Global History of Christianity


Today, Christianity is generally understood as one of the great 'world religions'. This view differs significantly from older perceptions, according to which Christianity was considered the one, true religion, while other beliefs were considered heresy, idolatry or heathenism.

Recent historical research on religion has shown that the concept of world religion is not a quasi-natural form of human existence, but rather an idea that was only able to establish itself worldwide within the framework of European colonialism in the 19th century. In this epoch, inspired by the young study of religion in Europe and the USA, as well as by liberal theology, intellectuals in all contexts began to reformulate certain traditions of thought under a common, global understanding of (world) religion. This development set in motion a standardisation process that led to the various world religions, such as Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, becoming the comparable quantities they appear to us today.

The aim of this research area is to investigate the reconfiguration of the Christian religion in terms of the global concept of world religion from the 19th century onwards. The focus is on the global interconnections that shaped the Christian religion in the process of its repositioning – be it in relation to other religious actors, the newly forming university sciences or the (colonial) political actors of the globalising world. Using illustrative examples, these global negotiation processes are analysed in the various contexts that have led to the reformation and conceptual unification of Christian identity, historical understanding and theology.

WoC Lab "Religion Glokal"

The Lab is dedicated to the investigation of the manifestations of the local in the context of the global discourse on religion. Here, the focus is particularly on negotiation processes in which the local is explicitly set in contradiction to the global, for example as a result of essentializing strategies to legitimize and demarcate one's own religious identity.


Research Projects

Weiße Kirche vor Meerlandschaft Sumatra

The Mission of the Rhenish Missionary Society in Sumatra in Colonial Discourse

Lara Lindhorst

This project examines the history of the Rhenish Mission Society in Sumatra respectively the Toba-Batak region, beginning with the start of the mission in 1861 till the establishment of the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan.


The discovery of Buddhism

Dr. Ulrich Harlass

The project focuses on the beginning and development of the scientific study of Buddhism, particularly in the 19th century, and the public discourse on Buddhism. Consequently, Buddhism is not regarded as a primordial entity that was simply ‘discovered’, but rather as a historic discourse in which Buddhism was constituted and continually negotiated against the backdrop of a globalizing world and the realities of colonial encounters.

Kiste voller alter Postkarten und Briefe


Gott, ein Gefüge (2022)

Poststrukturalistische Überlegungen zur Theologie der Religionen

Prof. Dr. Yan Suarsana

This book extends the contemporary debate on the global concept of religion, conducted in the context of religious studies, to the field of the theology of religions. In applying poststructuralist and postcolonial perspectives, it seeks to deconstruct central categories such as truth, universality, or religion, in order to contextualize them by making transparent their historical genealogy and entanglement with political, social, and scientific discourses. Further, it aims to outline new areas of thinking, which can serve as the experimental basis of an alternative, non-essentialist form of theology (of religions).



Mapping the Study of Religion

"Mapping Religionsiwssenschaft, vernetzen, vertiefen, sichtbar machen" dazu eine runde Karte mit Höhenlinien

Mapping Studies of Religion

Dr. Ulrich Harlass, Lara Lindhorst

The project ‘Mapping Studies of Religion’ arose from a collaboration between young academics from the Universities of Bonn, Bremen and Munich, and provided the impetus for mapping the field of Studies of Religion in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It combined a digital workshop format and video interviews with central representatives to connect researchers in the field.