Research Field 'Formation'

Research field 1 was concerned with the constitution of religious fields and the formation of the major religious networks of traditions. How do religious reference systems densify into stable factors within a religious field that a) shape collective identities by demarkative self-reference, b) are not locally or regionally confined and characterised by a following phase of expansion? The main question was, if similar factors playing a role in the constitutional phases of religions can be found, and if these factors influence or are interrelated with conditions, forms, or effects of religious, religion-related, and religiously relevant contacts? The 'Formation' researchers have been consecutively working on three core themes.

Central Asian Case Studies

The first phase concentrated on case studies regarding religious contacts in and around Central Asia. These studies were mainly carried out by visiting research fellows and examined the formative phases of the so-called world religions. They found the Central Asian area to be a culturally and religiously permeable zone enabling numerous contacts between South East Asia and the Mediterranean. Central Asia is understood as a --so far underappreciated-- dense network of contacts that deeply shaped the formation of the eastern and western religious networks of tradition. Additionally, the conducted material research turned attention to these concepts: diffusion, adoption, demarcation, re-evaluation, and densification, with the latter being especially useful for the KHK.

Inclusion & Demarcation

The relationship between the processes of 'demarcation' and 'integration / inclusion' was under scrutiny in the second research phase. These processes are understood as correlated and reciprocal. Both are basic types of inter- and intra-religious dynamics requiring and reacting to contact. The processes may have both stabilising and destabilising effects. Although they are especially suited to comparatively analyse processes of formation and densification, the processes of demarcation and inclusion are not restricted to the formative phases of religious traditions. Therefore a dedicated focus group dealing with these processes was established.

However, the remaining question is, if and to what degree demarkative and integrative self-references and the related religious contacts have stabilising or destabilising effects on the formation of religious traditions. A first intermediate result is that a solidifying relationship between stabilisation and destabilisation leads to a dynamic of expansion. If the tension between stabilisation and destabilisation can be counted among the triggers of a proactive expansion ('mission') is still being debated.

Hellenism – Late Antiquity – Early Islam

The third phase of research focused on the impact major religious and cultural constellations had on the development on the Euro-Asiatic religious networks of tradition. Hellenism, late antiquity, and early Islam are densified conceptualisations binding together highly heterogeneous cultural and religious traditions that --at the same time-- imply a great degree of exchange. Accounting for the dynamics within these heterogeneous systems deepened our knowledge about the formative processes of religions and religious traditions.