Religious Studies at the institute of religious studies in Heidelberg
At the Institute for Religious Studies at Heidelberg University both history of religion and current religious developments are subject of teaching and research. The approaches followed in Heidelberg are based in a cultural studies perspective; religious beliefs, practices and materials are products of historical developments, which have to be considered in their respective historical, cultural and societal contexts. Questions of general as well as period-specific religious history and contemporary religious developments are equally considered in research and teaching.
As products of historical developments, religious beliefs, practices and materials interact with the ascriptions that are made to them by apologists, critics of religions, or scholars of religious studies themselves. These, in the broadest sense, constitute the history of the discipline of religious studies. For this reason, reflections about religion from their beginnings to today and the history of the discipline of religious studies are part of the curriculum in Heidelberg. Further important areas of teaching include history of religion and contemporary religious developments along with theories of research, understood as analytical tools, in religious studies. There are a wide range of theoretical approaches regarding the definition of religion: some approaches propose determining religion provisionally ("heuristische Bestimmung von Religion", (see Religious Studies Approaches in Heidelberg), others reject the possibility of defining religion and consciously and positively work with a discursive approach which assumes that religion is constantly being (re)negotiated. In addition to the general discourse about the theories of research into religion, following approaches are considered in particular: considerations about the individualisation of religion, ritual theory, praxeological approaches and ritual theories, the field of material religion (which considers the materials aesthetics and designs of religion) and reflections about the implications of the mediatisation of society. Our aim is to enable graduates of religious studies in Heidelberg to learn how to handle the breadth of approaches confidently and competently.
The areas in which the research at the Institute for Religious Studies in Heidelberg focuses on are Zoroastrianism, historical and contemporary religious developments in Europe, Japan and the USA, the transformations of Buddhism, as well as developments in the field of popular culture and marketing (see Research at the Institute for Religious Studies at Heidelberg University). These and other topics are regularly covered in courses held through the Institute of Religious Studies. Furthermore, students of Religious Studies can choose from an extensive selection of interdisciplinary courses. The diversity of courses which can be found here allows students to verse themselves in regional, historical or theoretical areas of research into religion which are not covered by the teaching and research staff at the Institute for Religious Studies.
Thanks to the wide range of courses, the broad spectrum of theoretical approaches and the opportunities for gaining language skills and methodological competences, a degree in religious studies (both BA and MA) allows students to obtain general knowledge about religions and to recognise the possibilities of research into religions. At the same time, students can follow their own interests and decide their area of speciality.
Inken Prohl (2019)