International Graduate School "Resonant Self–World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices"
in cooperation with the University of Graz
The aim of the joint project between the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt and the University of Graz is to provide an institutional base for studies comparing the self—world relations that are reflected in the polytheistic practices of ancient times, with those that crystalize in practices of the contemporary (late) modern period.
Ritual practices have always been a crucial element of cultural research, for they provided the key to understanding the differences in cultural belief systems. Thus, the differences and changes within antiquity have been reconstructed as the differences between polytheistic and monotheistic rituals and beliefs. However, a closer look shows that many pivotal elements of those practices – ancient as well as modern – cannot be accounted for by reference to belief systems. Thus, ritualistic elements such as anatomical votives or feeding the dead have too easily been interpreted as expressions of specific ‘alien’ belief-system or purely symbolic communication. Yet, questions arise as soon as we notice that in contemporary society there are just as many ‘strange’ practices that are in blatant contradiction even to the actors’ belief systems, such as teddy bears for dead children or atheist weddings in sacred places.
The central assumption of our program is that these rituals have to be taken much more seriously and need to be analyzed and understood as socio-religious practices establishing highly significant and particular relationships between self and world. We claim that in all of these ritual practices, particular persons, objects or places are endowed with a power that sacralizes these relationships and makes them resonant, i.e. responsive to the embodied subject.
The first phase of the joint interdisciplinary Graduate School aims to create an inventory of the various forms that relationships to the world can take by developing typologies of religious practice, of relations to objects and of relationships to the transcendent. Meanwhile, the second phase will introduce an analysis of the complex interactions between resonant and non-resonant relationships to the world and to experiences of resonance in particular.
The format of the International Graduate School allows for the creation of a material basis through historically-focused case studies from the ancient world, as well as through empirico-sociological or theoretically-oriented comparative efforts. Such a foundation will be conducive to collaborative research on typologies, which can serve as historical-heuristic tools for the reconstruction of self—world relations in antiquity and the present era alike. In addition it will be important in continuing the development of a general ‘Theory of self—world relations’. In the field of classical studies these explorations will open up new spaces of contextualization for what have hitherto been considered isolated practices relating to objects, bodies, stories, space and the transcendent realm.