Current projects

On the basis of the Special Research Area’s conceptual framework, the members of the Research Area have decided to focus their short- and medium term plans onto three distinct fields:

1. Constructions of the plurality of worldviews in the context of education
2. Understanding and explanation of religious plurality in Austria
3. Implementation of ‘interreligious competence’


(1) Constructions of the Plurality of Worldviews in the Context of Education
Austria is a very diverse country. This is also the case with regards to the role of religions in the context of education. Actually, the education sector is characterized by a particularly high degree of plurality. The actors working in this field have a number of very diverse options to assess this situation – e.g. as an enrichment, a threat or a negligible entity -, and these constructions of religious plurality form the basis of all grass-roots activities. Accordingly, our empirical research activities intend to collect and analyze data on the different modes of the construction of religious plurality in the educational sector.

Religious Plurality at Viennese Schools during the First Republic (1918–1938)
(Project lead: Karsten Lehmann)

The research and research communication project under the responsibility of Edith Petschnigg focuses on the handling of religion and religious plurality at Viennese schools during the First Republic of Austria. In the Interwar period, at a great number of Viennese schools the everyday school life was characterised by the encounter of pupils of divers Christian, Jewish, and secular traditions. Central to this project are the perspectives of former pupils and their individual constructions of religious plurality. Therefore, the main source are oral history interviews with Jewish and Christian contemporary witnesses.

(2) Understanding and explanation of religious plurality in Austria
The research undertaken in the context of the Special Research Area intends to support the adequate understanding (and at best) explanation of religiously diverse situations. The understanding of Austria’s socio-cultural diversity forms the basis of every competent action under the conditions of religious plurality in the education sector. Along those lines, the members of the Research Area want to put particular emphasis on the analysis of religious plurality in Austria.

Workshop: History of Religions under the conditions of the nation state in German-speaking countries(Project lead: Karsten Lehmann / Wolfram Reiss, Vienna University)

It is interesting to see that present-day research on the history of religions is influenced by two opposing trends: On the one hand, church history tends to be more and more interested in processes of globalization (Daughrity 2012; Schjørring/Hjelm/Ward 2017/18). On the other hand, scholars of religion are increasingly working on religious plurality under the conditions of the nation state (Baumann/Stolz 2007; Hödl/Pokorny 2012ff; Junginger 2017). The workshop ‘History of Religions under the conditions of the nation state in German-speaking countries’ will open up an opportunity to systematically approach the question how to write a history of religions under the conditions of the nation state. First, this provides an opportunity to re-discuss central debates in the Study of Religions – e.g. the debate on the underlying concepts of religion as well as the relationship between religions and their socio-cultural context. Second, the workshop wants to draw attention to topics such as the relationship between religions and the idea of the nation; the systematization of religious plurality as well as the transnational dimension of a national history of religions.

Publication Project: ‚Religious Diversity in Austria‘
(Project Lead: Karsten Lehmann / Wolfram Reiss, University of Vienna)

So far there is no easily accessible introduction to the religious diversity in Austria that is targeting the general public. The publication project wants to close this gap. In the form of an edited volume it intends to bring together scholars of religion that are experts in the analysis of religious communities in Austria – past and present.


(3) Implementation of ‘interreligious competence’
The debates around the concept of ‘interreligious competence’ have become a central focus of the controversies around religious diversity in the educational sector. Throughout the last decade, they have developed into an integral part of the debates in pedagogy and educational policies. Correspondingly, the members of the Special Research Area are working towards the implementation of ‘interreligious competence’ in the context of research as well as practical activities.

Conference: Interreligious Dialogue in Context
(Project Lead: Karsten Lehmann)

Throughout the last two decades, interreligious dialogue (IRD) has developed into a central aspect of the religious field. So far, however, IRD has primarily been discussed on a conceptual level – putting particular emphasis onto processes of individual learning. To counteract this implicit bias, the workshop ‘IRD in Context’ intends to put particular emphasis onto practices of interreligious dialogue in their respective socio-cultural contexts. Accordingly, the KPH and the Research Center ‘Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society’ will invite experts from a variety of different European countries to reconstruct the history of IRD in their respective socio-cultural contexts.

‚Interreligious Encounter-Learning’ at School – an Evaluation
(Project lead: Alfred Garcia Sobreira-Majer / Karsten Lehmann)

The notion of ‘Interreligiöses Begegnungslernen / Interreligious Encounter-Learning’ (IrBL) stands for a particular model of religious education at schools as well as within the context of higher education. In the course of this project, a model of IrBL that is primarily based upon the writing of Prof. Katja Boehme, from the Heidelberg University of Education, has been introduced to two Viennese Grammar Schools. On the basis of the respective activities, the project raises the question to what an extent it is helpful to use the notion of ‘encounter’ within this particular form of religious education. To follow up upon this question, the project uses the method of participant observation – thus putting the social behavior of learners into the center of the research. The project wants to learn more about the concrete, down-to-earth forms of interaction between learners as well as learners and teachers that act in the context of IrBL: What types of constructions of religion are used within this particular setting? To what an extent is it possible to observe ‘authentic’ forms of interaction, and how do the actors interpret their respective activities?

Interreligious Learning in Austrian Free-Churches. New questions and impulses by a new teaching field 
(Project leader: Paul Tarmann)

Building upon present investigations into the semantic field of “interreligious competence”, the project shall examine the semantics of 'interreligious learning'  among the Free Churches in Austria. It starts from the conviction that the theoretical concept of interreligious learning is an indicator for more general questions that concern free-church religious education today. The aim of the research project is to provide evidence of the current status in everyday life at school. As an added value it will provide a helping hand for religion teachers and qualitatively adapted training lessons within the framework of 'continuous teacher education' offered by KPH Vienna/Krems.