions and Europe is problematized and deconstructed as a so-called blueprint of universal developments.
The title "Religion in the Public Sphere" sums up central aspects of the study programme in different ways:
(1) The two central concepts of "religion" and "public sphere" are problematized and historicized in order to analyse the genesis as well as trajectory of both concepts and their normative implications. Other concepts and classifications that are constitutive for modern societies and interwoven with "religion" and "public sphere" are also included the deconstruction. These include, for example, the oppositional pair private/public, secularity, gender, race, class, authenticity, and freedom.
(2) At the same time, the reality-constituting power of concepts and classifications in contemporary societies is analysed with the help of detailed case studies. These address specific discursive and conflict constellations, the negotiation of positions and strategies, resource distribution, and the positioning of actors. A comparative diachronic or synchronic perspective on specific conflicts helps to reveal contingencies, genealogies and normative implications. Alternative routes can then be worked out on this basis.
(3) Methodology and methods play a role in all modules of the course: On the one hand, studies related to "religion" and "public sphere" are critically scrutinized with regard to the methodological operationalization of research questions. On the other hand, students discuss and practice how different social science methods generate diverse insights into social contexts and conflicts.
In the course of the study programme, students train their critical research and reflection skills. It is based on these skills, that students will be able to deconstruct and analyse complex situations in the broad subject area of "Religion in the Public Sphere" and similar fields of conflict. Concomitantly, students train how to develop different options in order to implement research results and solution-oriented approaches.
The program is offered in Hannover in cooperation with the Institute of Sociology and may be studies entirely in English. In the framework of our cooperation with Università Roma Tre and Södertörns Högskola (Stockholm), students may earn a second M.A. degree by spending at least one semester at one of the two partner universities and earning 30 ECTS.