PhD Projects

Bridging the Divide? Crossing borders for coexistence in the divided city of Mitrovica: A narrative ethnography

Anne Kauhanen, PhD Project

Die Hauptbrücke über die fließende Grenze - der Fluss Ibar - der geteilten Stadt Mitrovica

The once multicultural and economically strong city of Mitrovica was divided into a Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian side along the Ibar River after the Kosovo War. Since the division, Mitrovica has developed a reputation as the site of the ongoing Kosovo conflict. The division has contributed to the emergence of a space in which the existence of the other is negated, nationalistic self-images and narratives are manifested and parallel structures are built – at least this is the image spread about Mitrovica by the media.

The goal of my dissertation is to research the movements and experiences beyond the ideologically polarized and hardened fronts in Mitrovica and to highlight these insights - against the narrative of Mitrovica only being a city and space of conflict. My research takes a closer look at the circumstances under which these movements beyond the borders and boundaries occur and are being enabled and to the strategies, which individuals and institutions have developed to carry out these movements ‘beyond’. In addition, my research discusses the question, whether and to what extent these movements and movements of crossing-over could contribute to a peaceful coexistence and ultimately to the reunification of the city.

Negotiations of the self on Muslim online platforms

Rosa Lütge, PhD Project

Frühstück, Medienobjekte

The project focuses on Muslim online platforms that create a space for exchange about lifestyle, empowerment and inspiration. The target group of these platforms are mostly young Muslims all over the world, but mainly in the USA and Europe and they refer to different issues such as parenthood, travel, beauty, fitness and self-care but also questions of Muslim communities, the religiosity of the individual, discrimination and marginalization. They offer opportunities for participation, visibility and networking and counter stereotypical representation of Muslims.

The aim of the research project is to examine the representations of the self and the intersectional negotiations of religion, emotions, gender but also subversions that emerge in Muslim online platforms. What characterizes this self-representation? What discursive entanglements emerge? In what ways does resistance to hegemonic discourses and stereotypical portrayals take place? What is the effect of discourses surrounding, for example, the handling of emotions, and what role does religion play?

Answering these questions will shed light on social transformation processes through digital cultures, resistance and empowerment of marginalized religious groups, and neoliberal entanglements.


Between Mind and Subtle Body. The Mutual Exchange and Integration of Yoga and Psychotherapy

Raphael Mousa, PhD Project


Yoga and the science of psychology have been in a relationship of intensive transcultural and interdisciplinary exchange for over a hundred years. This has enormously influenced modern yoga, as well as many psychotherapeutic approaches. As a result, new therapeutic approaches have developed, especially since the 2010s, which combine and integrate yoga and psychotherapy. Particularly, the idea of ​​the subtle energy body with the chakras (energy centres) from yoga is often used in this ‘yoga-psychotherapy’ as a projection screen for psychological concepts (such as stages of development, archetypes and emotional processes) in order to overcome the Cartesian dualism of body and mind. Yoga also has generally become one of the most widely used alternative and complementary methods in the treatment of mental and psychosomatic disorders today.

In this dissertation project, socio-cultural dynamics in the negotiation and transformation of concepts and practices between yoga and psychology are examined: primarily in the formation of the young hybrid discipline of yoga psychotherapy, based on ethnographic research at relevant teaching and therapy institutes in Germany and India; but also in the historical exchange of yoga and psychology, which presents the context and origin of these new therapeutic approaches, based on literature analysis. Thus, this project falls in the field of medical anthropological research on the transformation of concepts of body and mind in science, religion and new forms of therapy, as well as in the interdisciplinary, emerging field of Modern Yoga Studies, which examines modern yoga as a transcultural product of the last 150 years.


Self-Normalization through Claims of Authenticity. Significance of and Dealing with the Manifestation Practice in (Neo-)Charismatic Evangelical Community Centers in Southern Germany

EJ Tolksdorf, PhD Project


The (Neo-)Pentecostal Charismatic Evangelical movement is one of the most dynamic and growing Christian movements worldwide. By popularizing this movement, its modern evangelism and marketing strategies have become role models for religious communities that are seeing membership losses (see e.g. Baumann-Neuhaus 2008, Freudenberg 2017).

In Germany, this movement belongs to an emerging Christian minority that sees itself as ‘non-denominational’. So that the congregations and networks organized as free churches can grow more strongly, they try to take action against the stigmatizing perception of others as a fundamentalist ‘cult’.

The ethnographic study takes a look at three free Christian community centers in south-west Germany, which each have around 150-6,000 people attending church services at the weekend and which are networked nationally and internationally. Approximately 45-50 interviews with leaders, employees and members are evaluated. Likewise, participant observations of various formats of events, literature and media of the communities are analyzed using grounded theory. On the basis of these (large) church cases, the importance of and handling with the practice of manifestation is asked. This refers to the bodily emotional Christian practice that is understood from an emic perspective as visible or perceptible experiences with invisible supernatural forces (Holy Spirit, demons, etc.): falling down, laughing, crying, trembling, appearing drunk, jumping, wriggling on the ground, screaming, animal sounds, etc.

Using the example of regulating the handling of manifestation practices, the self-normalizing handling of Christian-Charismatic physicality and emotionality is shown. This can go so far that manifestation practices are completely excluded from church life. This standardization and normalization of religious practice, which has so far been ignored by research on religion, cannot be explained with the previous theoretical approaches. The project therefore focuses on glocal controversies about authenticity and authority that have arisen in the course of the Toronto Blessing movement, mass healing evangelistic events and new market-oriented megachurch formats. Using the example of the regulating handling of manifestation practices, the self-normalizing of Christian Charismatic physicality and emotionality is shown. What consequences does self-normalization have for self-image? How do long-term members deal with standardization and normalization? Are new forms of communitarization emerging?

The dissertation project can also contribute to debates about the (de-)stigmatization, (de-/re-)charismatization, (de-)routinization, subjectivation and self-optimization of religion in the age of neoliberal capitalism.


The transmission of Islamic identity to young Muslims in Germany

Siska Sulistyorini, Dissertationsprojekt

People form a unique identity over the course of their lives (Papalia, 2008). Identity is the development, interpretation and control of impulses (drives), abilities, beliefs and experiences, including choices about work, sexual orientation and philosophy of life (Woolfolk 2011). Identity is always something that people or groups also work on in a reflexive way (Brubaker, 2000). In this respect, identity is understood as a product of the interaction between the individual and society, which is in constant process of change (Hall, 1996). Depending on the individual's position in society and a change of this position through new decisions or external influences and changes, it changes (Grotevant, 1987). The social context as well as the position and self-positioning within this plays a central role in the formation of individual identity as well as the self-understanding of one's own identity. The dissertation project therefore aims at the investigation of how religious identity formation of young Muslims in Germany develops and how it is shaped by religious education. Therefore it focuses on the Muslim teachers perspectives of the transmission of Muslim tradition, their didactics, methodology and objectives as well as their description of the specific situation in Germany within and outside the school context.

While much of the research to the present has focused on survey the identity of young Muslims, the focus of this research is on Muslim teachers and their target conceptions of what constitutes a good Muslim and how the appropriate and target-oriented methodology and didactics for the German context looks like. What particular challenges do they see for the formation of Muslim identities in the German context and in what way do they respond to this in their educational offers and teachings?

The study will first discuss the concept of identity formation in the context of religious and social studies as well as the methods used as a medium for imparting knowledge and teaching. The core of the study is the qualitative-empirical investigation based on Grounded Theory (Glaser/Strauss 1967). For this purpose, a broad sampling of interviews with Islam teachers is compiled, which in advance takes contrasts into account (e.g. urban-rural, gender, hijab or non-hijab Muslims, teachers within public schools and in mosque communities etc.) as well as - according to the GTh - searches for hypothesis-related contrasts regarding.

The results aim not only to reflect on the identity formation of young Muslims in their influence through Islamic educational offers in Germany, but also to critically reflect on religious education work in this area.