The Faculty of Arts at the University of Antwerp fosters a strong research tradition in several domains of religious study: philosophy of religion, religious history, the study of mysticism and devotion, linguistic and historical research of the three monotheist ‘religions of the book’. Religion & Culture integrates this existing body of research in an interdisciplinary research platform for a study of religion from a philosophical, historical and textual-literary perspective.
The following research questions are given special attention: Which are the cognitive and emotional conditions of religion as an anthropological phenomenon? What is the impact of secularisation of worldviews on the individual religions? Which ethical and political challenges are posed by religion on today’s liberal society? What role does religion play in shaping cultural identities? What function do the written word and the sacred book have in religions, and how does religious textual tradition influence literature and the arts? Which position does spirituality have in religions and how do contemporary forms of religious experience (mysticism, devotion, traditionalism) relate to their history?
Religion & Culture is the project of researchers at the Faculty of Arts connected to the following institutes and research groups:
- Ruusbroec Institute
- Institute for Jewish Studies
- Institute for the study of literature in the Low Countries
- Centre for European Philosophy
- Centre for Ethics
- Centre for Urban History
- Power in History – Centre for Political History
- Postcolonial Literatures Research Group
Additionally, the project can count on collaboration with research groups at other faculties and departments of the University of Antwerp: Urban Studies Institute, Centre Pieter Gillis, and the Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies (CeMIS) and CRESC – Centre for Research and Environmental and Social Change. UCSIA – University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp – functions as an external privileged partner from outside the University of Antwerp.
Religion & Culture stimulates scholarly research on religion as a ‘lived experience’, and situates that research in a framework existing of the following thematic clusters:
1. Religion in practice
Study of religious objects, e.g. books, texts, illustrations and other devotional objects, and their circulation in society; attention for the agents in the field of religion: producers (e.g. printers), regulators and censors, the faithful, charismatic figures; research on religious practices, e.g. pilgrimages, ritual, religious law and sacred places.
2. Religion and text
Unlocking and interpreting religious texts in their original contexts; impact and appropriation of religious texts in new contexts; thematic research: the relationship between mysticism and language; religious motifs in literature; the status and development of religious law, interreligious relationships; the status of religious texts in modern cultures.
3. Religion and the self
Religion and identity; spirituality as a ‘technology of the self’; mysticism as self-annihilation; unio mystica and coincidentia oppositorum; anthropology of religious experience; religious emotions and the cognitive dimensions of faith.
4. Religion and society
Religion in (post-)secular societies; religion and the liberal political society; standardisation with regards to religious groups; religion in contexts of migration, colonialism and post-colonialism.
5. Religion and modernity
Enlightenment critique of religion; relationship between rationalism and religion; political theology, secularization theories; religion and the arts; the sacred and the holy; the status of religious belief and contemporary cognitive science of religion; the relationship between religion and science.
- Study on (de)conversion processes in Flanders. 11/10/2021 - 11/10/2022. Promotor: Lore Van Praag (Centre Pieter Gillis, Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies), co-promotors: Patrick Loobuyck (Centre Pieter Gillis & Centre for Ethics) and Gert Verschraegen (Sociology, Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change).
- Ernst Tugendhat: The (Im)Possibility of Non-Religious Mysticism.Doctoral project in philosophy, Johan Serré (16/11/2021, University of Antwerp). Promotors: Walter Van Herck (Centre for European Philosophy) and Veerle Fraeters (Ruusbroec Institute).
- Co-creating complementary forms of welfare support across faith-based organisations and secular welfare state institutions (SOLIGION). FWO-SBO, 2020-2024. Promotors: Bert De Munck (Centre for Urban History), Patrick Loobuyck (Centre Pieter Gillis), Stijn Oosterlinck (Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change), Peter Raeymaeckers (Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change, OASES), Mieke Schrooten (Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change).
- Silent voices: A Digital Study of the Herne Charterhouse as a Textual Community (ca. 1350-1400). FWO research project, 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2022. Promotor: Mike Kestemont (Antwerp Centre for Digital humanities and literary Criticism), Postdoc: Wouter Haverals (Institute for the Study of Literature in the Low Countries).
- Solidarity and religion in a modernizing and post-secular context: an historical, politico-philosophical and sociological analysis. BOF-GOA, 2019-2022. Promotors: Bert De Munck (Centre for Urban History), Patrick Loobuyck (Centre Pieter Gillis), Stijn Oosterlinck (Centre for Research on Environmental and Social Change).
- Transferring female mysticism from the Low Countries to England. UCSIA scholarship 2018. Promotor: Veerle Fraeters (Ruusbroec Institute), UCSIA-scholar: Louise Nelstrop (St. Benet’s College, Oxford).
- Mystical Heritage and Modern Identities. Reception and appropriation of the medieval ‘Flemish’ mystic Hadewijch in interwar Belgium. BOF DOCPRO 4, 2017-2021. Promotors: Veerle Fraeters (Ruusbroec Institute) and Marnix Beyen (Power in History).
- 'Des deutschen Dichters Sendung': The collective symbolism and rhetorical structure of political religion in the poetry of the Junge Mannschaft. (1933-1938), FWO Fellowship: Anneleen Van Hertbruggen, 2014-2019. Promotor: Arvi Sepp (Institute of Jewish Studies & Departement of Literature, German).
- Urban Experience in the Third Reich: A Topopoetic Analysis of German-Jewish Autobiographical Literature from Breslau, FWO fellowship: Annelies Augustyns, 2016 - 2021. Promotors: Arvi Sepp (Institute of Jewish Studies) and Vivian Liska (Departement of Literature, German).
- Beyond Theism and Atheism. UCSIA scholarship 2015. Promotor: Walter Van Herck (Centre for European Philosophy), UCSIA-scholar: Taede Smedes (Groningen).
- Trembling Curiosity: The Naturalizing of Religion in the Early Modern Period. FWO, post-doctoral mandate: Alissa MacMillan, 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2018. Promotors: Walter Van Herck (Centre for European Philosophy) and Willem Lemmens (Centre for Ethics).
- Religious and citizenship education in a liberal, postsecular framework - with a special focus on the subject ECR in Québec. FWO-project, 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2018. Promotor: Patrick Loobuyck (Centre Pieter Gillis & Centre for Ethics).
- Jewish Nation - Zionist State – Divine Law: The Critical Political Theology of Jewish Dialogical Philosophy, 2014-2015 FWO: Dennis Baert. Promotors: Vivian Liska (Institute of Jewish Studies) and Arthur Cools (Centrum for European Philosophy).
- Miracles of the Mind. Evolutions in the representation of religious behaviour and the perception of the sacred in the Low Countries (1350-1750). FWO fellowship, 2011 – 2015. Promotors: Veerle Fraeters (Ruusbroec Institute) and Guido Marnef (Centre for Urban History).
- UCSIA-IJS/ Chair for Jewish-Christian Relations, since 2008, Institute of Jewish Studies & UCSIA.
- Passion. Histories of the heart. 2021. Ruusbroec Institute, UCSIA a.o.
- Baroque influencers. Jesuits, the city and the muses. 2023. Ruusbroec Institute, UCSIA, Centre for Urban History, AMUZ, City of Antwerp, Carolus Borromeus.