Sunday, 18 December 2016

Paper of the month: Roberto Alciati on 'Ars Ascetica from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, 200-900 CE'

Congratulations to Roberto Alciati, Fellow at the Max Weber Center for being the most read author on the blog over the past month. His paper on 'Ars Ascetica' ranged top. As one can see from the statistics, the blog is increasing in becoming one of the windows of the Center towards the US in particular, but is also widely read in Russia, Europe, but also in Canada, Brazil, Australia and other places. With over 7.000 views last month, we have topped the 6.000 views of the previous month and the 5.000 of the month before. Numbers do not say everything, however, in a field of social sciences, anthropology, history and religious studies, particularly in an institute in which dynamic acceleration is studied critically (Rosa, 2013), and where we are aware of the downsides of such statistics. In this sense, we are more interested in the scholarly exchange regarding the content of what we do. And here, it is noticeable that over the past months we had the first publications and editions of original material on the blog here, something, we'd like to develop further in the coming year. For now, we are grateful to all the contributors and readers, feel free to respond and submit material that you deem right for being placed here,
have a great Christmas time and a happy New Year
your team from the MWK Blog
Bettine, Jutta and Markus

Louis-Philippe Vien is presenting a working paper on 'The Kingdom of Influence - Max Weber As A “Would-Be Englishman”'

Between the hagiographies following in the wake of Marianne Weber Lebensbild, Mommsen’s Wegbereiter thesis, and the works of those, indirectly writing against the first two receptions, who see in him an insightful political scientist, Max Weber’s political thought is the object three massively different interpretations. With the help of Pocock’s theory of political language I intend to shed lights on the English influences of Weber’s conception of modern politics. In this I follow the intuitions of Günther Roth in his Work on “Weber The Would-Be Englishman”. But where his writings are based on the economic history of Weber’s extended family, I want to investigate the structure of his political thoughts as to reveal how Weber’s political ideas, if often described as unique and extraordinary in the German context of his time, is based on interrogations and themes that would appear as common for late-Victorians. In order to identify the common tensions upon which a shared political language is articulated, I compare Weber writing on politics with those of two iconic Victorian political authors, namely Walter Bagehot and John Stuart Mill. From their (I) historiography, to their conception of the parliamentary institutions, be it their roles as tools of State administration (II) or in their influence on the political education of the nation (III), or in their relation to (IV) Statesmanship, what reveal itself is a common conception of modern politics, a common view on the necessity of strong parliamentary institutions in modern states, and a common adherence to the short-lived brand of agonistic liberalism.

Hartmut Rosa presents a working paper on 'Airports Built on Shifting Grounds? Social Acceleration and the Temporal Dimension of Law'

Modern societies are characterized by a progressive transformation in their temporal fabric which can be understood as a consistent trend towards dynamization and social acceleration (Rosa 2013). This trend implies that there is not just an ongoing technological acceleration in the speed of transport, communication and the production of goods and services, but also a progressive decrease in the stability of social arrangements and practices; that is, a change in the rates of change themselves. In other words, the social, technological and economic world transforms itself at an ever increasing pace. If one accepts this as a defining feature of modernity and hence as an adequate description of modern society, the interesting question for the role of law in this process arises almost as an enigma. On the one hand, law is supposed to ensure stability and calculability in a dynamic world. So this would mean that the rule of law is a prerequisite and even a safeguard for the dynamism of the socioeconomic world, but is not itself accelerated in the process. On the other hand, of course, laws need to be adapted to changing needs, values and environments, so lawmaking itself has becoming a perennial task in the modern world. And furthermore, of course, law itself can be the source of considerable social dynamics, as every historian can tell from the introduction of welfare, educational or gender legislation. In this contribution, I will try to sort out the role and function of law in the process of social acceleration in a systematic fashion. In the first step, I will briefly sketch out the logics and workings of social acceleration as a consequence of modernity’s core principle: dynamic stabilization, and I will point out how this leads to escalatory processes of speed-up, increase and innovation. In the second step, I will scrutinize the argument that law can be understood as a functional and indispensable ‘stabilizer’, even a decelerator, in the acceleration-game. However, not all aspects or spheres of social life can be dynamized to the same extent and at the same speed. This systematically raises the danger of desynchronization, for example, between the speed of market developments and the pace of democratic decision-making. Therefore, as I will try to point out in the third step, law serves a vital function in ‘re-synchronizing’ the pace of social life. This explains why law-making and applying, in some cases, actually is a tool to accelerate or dynamize certain social spheres or populations. Nevertheless, there is something like a natural speed-limit for law to be capable to fulfill this function. Beyond it, the rule of law itself is in danger of becoming anachronistic, of being too slow for the pace of social dynamics and hence of being eroded by the escalatory tides of acceleration. It might well be that late-modern societies are approaching this state of affairs quickly. It might mean, however, that the system of dynamic stabilization and social acceleration is finally undermining itself. This will be the topic of my concluding remarks in the fourth part of this paper.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Julia Seeberger is presenting a working paper on 'Visiones cuiusdam virginis – Searching for a certain virgin, the Beguine Agnes Blannbekin (+1315) from Vienna'

My dissertation project is based on the “Life and Revelations” of a woman, called Agnes Blannbekin, who lived in Vienna in the late 13th century. Her confessor, an unknown brother who belongs to the Order of the Friars Minor, probable in Vienna, wrote down her life and revelations. In short articles in encyclopaedias for Christian female mysticism Agnes Blannbekin is described as a representative of the typical Later Middle Ages piety, which focuses on Jesus Christ and the longing for Jesus. Further Agnes Blannbekin is known as the only Beguine in the Austrian area. In contrast to my former papers this paper does not focus on the outstanding position of odoratus in the visions or within the context of piety. I previously focused on the usage of olfactory vocabulary for personal descriptions of clerics in the “Life and Revelations” of Agnes Blannbekin. In this paper, now, I am going to analyse the female protagonist, her place, role and social environment. At the beginning I start with a collection and investigation of the existing manuscripts of her "Life and Revelations". Based on these manuscripts I examine the general characteristics of the protagonist and resume to characterize the protagonist based on the content of the “Life and Revelations”. Based on these investigations I would like to verify the general narration of the Viennese Beguine Agnes Blannbekin and to think about the contemporary use and intention of the extant copies.

Angelika Malinar is presenting a working paper on 'Karmic history, politics and the synthesis of “East” and “West”: Annie Besant (1847-1933) on Hinduism'

The research focusses on European women as interpreters of Hinduism in the colonial-modern period. The interpretation of Hinduism as well as the “woman question” were prominent arenas of the political-cultural debates that characterised the entangled history between India and Europe at that time. From the last decades of the nineteenth century onward women not only in India, but also in Europe participated increasingly in the debates about Indian religion and society. Annie Besant (1847-1933) and Margaret Noble (1867-1911), for instance, did not only pursue their own spiritual interests, but were also actively engaged in socio-political and educational projects. In doing so they challenged constructions of gender and regimes of power both in India and Europe which resulted in complex biographies as well as in various. While their political activities received some scholarly attention, their interpretations of Hinduism did not. One reason for this is that these interpretations were often seen as intellectually irrelevant or mere apologetics. This view seems to be based on the application of certain paradigms in the interpretation of female agency and individuality in the colonial context. The European women were considered as being either mere mouthpieces of “Indian Gurus” or agents of imperialism (even when they saw themselves fighting against it). Such unilateral views of colonial history have been challenged in recent years by emphasizing the entangled, multi-layered interactions between Indians and Europeans as well as the complex personal relationships they entertained. In following this approach, I shall explore the individual biographies, the social and political networks of the European women and the larger intellectual contexts of their interpretation of Hinduism. The paper focusses on Annie Besant and deals firstly with some theoretical issues and in the second part discusses certain features of Besant´s interpretations of Hinduism.

Internal meeting of the members of the ERC-project ‘Lived Ancient Religion’ at Schloß Ettersburg, 8-9 December 2016

Ten members of the ERC-funded project ‘Lived Ancient Religion’, co-directed by Jörg Rüpke (MWK) and Rubina Raja (Aarhus), came together at Schloß Ettersburg near Weimar (Thuringia) on 8-9 December 2016 to assess progress on individual projects as the financial period draws to a close (31 May 2017), and to review preparations for the final conference to be held at Haus Haunstein in Eisenach, 3-5 April 2017. On taking stock of what the participants felt to be the key concepts that had been developed over the five years, it became clear that the original terms have largely, though not entirely, been replaced by others that are more appropriate to individual needs. A number of existing co-operation partners and future conferences were nominated as means of pursuing topics that are only now being opened up or could not be completed within the financial period. In addition to the publication in various forms of individual projects and of the proceedings of the final conference, it was resolved to publish a collective article in a Religious Studies journal to summarise the project’s provisional results in that quarter. The new house-journal Religion in the Roman Empire (Mohr Siebeck) will however be the major long-term forum for the ideas developed by the project.

Call for Papers: „Shared Ritual Practices and Divided Historiography: Media, Phenomena, Topoi“

The Research Centre „Dynamics of Jewish Ritual Practices in Pluralistic Contexts from Antiquity to the Present“ at the University of Erfurt (Germany) announces its third conference, which will run from June 14 through June 16, 2017, and is entitled „Shared Ritual Practices and Divided Historiography: Media, Phenomena, Topoi“. The conference will focus on widespread, „popular“ ritual practices. We are especially interested in rituals that were not performed at synagogue or at church but in the private or semi-public realm and were not described in official liturgical books (at least not initially). This also includes rituals for which the official ritual practitioners attempted to produce scripts and rules as they realized that such rituals were performed outside of the official realm. In those cases, we are interested in investigating the anxieties that such rituals, which did not conform to established boundaries, produced. The main interest lies in the questions of the sharing of such rituals in the face of boundary work or across institutional boundaries and in its historiographical treatment. In terms of chronology, material from late antiquity and the middle ages will be given primary attention. Again, the focus is on Judaism within larger contexts, in particular polytheistic (Mediterranean, European), Christian (European, American), and monotheistic traditions (Islam in Northern Africa, Asia). The following scholars have already agreed to deliver papers: Sarit Shalev-Eyni, Rivka Ulmer, Sara Offenberg, Karen Stern, Eric Rebillard, Nicola Denzey, Jordan Rosenblum, Claudia Bergmann, Susan Weingarten, Michael Satlow, and Jörg Rüpke.
During the conference, doctoral students are invited to present their research in short lectures. These lectures should be no longer than 15 minutes, they will be followed by about 10 minutes of discussion. Thematically, any topic regarding rituals in Judaism is welcome, but we especially invite presentations on art, inscriptions, cemeteries / tombs, food/meals, and historiography. The language of the conference is English.
If you are a doctoral student and would like to participate in our conference by presenting a short lecture, please contact Claudia Bergmann at Please send your name, your current position, and a short abstract of no more than one page including your sources and some bibliographical information by January 31, 2017. If you are chosen to present, we will provide for your accommodation in Erfurt and costs in regard to the conference. If need be, we can also offer a contribution to your travel expenses.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Opnenings for up to 4 Scholarships for Guest Doctoral Students (1,100 Euros/month) at the Max Weber Center, Erfurt

The Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt invites applications for: up to 4 Scholarships for Guest Doctoral Students (1,100 Euros/month) for PhD projects in the fields of Sociology, Religious Studies, History, Philosophy or Theology within the framework of the Kolleg Research Group “Religious Individualisation in Historical Perspective” directed by Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow and Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke.

The scholarships start on 1 April and 1 October 2017 and are granted for either 6 or 12 months.

• Knowledge of German (at least reading skills, if necessary participation in a German Language Course), English and other relevant languages
• Acceptance for the position of doctoral candidate at another university and secured funding of the PhD project from another source
• Cooperation within in the interdisciplinary context of the Max Weber Center and in particular the Kolleg Research Group Further information about the Max Weber Center and the Kolleg Research Group available here.

Please submit your application with CV, copies of your final school and university degrees, a copy of your MA or diploma thesis, one letter of recommendation and an outline of the PhD project you would like to pursue (max. 5 pages) with a stringent discussion of your research questions, the state of research on the topic, the methodological approach and the leading hypotheses as well as a working schedule and projected date of completion as pdf-files (maximum of 10 MB) by 18 December 2016 to:
University of Erfurt
• Max-Weber-Kolleg
• Direct informal enquiries may be made to Dr. Bettina Hollstein ( The University of Erfurt does not refund any costs incurred in the application process.

Openings for up to 3 Junior Fellowships for Young Female Researchers/Postdoctoral Scholars at the Max Weber Center, Erfurt

The Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt invites applications for: up to 3 Junior Fellowships for Young Female Researchers/Postdoctoral Scholars for research projects in the fields of Sociology, Religious Studies, History, Philosophy or Theology within the framework of the Kolleg Research Group “Religious Individualisation in Historical Perspective” directed by Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow and Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke.

The fellowships start either on 1 April 2017 or 1 September/1 October 2017 and are granted for up to 10 months. Financial arrangements take into account the individual situation of the awardees of the fellowships and are based on the principle “no loss, no gain”.

• Position at another university
• Excellent academic degree
• Relevant PhD Thesis
• Outstanding Academic Record
• Knowledge of German (at least reading skills), English and other languages that are relevant for the project
• Cooperation within the interdisciplinary context of the Max Weber Center and in particular the Kolleg Research Group Further information about the Max Weber Center and the Kolleg Research Group available here.

Please submit your application with CV, copies of your last university degrees, a copy of your PhD thesis and up to three articles, list of publications, and an outline of the research project you would like to pursue (5-10 pages) with a stringent discussion of your research questions, the state of research on the topic, the methodological approach and the leading hypotheses as well as a working schedule and projected date of completion as pdf-files (maximum of 10 MB) by 18 December 2016 to:
University of Erfurt
• Max-Weber-Kolleg
Direct informal enquiries may be made to Dr. Bettina Hollstein ( The University of Erfurt does not refund any costs incurred in the application process.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Bettina Hollstein presents a working paper on 'Pragmatist ethics of economics in light of corruption in NGOs, as for example in academic research'

Based on the systematic considerations for a pragmatic ethics of society and economics in my habilitation thesis ('Understanding voluntary work') my new project is to develop elements of a pragmatic ethics of economics. For this end, there will be an emphasis on action theory and emotions, embodiment, creativity, routines, situations, patterns of interpretation and collective narrations. These considerations are to be developed on the basis of specific cases of ethics in economy where corruption is a key element, as corruption has become a topic of attention in the public over the last twenty years. In my paper I will focus on corruption in the non-profit-sector, especially in the sector of academic research.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Central German Universities are launching a joint research Forum

The Universities of Leipzig, Halle-Wittenberg, Jena and Erfurt set up a joint research forum in the humanities and social sciences on 1 December 2016. The forum, entitled "Forum for the Study of
the Global Condition", brings together scholars from numerous disciplines, studying the global entanglement of contemporary societies and their historical roots. In addition to the four universities, involved are the Leibniz Institute for Leipzig, the Max Planck Institute for Ethnology, the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture Leipzig, and the Center for the History and
Culture of Eastern Central Europe at the University of Leipzig (which will become part of the Leibniz Gesellschaft on 1 January 2017).

The initiative is based on the idea that the Central German Universities, together with the institutes of the Max Planck Society and the Leibniz Gesellschaft, have an excellent expertise in the analysis of global processes, with their professionalism and experience in collaborative research. Existing
collaborative and individual projects are to be linked with each other and supplemented by appropriate forms of doctoral qualification and research-oriented teaching.

In terms of content, it is about the paradox that more and more people are involved in and affected by global interdependencies, but that they are skeptical about a globalized future for various reasons. The Forum does not study "globalization", but explores how different actors deal with transnational migration, exchange of goods, financial flows and the transfer of ideas, and thus create "the global" at all.

"Through an interdisciplinary combination of our competencies in the new Forum, we will be able to form a competitive center, whose research is attracting international attention and is thus highly attractive to excellent young scholars and master students," says Prof. Dr. Beate Schücking,
Rector of the University of Leipzig. "In Central Germany, we are constantly showing how good inter-institutional cooperation can be achieved. The institutionalised cooperation between Halle, Jena and Leipzig has now been in existence for more than 20 years, special research areas such as those of the
nomadic societies have made the best use of this foundation and the relatively young German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research is developing into an internationally visible lighthouse. The study of global processes is now building on this."

More important collaborative projects have been approved in the recent past, such as the Leibniz Science Campaign "Eastern Europe - Global Area" between Leipzig, Halle and Jena, and the special research area "Spatialization Processes under Globalization Conditions" (University of Leipzig, Leibniz Institute for Ethnology, History and Culture of East Central Europe). The new research Forum also links thematically to topics and projects of the "International Year of Global Understanding", which has its origin at the University of Jena and focuses on questions of sustainability and the understanding of global contexts.

"The research Forum will be an expression of cooperation between university and non-university research centers in Central Germany," emphasized Prof. Dr. Walter Rosenthal, President of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (FSU). Bringing together excellent human and social sciences expertise is an important step "to promote interdisciplinary research in these fields", so Rosenthal.

In terms of content, the University of Jena inter alia focuses on literature, history, and sociology. The existing research and graduate colleges as well as the collegiate research groups represent an excellent starting point for the successful cooperation. The President of the FSU also emphasizes that the promotion of young scholars is a particular concern of the new Forum. Thus, by means of a joint program of excellence, the proportion of international graduate students in Central Germany would be significantly increased.

"Halle contributes its expertise primarily to questions of law and the possible implementation of national legal systems in the context of international norms," ​​says Prof. Dr. Udo Sträter, Rector
of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. The University of Halle and Jena, among others, are part of the University's interdisciplinary research center "Society and Culture in Motion" as well as the Aleksander Brückner Center for Polish Studies. Another important partner is the Max Planck
Institute for Anthropological Research in Halle.

At the University of Erfurt, the sociological and historical research at the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies concentrates on the changing world-relations of individuals and entire societies, which are increasingly challenging in the face of growing uncertainty about the result of the many overlapping global interdependencies. Professor Walter Bauer-Wabnegg, President of the University of Erfurt, said: "The comparative analysis of world relations in the field of culture, in particular, also includes historical aspects well before the 19th century and our time."

Thursday, 1 December 2016

IAHR Congress 2015 - Proceedings have now been published Open Access

The Proceedings of last year's IAHR Congress have now been published in an Open Access version (see IAHR 2015 Proceedings). The volume, as the Congress itself, addresses the dynamics of religions in the past and present. As such it is also addressing the dynamics of the study of religion. Bringing together programmatic contributions and exemplary case studies, it focuses on the different fields of change, namely that of the individual as subject and object of religion, of community and society, of practices and discourses, and of the narrations on such developments.
While the print version (to be published December 19) includes only the expanded keynote presentations of the IAHR Congress, the online version also includes all information about IAHR business meetings, the running of the Congress and all abstracts of the papers that were delivered during the IAHR World Congress. 

Jasmin Kutzner is presenting a working paper on 'The Influence of Synagogal Liturgy and Ritual Practices of Judaism in the Works of the Neue Jüdische Schule'

Hélène Clément & Jascha Nemtsov play Alexander Weprik - "Chant rigoureux"  

The project is dedicated to the appearance of national Jewish art music in the first decades of the 20th century. With the changes of the social position of the Jewish population in Europe and their participation in political, economic, and cultural life, a new self-confidence arose in regard to religious and cultural traditions and ethical principles, especially in Eastern Europe. Russia not only became the nutrient medium of a national Jewish renaissance, what led to the creation of a national school of Jewish music in the early 20th century - initially also the most important centre of Jewish artmusic - which later on inspired many composers of different countries to artistic disputes about the independent Jewish language of music. In the centre of the research interest are compositions of the Neue Jüdische Schule, which was an association of composers characterised by Zionist ideas and institutionally organized with the Gesellschaft für jüdische Volksmusik in St. Petersburg (1908-1920), the Gesellschaft für jüdische Musik in Moskow (1923-1931) and with the Verein zur Förderung jüdischer Musik in Vienna (1928-1938). Within the project selected musical works of Jewish composers will be analyzed regarding the question of the influence of liturgical elements and ritual practices of Judaism to them. In a second step, they will be put into the context of (music-)historical and cultural processing and identity-founding strategies. The scientific discussion about both synagogal and folkloristic music and about ritual practices of the Judaism, with respect to their historical development, functionality and social influence, are the starting point and basic concept of the project. The research project is strongly linked to the Potsdamer Archiv der Neuen Jüdischen Schule initiated and built up by Jascha Nemtsov. The goal of the research project is the discursive interpreting examination of the musical collections of the archive paying special attention to the interconnections of liturgical, traditional, and ritual practices of Judaism with art-musical forms of expression. The scholarly interest also follows the questions of underlying musical and sociological ideals of the Neue Jüdische Schule, the tense relationship within the association of composers and to the social reality. Furthermore, the topic music as a political symbol and medium for dissemination of a national consciousness will be addressed. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary oriented research project wants to give birth to analytical results regarding structural elements of the Jewish music-language and also of the positioning of the Neue Jüdische Schule in the musical field of tension between tradition and innovation.