Course date

14 July - 25 July, 2008
Application deadline
15 February, 2008
Course Director(s): 

Juergen Gebhardt

University of Erlangen, Political Science, Nuremberg, Germany

Matthias Riedl

Department of History, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Coordinator: 

Emilio Gentile

University of Rome, Political Sciences, Rome, Italy

Gyorgy Gereby

Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Juergen Miethke

Heidelberg University, Germany

Yosef Schwartz

The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Georges Tamer

Ohio State University, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Columbus, United States of America

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the relationship between religion and politics. Not only terrorist attacks and fundamentalist movements, but also the rhetoric of a number of democratic leaders in Europe and the Middle East raised doubts about the solely secular character of modern politics. In the previous decades, it was one of the dominating paradigms in the social sciences that religion is a "traditional remnant" bound to vanish sooner or later. Nowadays the same disciplines speak of a resurgence of religion in modernity.

However, the new interest in the religio-political complex goes along with an often almost complete ignorance of inherent long-term traditions involved in religious discourse. Moreover, the re-emerging religious dimension of politics that social scientists observe in our days can only be understood properly if one considers the persistence of religious symbolization in secular movements, as, for example, the messianic elements in 19th and 20th century ideologies like communism and nationalism. On the other hand, secularization can by no means be conceived as purely modern development, since secular trends can be observed throughout the intellectual history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In other words, there is a certain continuity of religious and secular modes of thought which permeate the intellectual development of European and Middle Eastern societies. This persistence of traditions deserves much more scholarly interest than it hitherto has received.
Therefore the course has two general aims: Creating an awareness of

  • the presence of religious traditions in the political disposition of European and Middle Eastern societies
  • the potentials of secularization and modernization in the pre-modern Jewish, Christian, and Islamic political thought.

By a long-term and comparative perspective on the religio-political traditions of Europe and Middle East the course seeks to contribute to a fuller understanding of one of the most vexing problems of present-day European and Middle Eastern societies: the clash of religious and secular interpretations of political order.