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Exploring Tradition and Religion. Deepening an International Cooperation

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For the first time the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of the Ruhr Universität Bochum organises a joint workshop with Hebrew University Jerusalem. Researchers from both institutions sound the different layers of the concepts 'tradition' in regard to religion for two days. The joint workshop "Self-Reflective Traditions" takes place in Bochum, the 18th and 19th of May 2017. Prior to this, CERES research project Käte Hamburger Kolleg Dynamics of the History of Religions has cooperated with the Israeli university fruitfully.

Tradition is a central concept with respect to religion. At the same time, it occupies a uniquely vague space between the life of religion as it is experienced from within (the “emic”), on the one hand, and the more objectively-inclined scholarly study of religion from without (the “etic”). From within, ‘tradition’ is a concept that helps express historical continuity and to explain practices that do not seem to be commanded by the religion’s main structures of authority (“it’s a tradition”). From without, ‘tradition’ is a term used to replace the perplexing and elusive ‘religion.’

Being at the intersection of diverse points of view, ‘tradition’ is therefore a valuable concept in order to bridge the gap between the real life of religion and the theoretical account. It leads toward the questions of religious identity that is intend to be at the heart of the workshop's discussion. Traditions, or religions, somehow know who they are, in spite of the drastic historical changes they go through. Religions have many ways in which they look at and reflect upon themselves, and the process of self-reflection forms an important aspect of their identity and of the process behind their development. The workshop thus asks how traditions know who they are? How do they define themselves? How do they speak of continuity in face of change, acknowledging their identity along the way?

The workshop on “Self-Reflective Traditions” is the first major step in a cooperation between the two institutions of CERES and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Both institutions have a rich tradition of studying religious traditions historically. While scholars at Bochum have emphasized historical and material contexts in a developmental model of religious dissemination on the ground, scholars at Jerusalem have inclined toward more textual and phenomenological perspectives. The encounter between the two schools thus seems most promising. This future cooperation ties up to the previous cooperation of Hebrew University with the Käte Hamburger Kolleg, which will run out within two years.