The research focus "Dynamics of Religion: Processes of Comprehension, Misapprehension, and Mutual Understanding" exemplifies the cooperation and discussion between the disciplines within this Profile Area. It brings Christian theologies, religious studies, Jewish studies and Islamic studies together with history, philosophy, ethnology, or archaeology. By means of interdisciplinary and interreligious explorations, the focus lies on researching in both historical and contemporary global contexts the mutual relations and perceptions – dialogical or conflictual – between the three inherently diverse religions "Judaism", "Christianity" and "Islam" (and between them and the increasingly secular constellations of modern and contemporary plural societies). Key to this question and in this context are the complex processes of "comprehension," "misapprehension," and "mutual understanding". The participants' research perspectives are connected, among others, by a common interest in (1) the conceptual and historical research of the dialogical and conflictual aspects of mutual processes of understanding between religious traditions; (2) the phenomena of understanding one's own religion and the religious other in multi-religious and secular contexts, (3) the relationship between intra-religious and inter-religious plurality, (4) the attribution of cultural identities to the self and to others in the area of cult and ritual, (5) the socio-cultural dynamics and economic contexts of the encounter between ethnic and religious groups, (6) the interreligious dynamics of cultural transfer, translation, appropriation, and transformation of religious-cultural knowledge orders, (7) phenomena of destructive or creative misunderstandings, and (8) the rational, emotional, and political-social conditions of the possibility for religious dialogues and understanding, or (9) the transformation of religious, cultural, and social discourses through the increasing digitality of both research and public communication. The idea behind establishing a "Competence Center Religion" is to systematically develop the potentials of the participating disciplines in the fields of science communication, transfer and science policy.
The Profile Area "Universality and Diversity" aims to strengthen the existing networks between the research carried out by different disciplines, joint projects and centers, as well as between individual Goethe University projects that deal with the above-mentioned research topics through joint forms of working and discussion forums, thereby profiling the different disciplinary approaches on historical questions and current debates in the fields of society and culture, and simultaneously exploiting their mutual synergies. At the same time, the Profile Area intends to cooperate closely with the "Orders & Transformations" Profile Area, whose research perspectives are greatly important to the topics of diversity and universality. The approaches of religious studies, history, cultural studies, linguistics, and literature in turn offer important cooperation possibilities for the social sciences. Likewise, a dialogue with the Profile Area "Sustainability & Biodiversity" will set out to find how cultural and biological diversity relate to one another, and how diversity research in the humanities and the natural sciences can learn from each other. Key to the Profile Area's work are joint strategies for the internationalization of research and teaching, the systematic promotion of early career researchers, and further strengthening the city of Frankfurt as a center of science through the acquisition of third-party funded projects.
What fascinates and motivates me about the Profile Area's research perspectives is the polyphony of thematic accesses and methodological approaches that play a role in it. Whether independently or as part of a critical dialogue across disciplinary boundaries, in their questioning about the relationship between universality and diversity, the disciplines involved embody a decisive characteristic of excellent research at Goethe University: relevance to contemporary challenges, historical depth of focus, and a differentiated theoretical toolkit.
As a linguist, I am naturally at home in the tension between diversity and universality. For despite all linguistic diversity, the fascinating linguistic variation that we observe both historically and across the languages of the world is not arbitrary but systematically constrained by universals. Against this background, I would like to play an active role in shaping the exchange between the many different disciplines in our profile area and thus, in conversations about the different views of diversity and universality, help develop a common research perspective for our profile area.
Cornelia Ebert (Linguistics),
Spokesperson of the Universality & Diversity Profile Area
Against this background, the Profile Area "Universality and Diversity: Linguistic, Religious, and Cultural Dynamics" bundles the relevant competencies of the aforementioned disciplines at Goethe University and, using methods and approaches from the humanities, provides answers to these pressing contemporary challenges with the necessary historical depth.
Three essential insights of modern linguistic theory constitute the starting point of our research program: first, linguistic expressions are organized hierarchically, although superficially, linguistic signals consist of a linear concatenation of sounds, words and sentences. Second, linguistic variation, both diachronically and across typologically different languages, is not random but restricted in systematic ways. The blueprint of the human language faculty therefore determines the commonalities among languages and, moreover, the range of linguistic variation and its limits. Third, the human language faculty is organized in a modular fashion, comprising the core modules of language, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. To arrive at a coherent model of the grammatical architecture underlying the human language faculty, specific research questions need to be addressed, using research methods tailored to the particular module under investigation.
Accordingly, we investigate the relation between the variable and invariable principles of language to answer central research questions that form the common basis of the linguistic research carried out at Goethe University.
Institutions of Goethe University