Supervision

 

Majour Areas of Supervision

Aesthetics of Religion
Hans Gerald Hödl

A field of research that was invented by Hubert Cancik and Hubert Mohr. Religion as a system of symbols that contributes to the cultural formation of the human body, but also very simply the material dimension of religion. Open for hip/sexy research questions such as religion in/and movies, the movie as religion, religion in arts, literature, comics and media.

African Religions
Hans Gerald Hödl

The African continent has given rise to a range of diverse cultures that are either classified according to large linguistic families or according to geographical location. In addition to the so-called "traditional" religions that originated on the continent (and which are subject to constant change as all religious traditions are), we find in this vast cultural sphere various forms of Christianity and Islam as well as new religious movements that emerged by means of cultural contact. Primarily African forms of Christianity have spread to so-called "Western" countries through migration movements. The study of the religious plurality of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa and its history is an important matter of concern to me.

Afro-American Religions
Hans Gerald Hödl

Religions that developed as a result of the transatlantic slave trade among the descendants of the African slaves: in Latin America, those religions where an African cultural matrix was influenced inter alia by Catholic and spiritistic elements; in colonial North America and in the pre-Civil War United States, primarily specific forms of Christianity; and in today’s USA, for instance, apart from Christian denominations characterized by "African" spirituality, religious political movements that advocate a millenarian worldview or a "Back-to-Africa" objective (i.e. the Nation of Islam, the Black Hebrews or the Rastafaris which originated in Jamaica). Nowadays, Latin American religions of African influence that transformed or adapted African religious traditions under the conditions of slavery are spread wide beyond their area of origin (above all Cuba, Haiti and Brazil). A broad research field that is fertile for questions regarding cultural transformation processes and the influence of these traditions on other cultural areas (such as Blues, Jazz, Samba, Hip Hop, Zombie movies, literature, etc.).


Ancient Religions
Nickolas Roubekas

Supervision is offered in several ancient traditions, including but not restricted to Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Roman religions. Prospective postgraduate students and Ph.D. candidates interested in ritual, beliefs, myths, and other aspects of ancient cultures in relation to religious practices and institutions are welcome to contact me. I am particularly interested in projects that question/challenge the basic constitutive element of this subfield, i.e., 'religions': What is meant by the term? Is it applicable to pre-monotheistic traditions? How can we productively use the term? Is there one or more sound methodological and theoretical approaches that can scientifically account for these ancient bodies of ‘religious’ ideas and practices?

Asian Diasporic, Alternative, and New Religion in the West
Lukas Pokorny

This is a regional extension to Western societies in general of the supervision area further below (i.e., Religion in Austria) but here limited to Asian diasporic, alternative, and new religion. Supervision can be offered to research pertaining to the (glocalised) development and contemporary manifestation of these forms of religious currents/institutions with a particular focus on the situation in Europe. The research may draw on a variety of methodologies and choose from the full range of approaches employed in Religious Studies. Comparative studies are especially welcome.

Christianity
Hans Gerald Hödl

A broad field. Here I am especially interested in research on new, contemporary forms of Christianity (smaller religious communities that are often depreciated as "sects" by mainstream churches). Case studies (by using qualitative research methods), but also research on historical themes (here again preferably on the "haeretici").

Comparative Religion
Hans Gerald Hödl

Categories that are applied in comparing religions. In accordance with my teaching and research activities, I am open for empirical and historical research projects on myth, ritual and sacrifice, in particular on the theory of these notions, but also for comparative in-depth studies (e.g. "eating as a ritual").

Dying, Death, Mourning and Conceptions of the Afterlife
Birgit Heller

Since time immemorial, the interpretation and integration of death has been a central task of religions within the framework of a particular culture. In this context, various mythical images of death, diverse theoretical approaches and practical ways of coping with death have evolved. Death proves to be in need of explanation almost everywhere and hardly ever is death seen as a natural phenomenon. Moreover, death is generally not considered to be the end of life, but a transition into another form of existence associated with a wide range of the most diverse conceptions of the afterlife. Mourning rituals are commonly interpreted as rites of passage in connection with a death ritual. The rules for the appropriate mourning behaviour, but also the mourning experience (i.e. the emotional level) are religio-culturally defined and vary considerably. I find the developments and transformations in modern societies particularly interesting, such as the changes in the funeral culture or the ways that beliefs in the afterlife take shape (i.e. belief in reincarnation, the widespread interest in near-death experiences, etc.). Therefore, projects that focus on these aspects of contemporary religious culture are most welcome

Early Christianity
Nickolas Roubekas

Although an admittedly vast area, I am primarily interested in topics that address issues of a broader theoretical interest, such as: how was Christianity 'invented'? How did early Christians form a new identity? How innovative was Christianity? What kind of argumentations were put forward by the early Christian authors? Students interested in the so-called Christian apologists (e.g., Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyon) and their writings in conjunction with the aforementioned questions are most welcome to contact me.


East Asian Religions
Lukas Pokorny

Whereas my main research interests lie in Confucianism with a focus on Korean Neo-Confucianism (specifically yulgokhak) and the issues of life and death and the supernatural, as well as Confucian spirituality, I offer supervision on the full range of East Asian religions past and present. Here East Asia comprises China/Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Mongolia, but I am also intrigued by the manifestation of East Asian religions (especially Confucianism) and the Theravāda in the countries of Southeast Asia. East Asian religions therefore relate to all religious phenomena with a notable historical heritage in the said countries, such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shintō, and the variegated folk religious traditions (e.g., musok, Đạo Mẫu). Text-based as well as ethnographic research is welcome, as are different approaches, be they historical, cultural, or social-scientific.

Esotericism and Occultism
Karl Baier

I am a member of the ESSWE (European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism) for several years. The research topics in this area that I am engaged with, and which I would like to supervise, comprise Rosicrucianism, alchemy, Mesmerism (see above), Theosophy, high degree Freemasonry, right-wing extremist esotericism, and the influence of esotericism in modern art.

Ethics of Religion
Birgit Heller

Within the scope of this broad and relevant subject area, I have thus far primarily discussed medico-ethical questions at the end of life. Medical progress has made human dying a problem of the first magnitude. This has resulted in the demand for the right to a natural death which calls for assisted dying contrary to the possibilities offered by medical technology. Initially, it was mainly Christianity and Judaism that participated in the current ethical discourse on euthanasia. One reason for this is that development standards in medicine and technology are subject to global variations. In the meantime, the shaping of opinion has got under way in the religions all over the world. Within the context of my research, the term euthanasia is not restricted to the narrow medical use for active assisted dying, but refers to the fundamental question of the religious bases and conditions for dying well. Particularly relevant is the question of a medically assisted fasting to death that has its roots inter alia in Asian religious traditions. The debates on brain death and the removal of organs also have social relevance and are characterized by various religious positions. I am open to the supervision of projects that refer to this context. Another topic that lies close to my heart is the significance and handling of animals in the diverse religious traditions. I find it very interesting that in recent years, behavioural biologists (such as the primatologist Frans de Waal or the wolf researcher Kurt Kotrschal) increasingly comment on the biological foundations of ethics and religion. I gladly supervise research projects that work on historical or comparative aspects of the two areas mentioned above.

Football
Hans Gerald Hödl

By this I mean football played with the feet, not the hands. All themes that somehow ask the question regarding the religious significance of areas of our everyday culture – classically: is football a religion? In other words, all themes that are concerned with the definition of religion and/or the application of the notion of religion as a category for areas that would not be denoted as religious according to one’s natural preunderstanding.

Mesmerism
Karl Baier

Mesmerism, an alternative healing method founded in Vienna by the physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815), has decisively influenced alternative medicine, romantic philosophy, the emergence of psychotherapy, as well as new religious currents, i.e. Spiritism, Theosophy, and New Thought. I have dealt intensively with the exploration of Mesmerism’s history for several years and I am interested in supporting potential postgraduate students in this field by supervising master theses and Ph.D. dissertations.

Millenarianism
Lukas Pokorny

I have a long-standing interest in the millenarian dimension of new religious movements from a doctrinal point of view. Millenarianism is defined here as a belief focussing upon an all-embracing salvational transformation of the current world order. At present, I am particularly focused on exploring the distinctive ethnocentric and soteriological elements of the broad spectrum of millenarian expression of East Asian new religious movements. Another prime question of my research is how millenarian thinking sanctions and facilitates the versatile mundane (i.e., social, political, and economic) engagement of these groups. Supervision is offered on the above but also the wider field of millenarian studies, including historical and anthropological research beyond the context of (East Asian) new religious, and the nexus between catastrophic millenarianism and violence.

Modern Hindu Movements
Birgit Heller

Since I have intensively studied two modern Hindu movements, namely the Rāmakṛṣṇa-movement and the Viśva Dharma-movement, I am open to projects aimed at discussing movements of this kind in India or Europe.

Modern Yoga Research
Karl Baier

Nowadays, yoga is a booming branch of the wellness economy and shapes the life of many contemporaries who are enthusiastic about both the various exercises known under this name and the culture related to these. The study of the history of modern yoga, which has been taking shape from the end of the nineteenth century onwards, is still young and has achieved significant results in the past 25 years. Projects in this field are most welcome.

Mormonism
Hans Gerald Hödl

A religion that originated in the USA. The typology of religions is not sure whether Mormonism is to be subsumed under "Christianity" or "new religious movements" (see below). The largest (with its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah) of those churches that trace back to Joseph Smith is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The large number of literature on this church stems from within, in part more or less critically from without, and in part critically from within. An abundance of possible research questions, I am especially interested in the themes conversion, mission, Mormon dissenters, the history of the church in Austria, but also open for other historical themes and qualitative social research related to this field.

Myth, Heroes, and Religion
Nickolas Roubekas

Myth is a contested term, already from its ancient conception and utilisation. However, the term is very much alive nowadays in almost every cultural setting, primarily as a 'false,' 'erroneous,' or 'pseudo-historical' account of anything. Moreover, ancient and modern ideas of 'heroes' (from Achilles to Superman) utilise the notion of myth to justify—or, better, persuade—their audience about the 'truth' of the accompanying narratives. More often than not, such stories have a religious aspect that cannot go unnoticed. Supervision is offered in any of the aforementioned areas, including to suggested topics that fall within the broader rubric of 'myth' and 'heroes'—without excluding suggestions on topics that touch upon the issue of 'what is a myth?' and theories of myth explanation.

New Religious Movements
Hans Gerald Hödl

Actually a strange term. At some point, every religion was "new" and not more than a "movement," such as the "Judean People's Front" (not to be confused with the People's Front of Judea). An insult (aka "sect"), before the European continent so nicely divided up by confession became acquainted with religious diversification. In any case, I am very interested in studies on the religious groups so titled in the relevant literature that are carried out by using historical or qualitative methods. If you find it difficult to take serious these groups as they appear "bizarre" in your first impression, or if you want to prove that these groups are harmful to the common good, then you are knocking at the wrong door here.


New Religious Movements
Lukas Pokorny

A large part of my work concerns the study of East Asian new religious movements with an emphasis on three areas, namely millenarianism and ethnocentrism in East Asian groups; glocalised articulations in the West (especially in Europe and Austria); and the Unification Movement. New religious movements are understood here as religious institutions (also including esoteric and alternative-religious currents) that have developed in the past two centuries or so. I am happy to offer research supervision on all aspects of new religiosity from all perspectives using different methodologies. In this respect, the Religious Studies department hosts a growing library collection of primary materials connected to a number of new religious movements, with the aim to especially support research students in this area.

Practical Religious Studies: Interreligious or Spiritual Dimensions of Palliative Care or Spiritual Care
Birgit Heller

Palliative Care administers to the physical-mental-social-spiritual dimensions of critically ill or dying patients and their affected relatives. In multi-religious modern Western societies, the Christian hospital chaplaincy has lost its formerly undisputed position. However, in the hospice movement and in Palliative Care, Christian spirituality still has great significance, not least because the hospice idea itself is strongly influenced by Christian values. Nowadays, Buddhist traditions play an important role in Western societies as in many cases they seem to form a bridge between the levels of a non-denominational and an individual spirituality. Apart from terminal care in the institutionalized religious traditions, numerous forms of spiritual care for the dying have emerged which are located outside of organized religions. The dimensions of spiritual care and support for the dead constitute a special aspect which has received little attention so far. Many facets of this care for the dead are anchored within the religious traditions, but it also plays a role in modern secular societies. Spiritual Care is a modern phenomenon that is not only relevant in palliative care, but in the healthcare sector in general. The term is applied to confessional Christian pastoral care in its modern (often inter-religiously renewed) appearance, to the traditional support on the part of various religions (such as Islam, Judaism, etc.), but also to spiritual support beyond the established traditions. I gained broad expertise in this field as I have taught in an interdisciplinary university course on Palliative Care for 15 years where I learnt a lot myself from various professors, and I have been active in training and advanced training up to the present day. Research projects that focus on a question from this subject area are welcome.

Psychedelia
Karl Baier

Psychedelia is a form of contemporary culture, based on the use of psychoactive substances, that aims at changing religion and society. The movement arose in the middle of the twentieth century and reached a first climax in the 1960s and early 1970s. Starting from the 1990s onwards, there is a "psychedelic revival" that continues up to the present day. The influence of this current of modern religion has been underestimated until today and more research is needed on the subject.

Religion and Politics: Deification
Nickolas Roubekas

The connection of religion and politics is uncontested nowadays in the study of both ancient and modern cultures. The underlying concept that strongly links the two concepts is no other than 'power' (e.g., the work of Foucault). Explicit examples of demonstrating how religion, politics, and power are interconnected can be found in numerous cases of human deification—primarily of potentates, state leaders, and kings. Students and researchers interested in discussing how deification functions within either ancient or modern milieus (even more so in a comparative mode), such as ancient Egypt, Hellenistic kingdoms, Roman Empire, Mesoamerican civilisations, including of course cases such as the medieval French kings, Japanese Emperors, and others. Of particular interest are topics that employ a historical-comparative method that seeks to demonstrate the ways deification operates and whether it is successful or not.

Religion as No-Religion: Post- and Parareligious Culture
Karl Baier

This area of interest covers a number of religious trends and "parareligious" phenomena that reject the label "religion," or are not classified with this cultural denominator in the public perception: humanistic and transpersonal psychology; spiritual practices, such as yoga, qìgōng, and MBSR; meditation courses in wellness hotels; self-help books; blends of tea that are meant to activate certain chakras; neo-shamanic healing rituals and sweat lodges; astrology; mental healing, etc.

Religion in Austria
Lukas Pokorny

Much of my more recent research is committed to map the largely uncharted domain of religious pluralism in Austria past and present. I am passionate about a wide range of subjects connected to this topic but have assigned special attention over the years to Asian diasporic and new religions. My research usually combines examining the movements (micro-)historically and social-scientifically, utilising a broad methodological arsenal ranging from archival to varied qualitative research. Together with Hans Gerald Hödl, I established the book series "Religion in Austria" (RiA) in 2012 as a venue to disseminate pioneering related scholarship both domestically and to an international readership. I would be delighted to take over supervision of research projects dealing historically and/or social-scientifically with any aspects within the wider field of religion in Austria past and present. Suitable research may also involve comparative, transregional, or Austrian diasporic studies. The most distinguished graduates in this area will be solicited to submit their research results to RiA.

Religions and Sex/Gender
Birgit Heller

Sex/Gender and religion are interrelated in various ways. On the one hand, the religious traditions, views, symbols and practices are not gender-neutral, but characterized gender-specifically. Furthermore, the gender roles, images, stereotypes, ideals and self-conception of women and men (and other genders) within the framework of a specific culture are in constant correlation with its respective religious-philosophical heritage. Today’s most influential religions are predominantly shaped by heterosexual normativity. On the other hand, the traditional research and presentation of religions itself is predominantly marked by a one-sided androcentric perspective. The complex of religions and sex/gender encompasses a broad range of themes and questions. Since more than 25 years I have been focussing on the most varied aspects of this vast research field. Depending on the topics, different approaches may be applied: religio-historical analyses of individual aspects (such as the connection between conceptions of (im-)purity and gender in specific religious traditions); comparative-systematic studies (e. g. the meaning of gender-specific body symbolism in fundamentalist movements) or qualitative social research (e. g. gender differences in one segment of contemporary religious culture). I gladly accept the supervision of thesis projects located in this research area.

Religions of Indigenous Peoples
Hans Gerald Hödl

Again such a strange term. The "indigenous" is nothing other than the native, but somehow it sounds more academic. The term applies to religions that belong to a people. That would, for instance, also include the Greek or the Roman religion. However, in many cases it is not possible to speak about "one" religion, but one has to take into account an agglomeration of various cults (or so). Keywords (selection): Shamanism, Indians, Aborigines, drums and trance.

Selected Themes of Comparative Religious Studies
Birgit Heller

I gladly accept the supervision of various themes of comparative religious studies that I have dealt with more closely (e. g. comparative in-depth studies in the following areas: images of the human being, human dignity, conceptions of creation or animals in the religions).

The Notion of 'God' & Atheism: Ancient/Modern
Nickolas Roubekas

Although a topic that can be easily incorporated to the overall research theme of 'Ancient Religions,' supervision is also offered in more targeted topics on what constitutes a God in both polytheistic and monotheistic cultural settings. Of particular interest, however, are suggestions that take on a comparative approach that seeks to demonstrate both similarities and differences of ancient (e.g., Greek and Egyptian ideas), modern (e.g., Christian and Jewish understanding), or ancient/modern conceptualisations (e.g., Roman and Muslim ideas) of what is—and what is not—a god. Additionally, and in relation to the theistic understanding of 'god(s),' I am interested in topics that are connected with the atheistic stance taken by thinkers (or groups) in both antiquity and modernity. Such views can be combined with the initial topic of 'godhead' and demonstrate how atheism responded/responds to such claims.

Theories of Religion: Ancient, Classic, and Modern
Nickolas Roubekas

Theories of religion are generalisations about the category 'religion.' A theorist of religion claims that s/he can account for the origins, function(s), and specificity of religion wherever and whenever is encountered. At the heart of those theories lies a need for which religion arises and persists—a need that can be of any kind: for material things like shelter and food, to explain the workings of the universe, to account for dreams, to come into contact with our unconscious, for social cohesion, etc. This is a scientific endeavor that can be traced already in antiquity (e.g., Presocratic philosophers), mainly developed in the seventeenth to twentieth century (e.g., Hume, Durkheim, Freud, Tylor), and is still very much active, primarily via the new subfield of the Cognitive Study of Religion (CSR) (e.g., Guthrie, Boyer). Supervision is offered in any of the traditional theories of religion, although of particular interest are scholars who have promoted theories of religion that stem from fields outside Religious Studies, like literature, fiction, economics, political science, psychology, etc.