In my research I variously combine social-scientific, historical, and textual approaches to the study of religions past and present. Generally, I am interested in exploring the doctrinal dimension of religious phenomena both at the canonical and practitioner’s level, as well as the historical transplantation and (glocalising) formation of religious movements/traditions. Three areas of research currently capture my attention:

Millenarianism and East Asian New Religious Movements

This research is situated at the intersection of East Asian Studies and Religious Studies, and Millenarian Studies and New Religions Studies, respectively. In recent years, an increasing amount of scholarship has been produced around the junction of Millenarian Studies and New Religions Studies. Whereas the significance of millenarianism—that is, the belief in an all-embracing salvational transformation of the current world order—in East Asian new religious movements (NRMs) is broadly recognised by scholars, a substantial treatment of the subject has been, as yet, largely avoided. My research aims to fill this lacuna, providing the first comprehensive (comparative) analysis of the millenarian trajectories of a number of major East Asian NRMs based on copious and close hermeneutical examinations of original sources in Japanese, Korean, Modern and Classical Chinese, and Vietnamese. I argue that this millenarian dimension forms the doctrinal leitmotif and root ideological cause sanctioning and facilitating the versatile mundane (that is, social, political, and economic) engagement of East Asian NRMs. Based on a specific definition of millenarianism (inspired by the scholarship of Norman Cohn/Yonina Talmon-Garber and Catherine Wessinger), the movements under scrutiny are first assessed individually, delineating in detail the dominating millenarian narratives, which are usually blended with conspicuously ethnocentric topoi. The discussion also reveals the distinct soteriological discourse, which is largely fed by functional patterns adopted from the surrounding religious-doctrinal environment. Based on a sufficient number of individual case studies, I intend to eventually comparatively classify the millenarian themes of East Asian NRMs along the theoretical lines developed by Wessinger et al. ('catastrophic millenarianism,' 'avertive millenarianism,' and 'progressive millenarianism') with the aim of creating a more refined scheme by adding functional subcategories. Ultimately, the research is anticipated to offer an initial thorough, philologically sound comparative analysis of the millenarian anatomy of East Asian NRMs, linking the results to, and thereby substantially advancing the vibrant theoretical discourse in current Millenarian Studies. As such, this research will contribute substantially to a solid understanding of East Asian NRMs, many of which have spread overseas, considering their main motivational urges as well as their domestic and global mission and aims. Several papers and a monograph are in progress. As for the wider area of New Religions Studies, my co-edited (with Franz Winter) Handbook of East Asian New Religions Movements has been published in early 2018 with Brill.

Life, Aging, Death, and the Supernatural in Neo-Confucianism

In this research I explore an area that has hitherto received only little attention by scholars of Confucian Studies, namely neo-Confucian views towards life, aging, death, and the supernatural, as well as the ensuing implications for a Confucian spirituality. In a first step, my research focuses on the oeuvre of a seminal figure of Korean neo-Confucian thought, that is, Yi I (Yulgok; 1536–1584). The teachings of Yulgok (yulgokhak 栗谷學) are representative for Chéng-Zhū Confucianism fully unfolded and at the zenith of its systematic development. I pursue the research in two stages. First, I focus on the production of a critical edition, translation, and annotation of individual hanmun texts relevant to the subject. Subsequently, I intend to systematically examine selected issues drawing upon the full array of texts previously studied. In a second step, the research will extend to other exponents of neo-Confucian thought, significantly widening the materials and worldviews under scrutiny. The annotated translations will be extensively introduced, and parallel corpora will be used. The discourse rendered accessible by the research allows for further comparative reflections and opens up practical implications (e.g., Confucian-based healthcare). The pertinent neo-Confucian line of argument ordinarily develops while contesting concepts and practices of traditions competing in the religious realm, involving Daoism, Buddhism, and folk traditions such as musok. Accordingly, expounding on the neo-Confucian understanding of life, aging, death, and the supernatural, not only explicates this intriguing and scarcely known part of neo-Confucian self-identity, but also sheds light on the emic perception and criticism towards the surrounding 'heterodox' religious milieu, and thus gives a portrayal, albeit an apologist one, of the doctrinal and ritual environment beyond self-defined orthodoxy. I currently work on several annotated translations, including Yulgok’s Suyo ch'aek 壽夭策 (Treatise on Longevity and Premature Death), Sasaeng kwisin ch'aek 死生鬼神策 (Treatise on Death and Life, Ghosts and Spirits), Sinsŏn ch'aek 神仙策 (Treatise on 'Immortals'), and Ŭiyak ch'aek 醫藥策 (Treatise on Medicine).

Asian Diasporic, Alternative, and New Religion in Central Europe and Austria

Born and bred in Vienna, I am naturally fascinated by the growing diversity of Austria’s religious panorama. This research draws on a variety of social-scientific (qualitative interviews et al.) and historical methods, investigating one substantial aspect of the vibrant Austrian religious landscape, that is, Asian diasporic, ‘alternative,’ and new religion. Examining both the historical formation processes and the contemporary situation of selected groups/traditions, I contribute to mapping the largely uncharted domain of religion in Austria, both past and present. While assessing the historical development, this research also traces Austrian missionary mobilities into the neighbouring Central European countries. A survey of the historical dimension likewise includes a study of glocalisation processes in terms of ritual and doctrine, but also how they manifest contemporarily. Additionally, each country-specific case study is commonly anchored in a succinct preceding discussion of the group’s general history and main doctrinal tenets. Naturally, I take a Religious Studies approach towards the movements encountered, seeking to establish a trusting working collaboration where the researcher and the informants are on a par. This research is descriptive, recognises the significance of and does not pass any value judgement on the teachings and groups studied. My papers in this field are chiefly published in Religion in Austria, a Religious Studies book series I launched in 2012 together with Hans Gerald Hödl to create an international dissemination platform of respective scholarship. In my past research I dealt extensively with the Inayati Order, Kōfuku no Kagaku 幸福の科学 (Happy Science), Sōka Gakkai 創価学会, the Vienna Korean Church (Pienna Hanin Kyohoe 비엔나한인교회), and, especially, the Unification Movement. Currently, I prepare papers on FIGU (Freie Interessengemeinschaft für Grenz- und Geisteswissenschaften und Ufologiestudien), Naikan 内観, Nipponzan Myōhōji 日本山妙法寺 (with Isabelle Prochaska-Meyer), Share International, Śrī Śrī Rādhā Govinda Gauďiyā Maṭh (with Hans Gerald Hödl and Birgit Heller), Wŏnhwado 원화도, and the Unification Movement.