HESP ReSET project "Comparative and Interdisciplinary History of Religious Traditions in Eastern, Central and Southeast Europe" (2008-2010)
This project aims to promote consistently comparative and interdisciplinary studies and university teaching of history of European religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). It seeks to offer high quality academic training for university teachers working on cultural and social history of the European religious traditions. At the same time its goal is to contribute to exploration of several crucial research problems of cultural history of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in
The program is called on to contribute to the formation of a new generation of university teachers who will be willing and able to promote, to foster and to maintain comparative, interdisciplinary and diachronic approach to the past and present of European religious traditions.
The central theme underlying this project is threefold: 1) how did major
Chronologically, project goes from Middle Ages through the XIX century, with special emphasis on late medieval and Early Modern periods.
Correspondingly, our ReSET project aims to:
1) demonstrate comparatively, for the purposes of university teaching, in what respect confessional contents of three main Christian traditions, Judaism and Islam are different;
2) analyze and show comparatively, in our university courses, the links between confessional peculiarities of Europe’s religious traditions and crucial aspects of cultural identities in social milieus of Europe, where Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Islam and Judaism were dominating in Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period;
3) elaborate methods of cultural decoding and interpreting, in our teaching practices, texts of Christian, Judaic and Islamic provenience;
4) analyze and show comparatively basic patterns of accommodating religious differences and contradictions in Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant societies, and in the Islam dominated regions of
5) find ways to uncover and to present to our students the longue durée structures of some contemporary and present day cultural phenomena, which have been shaped (among other factors) by religious traditions.
Obviously an acute question underlies the whole project: how should the historical patterns of accommodating cultural, religious, and ethnic differences in the East and in the West of Europe be studied, conceptualized and presented in order to provide more adequate understanding of past and today’s ethnic, religious and cultural tensions among European peoples?
Particular objectives of this program are:
- to familiarize junior university teachers with basic research problems regarding the impact of confessional traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish) on cultural identities in Eastern, Central, South-Eastern and Western Europe, in Middle Ages and Modern period;
- to get participants acquainted with theories and contemporary methodology of historical religious studies as well as with basic interdisciplinary and comparative approaches in humanities and social sciences as far as history of Christianity, Islam and Judaism in Europe is concerned;
- to make a balance of the accumulated research experience: to demonstrate what has been achieved by historians in studying the interaction of religious traditions and European cultures through centuries; to show what remains unclear, controversial and disputable;
- to show how relevant and important are results of scholarly analysis of relationships between European cultures and religions for the present day cultural and political situation in
The program is dealing with religious tradition of entire Europe, but focuses, in many cases, on Eastern Europe,
Participants in our workshops, seminars and training courses will approach their subjects from a non-confessional and specifically cultural perspective. It means that all religious phenomena are considered, in the frame of our program, as cultural constructions.
Target audience: junior university teachers who intend to develop courses on social and cultural history of religions, on the interaction of religious traditions in past and present of Europe and territories of the former Russian, those who are willing and able to mobilize data on history of Churches and theologies for the purposes of non-confessional, specifically cultural and social approach to religious phenomena.
Target region: Russia and former republics of the URSS (Ukraine, Belarus’, Moldavia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajdzan, Kazakhstan, republic of Central Asia), eventually young university teachers from Poland, Slovakia, Czech republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania and former Yugoslavia, and especially those who took part in the CRC sessions on comparative religious history, which I arranged at the CEU in 2004 and 2005.
1. One of main outcomes: a WEB site which will foster academically responsible comparative and interdisciplinary teaching and studies in history of Eastern and Western Christianity, Islam and Judaism in
– each member of our core faculty group as well as each invited non-core faculty is expected to produce and to place on our Web site several “model pages” that will include: a) main points in presenting the given subject of studies; b) recommendations how to approach and to handle problems in the given area of studies; c) bibliographical indications with comments on (bibliographie raisonnée); d) indications in which direction the further exploration of a given theme could go.
- every participant is expected to produce and to bring on our WEB site three course syllabi, dealing with selected aspects of our problematics;
- WEB site will be maintained and developed after the end of ReSET seminar activities and will serve as focus of exchange and collaborative working of people involved in our international network.
- a series of forum discussions will be conducted on this site. Two first will start in 2008: a) “Western and Eastern Christianity, Judaism and Islam in shaping cultural identity of Europe” (starting point – round table discussion which was arrange in
2. Seminar will lead to the formation of a group of university teachers who will be willing and able to promote comparative, interdisciplinary and diachronic approach to the past and present of European religious traditions in their respective universities. This means that they will introduce undergraduate and graduate courses in their university curricula. Such courses are taught very rarely in the universities of our region. Thus, our ReSET seminar will contribute seriously to broadening subject area of our university system.
3. Seminar is expected to trigger the subsequent cooperation of universities teachers and researchers throughout the region, and, hopefully, will be transformed (with assistance of other sponsors) into a regularly functioning summer school on “Comparative and interdisciplinary religious studies”.
4. New undergraduate and graduate courses will be taught by ReSET seminar participants on the basis of experience they will acquires in course of our seminar activities.
5. Local channels will be mobilized in order to get larger audience acquainted with scholarly approaches to the problem of differences in religious traditions of
6. Provided a sponsor is found, each sub-project of our overarching project may result in a book, destined to the university students (3 books, in sum).
7. Our WEB site materials, model courses, readings and other stuff to be used, eventually, in university courses will be put on CD disks, to make them available to the university teachers, who are interested in applying and developing our approaches and methods.
8. Our ReSET seminar group will form a nucleus of a network of centers and specialists working in this field in our region, and a basis for “Association for Comparative Religious Studies”.