About us and our research


Forming Christian Citizens: Folkehøjskoler and Religious Secularity in Contemporary Denmark

Associate Professor Heiko Henkel explores the forming of religious citizens in the context of Danish folkehøjskoler (lit. People’s High Schools). Folkehøjskoler are today best known for their role as providing ’bridging years’ for young Danes in their early 20s before deciding how to continue their formal education. The main aim of the project is to explore the ways in which religious and civic-secular concerns and commitments are articulated in the folkehøjskoler and which role religious references play in their pedagogical project of forming Danish citizens. Furthermore, the project retraces the changing historical role of the folkehøjskoler in Danish history and place their diverging pedagogical projects into the wider Danish debates on the role of religion in society. The project seeks to answer questions like: How do educators and students perceive the proper role of religion (both Lutheranism and other religious traditions, particularly Islam) in Danish society and vis-à-vis the state? And how do educators and students articulate moral concerns and commitments and do (or do not) relate these to religious concerns?

Heiko is Associate Professor in Anthropology and wrote his PhD on the Muslim revival movement in Turkey and Germany and before that gained an MA in European history. He has worked and published extensively on Turkish Islam and has more recently begun research on Danish concepts of religion and citizenship.

The Sanctification of the Secular: Subjectivity and Citizenship in Spanish Catholicism

PhD Fellow Astrid Grue will explore the relationship between religiosity and the secular/political within Spanish Catholicism. Engaging broadly with the question of how people identifying with various intellectual Catholic traditions live their everyday lives as both religious subjects and citizens in the Spanish nation-state – including an exploration of Catholics’ commitments to varying moral projects, for example that of making the secular holy ‘from within’ via religious affect, notably love of God – her research revolves around questions like: How is the striving towards sanctifying the secular actually practiced in people’s everyday lives? How may notions of being a good Catholic diverge from or converge with notions of the good Spanish citizen? And, more broadly, what may be learned from an exploration of the intimate relation between the historically powerful tradition of Spanish Catholicism and Spanish past and current forms of citizenship, state, and national and political affect?

The project is a continuation of Astrid’s academic interest in Spanish history and religion that she did work on as an undergraduate and graduate student, conducting fieldwork among young Catholics in Madrid with a focus on the topics of conversion and vocation.

Raising a Pious Generation: Religious and Civic Aspirations in Turkish Imam Hatip Education

PhD Fellow Ida Hartmann’s project (starting August 2014) intends to explore how Muslim piety and Turkish civic virtues are cultivated and articulated within public Imam Hatip schools for religious education. Focusing on the endeavors of teachers to ‘live in the presence of God’ and cultivate a Muslim consciousness in relation to their engagement as state-employed educators, the project investigates the affective dispositions generated by interpenetrating Islamic and civic traditions in Turkey. The research aspires to investigate questions such as: How is the notion of piety shaped by its integration into state institutions, such as the Imam Hatip educational system? In what ways can Imam Hatip education be said to engender a specific Muslim interpretation of what it means to be Turkish? And more broadly, how is the cultivation and articulation of pious subjectivity related to modes of secular and religious affect within the Imam Hatip school system?

The research is an extension of Ida's long-term interest in Turkey, particularly in Turkish Islam. As a graduate student she conducted fieldwork among, and is currently writing up her master’s thesis on, young Turkish Alevis, a Muslim minority outside the fold of orthodox Sunni Islam.

Variations in European Secularity

In their joint sub-project, Associate Professor Anders Berg-Sørensen and Associate Professor Heiko Henkel approach the question of the intertwinements of the religious and the secular in a broader European and more explicitly historical and politological perspective, based on a review of the existing literature on the religious and the secular across Europe. This pan-European research component benefits from the three case studies as they provide indepth ethnographic analyses that will complement or complicate this broader, more abstract, perspective. Conversely, as this sub-project is conducted alongside and in co-operation with the three ethnographic studies, it provides a dynamic link between them and helps to place their analyses within the broader context of European secularity. In that sense, the double constitution of religious citizens in their micro-level interactions and negotiations of their identities will feed into an overall framework of the democratic contestations of the religious and the secular going on in European politics. Rather than beginning with the assumption of a definite model of European secularity or generating a new typology of secularism, the aim is thus to explore the variety of European secularity and elaborate some of its central features.

Anders is Associate Professor in Political Science and wrote his PhD on the reframing of religion within politics. He has recently edited a volume on the contested meanings of secularism across Europe. Heiko is Associate Professor in Anthropology and wrote his PhD on the Muslim revival movement in Turkey and Germany. He has worked and published extensively on Turkish Islam and has more recently begun research on Danish concepts of religion and citizenship.