DFG funds research group on esoteric practices

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Chinese Fengshui, ritual magic in Germany, Vodun in West Africa, or kabbalah ma´asit in Israel: practices aimed at predicting, controlling, and manipulating life events can be found almost everywhere. A research group at by FAU is now investigating and comparing these esoteric practices in a large-scale interdisciplinary project. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will be supporting the endeavour with almost 4 million Euro in the upcoming four years.

What do different esoteric practices have in common? How can we access the experience and knowledge of those who practice them? And how can we examine this knowledge comparatively without being complicit in Eurocentric stereotyping? With these questions in mind, the FAU research group “Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective(“Alternative Rationalitäten und esoterische Praktiken in globaler Perspektive”) is systematically comparing the strategies of interpretation, rationalisation, and legitimisation of esoteric practices. “We want to find out why these practices are still successful today in different cultural and regional contexts. In the medium term, we are aiming to develop a cultural theory of esoteric practices.”, says Prof. Dr. Michael Lackner, Chair of Chinese Studies at FAU and director of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities. With this theory, they are hoping to explain why these practices remain in use even in times of ubiquitous technologies and scientific discourse. The theory will also endeavour to explain typological similarities across a large number of examples and to explain their reception, which varies between cultures. Prof. Lackner is leading the interdisciplinary research group together with Prof. Dr. Dominik M. Müller, Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology, und Prof. Dr. Andreas Nehring, Chair of Religious Studies and Theology of Christian Mission.