Background

Research at the University of Innsbruck

The reform of the Austrian higher education-system in 2002 brought about greater autonomy for the universities. Today, universities are called upon to diversify and to position themselves in a competitive national and international academic environment. Major efforts have therefore been made in all areas of academic research and teaching, resulting in the formation of research-centres, research-platforms and research-clusters and in a redefinition of curricula and degrees. Research-centres and -platforms are an intrinsic part of the strategic profile of our university: they promote excellence in research and teaching and are an important factor in the acquisition of external funding.

With the foundation of the interdisciplinary and inter-faculty research-platform 'World Order – Religion – Violence', the University of Innsbruck has created a platform to promote excellent research in the social and human sciences on the highly relevant topic of religion in contemporary politics and society.

History of the Research-Platform World Order - Religion - Violence

In 2002, Raymund Schwager, professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Innsbruck, initiated a research-cooperation that unites different disciplines on the topic of world order, religion and violence. Under the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing international political crisis, Raymund Schwager confronted his colleagues at university with the question, how the academia should react to the challenge of religious fundamentalism and violence. The relevance of this question was recognized by a number of representatives from theology, history, literature studies, philosophy and the social and political sciences. What ensued was an intense cooperation in research and discussions, which, finally, led to the establishement of the research-platform World Order – Religion – Violence in 2007.

In their interdisciplinary efforts, the researchers could build on the solid foundations of decades of expertise in peace- and conflict-studies, fruit of a close cooperation between theologians from the University of Innsbruck and the French historian and philosopher René Girard. Girard's teachings on topics such as conflict, violence, ritual, sacrifice, exclusion, authority, reconciliation, peace, and revelation found an audience at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Innsbruck, especially in the research-group on religion – violence – communication – world order. The research-group is member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, involved in the organization of regular international conferences and publications (COV&R). The platform's research-cluster "Anthropology and Violence" has grown out of this group of researchers.

In the last decade, in the light of the emergence of religious fundamentalisms and clear tendencies of desecolarization in modern societies, religion has again become a central topic in the human and social sciences. While for a long time the topic of religion had been considered exclusive competence of the faculties of theology, religion has now moved back into the orbit of all academic disciplines. The research platform seeks to account for this change by bringing together established competences and the new questions and approaches.

The reseach-platform coordinates various research-efforts in the field of religion and politics by groups and individuals at the University of Innsbruck. Methodologically, our work includes the study of relevant cases of the interplay of religion and politics in the past and the present, comparative history of ideas, and normative political theory. Interdisciplinarity and a culture of discussion and exchange between various theoretical approaches is central to our work. The platform is organized in thematic research-clusters that meet regularly. Activities include workshops, conferences, and discussion-groups. The successful lecture series in honour of the late Raymund Schwager furthermore contributes to the profile of the research-platform.