The Science of Religion in Bern
Research and teaching at the Institute for the Science of Religion falls under the purview of two sub-disciplines: The Science of Religion and Central Asian Studies.
- The Science of Religion emphasises method and theory and it investigates mainly Buddhism (especially the Tibetan and Mongolian forms), and the religions of Southeast Asia. Beyond investigating Buddhist traditions and Hindu religions, the close collaboration with the Philosophical-Historical Faculty allows for interdisciplinary explorations of other religious traditions, such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
- The Central Asian Studies course concentrates on broader sociological contexts within the Tibetan and Mongolian language spheres, and in this sense constitutes a regional studies approach.
These study areas are complemented by the interdisciplinary inclusion of the Institute for the Science of Religion into the Center for Global Studies of the Philosophical-Historical Faculty.
Historical origins of the Institute
In 1991, the Faculty of Theology together with the Faculty of Humanities initiated the foundation of the Institute for the Science of Religion as an “interdisciplinary institute for the general and comparative history of religion.” In 1992, this programme was replaced with the licentiate programme “Science of Religion,” Prof. Axel Michaels occupied the newly established chair until 1996. Following a three-year vacancy, Prof. Kollmar-Paulenz assumed the chair of Science of Religion in 1999.
In 2002/3 the Institute was integrated within the interdisciplinary framework of the Department of Art History and Cultural Sciences of the Faculty of Humanities, and in 2007 was formally incorporated into the Faculty of Humanities. From 2005 onward, the Institute has been offering a study course in Central Asian Studies alongside the programme of the Science of Religion. In doing so, the Institute represents one among very few institutes of the Faculty that offers two different specialisations within one broader discipline.
In summer 2009, several interdisciplinary research centers were inaugurated within the Faculty of Humanities. One of them, the Center for Global Studies (CGS) offers an MA: “Religious Cultures: Historicity and Cultural Normativity.” The Institue for the Science of Religion has principally shaped this programme, both in terms of conceptualisation and execution. A new chair was created to respond to the demands for research and teaching in this field, and has been occupied since 2009 by Prof. Jens Schlieter.