Constructs of Meaning and the Reception of Religious Texts

The research in this cluster puts the focus on religion’s turn to the individual’s desire for transcendence and meaning in modern society. This turn has resulted in a multitude of individual and social forms of religion and constructs of meaning in which traditional religious forms are affirmatively and/or critically evaluated and reconfigured. The research project consisted of two components that were considered complementarily: on the one hand, qualitative empirical research and on the other, theoretical texts and concepts (Heine 2000). In order to reach a thorough assessment of these interrelationships empirical data and theoretical concepts were analyzed from a cultural historical point of view, including sociological (socio-economic), psychological and theological perspectives. Here the aim was to investigate the explicit and latent religious constructs of meaning underlying seemingly profane social structures and institutions. A further focal point of this cluster was the subject of values as they are influenced by religious constructions of meaning. The subject of research was therefore the critical assessments of pluralistic and conflicting discourses on values in the public domain. These assessments were based on the data of the European Values Study that had studied for more than three decades the values and norms of the European peoples in 44 countries. From the perspective of political sciences, social sciences, jurisprudence and practical theology, the protagonists (i.e. institutions), arguments, themes and interests were critically studied through an analysis of the public-policy-processes surrounding the discourse on values. Special attention was paid to the question of how the discourse on values influences socio-economic and cultural inclusion and exclusion processes. Furthermore, the actual and posible role of churches, religious communities and religious institutions in these processes – in the context of the specific juridical structures of countries – were examined. The aim of this cluster was to provide not only a critical analysis and interpretation of public discourses on values, but also to develop interdisciplinary criteria and directives that would serve the improvement of the quality of (especially religiously motivated and reasoned) discourses on values in society.

This thematic cluster also was concerned with religious texts that are used in processes of inclusion and exclusion. Although the biblical and other religious texts as canonical religious texts are not the subject of change, their receptions in different translations and interpretations do change. Transformation processes take place in interpretations both on the level of communities and of individuals. These were examined in different religious contexts in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This research placed focuses on the role of translations in transformation processes of religions, on aspects of psychoanalytic interpretation and on empirical methods investigating individual interpretations of biblical texts. Theological and literary hermeneutics, sociology and psychology provide the theoretical framework for analyzing not only the historic meaning of religious texts but also their ongoing relevance.


Research projects in this cluster were:


Thematic volumes of the series "Religion and Transformation in Contemporary European Society":

  • Volume 2: Grohmann, Marianne / Ragcs, Ursula (eds.): Religion übersetzen. Übersetzung und Textrezeption als Transformationsphänomene von Religion. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2012. Details
  • Volume 4: Westerink, Herman (ed.): Constructs of Meaning and Religious Transformation. Current Issues in the Psychology of Religion. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2013. Details
  • Volume 5: Deibl, Jakob: Menschwerdung und Schwächung. Annäherung an ein Gespräch mit Gianni Vattimo. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2013. Details
  • Volume 7: Schelkshorn, Hans / Wolfram, Friedrich / Langthaler, Rudolf (eds.): Religion in der globalen Moderne. Philosophische Erkundungen. V&R unipress, Göttingen 2014. Details