Mission Statement - Goals, Methods and Innovations

Religion has become a topic of controversial discussion both in political and social debates and in academic research. Despite ongoing processes of secularisation, societies cannot be analysed without paying attention to the religious structures and the theological categories that have shaped them and continue to do so. Vice versa, religious traditions in their self-concept may not be understood without taking their social and cultural contexts into account. Starting from these observations, the research centre “Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society“ (RaT) uses interdisciplinary approaches to find out how processes of social transformation influence religion and how changes within religion influence societies.

RaT highlights several aspects and topics in its research: What meaning does religion have for society?  What significance does religion have in public spaces? Furthermore, the work of the centre focuses on questions of values, belonging and conviviality with regards to religion and religiously diverse societies – against the background of the fact that increasing numbers of individuals see themselves as secular. What peacemaking impulses and destructive potentials does religion offer – considering contemporary challenges such as urbanisation, virtualisation, migration, and ecological crisis, but also considering the increasing politicalisation of religion? The interpretation of religious traditions and texts that comprises everything between fundamental understandings and forms of self-enlightenment of religion is especially important in this context. Apart from the work with texts, the analysis of different media is furthermore essential. Transformations of the religious in contemporary arts and literature thus constitute another topic that guides the research of the centre.

RaT is part of the University of Vienna, Austria, and benefits from the extraordinary expertise of the institution both as regards content and as regards methodology in the discipline of religious studies. The research centre intends to contribute to a fruitful connection and linking of current research projects and wishes to generate new research questions that the members and contributing institutions work on in cooperation. RaT thus constitutes a collaborative project of about 50 scientists at seven faculties. It is headed by Kurt Appel, together with Christian Danz, Esther Heinrich-Ramharter, Gerhard Langer, Rüdiger Lohlker, and Lukas K. Pokorny.

The research centre runs several different international projects and activities. It publishes the Open Access Journal J-RaT, to which renowned researchers from various disciplines and from all over the world contribute, and the RaT series. Furthermore, RaT organises events, conferences, workshops and guest lectures to foster dialogue and academic discussion at an international level.