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Santander Winter School 2015 in Kyoto

Apr 22, 2015

Young researchers from Asia, Latin America and Europe gathered at Kyoto University from 9 to 18 March to attend Heidelberg University’s Santander International Winter School. Under the theme "What Is Caesar’s, What Is God’s? A Transcultural Perspective on the Legitimation of the Political and Religious Spheres", they discussed the relationship between the church and the state. The event was organised by Hans Martin Krämer (MC7 "Political Legitimation"), Orion Klautau (formerly MC7, now Tohoku University, Japan), and Tanigawa Yutaka (Kyoto University). Hans Martin Krämer reports on the Winter School.

The participants at the Winter School in front of Kyoto University's clock tower.

What is Caesar's, What is God's?

A Transcultural Perspective on the Legitimation of the Political and Religious Spheres

On March 11, 2015, on the sidelines of a meeting of the National People’s Congress, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party condemned Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, for hinting that he may choose not to be reincarnated. "Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China", a CCP official claimed according to the New York Times. Just two days later, on March 13, the German Supreme Court ruled that banning teachers from wearing headscarves in schools was unconstitutional. Reversing an earlier decision reached in 2003, the Court now found that such a ban would violate religious freedom and unfairly put a specific religion at a disadvantage.

Both events have in common that they show how secular modern nation states struggle with their avowed religious neutrality. In other words: The relationship between state and religion is anything but stable or fixed even in contemporary states that emphasize their secularist outlook. It was this observation that informed the Santander Winter School organized by Heidelberg University and conducted at Kyoto University precisely at the time the aforementioned events unfolded. From March 9 to 18, 2015, 19 doctoral students and twelve teachers gathered at the Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University, for an intensive program devoted to the theme "What Is Caesar’s, What Is God’s? A Transcultural Perspective on the Legitimation of the Political and Religious Spheres". Organized by Hans Martin Krämer (MC7 and HCTS), Orion Klautau (formerly MC7, now Tohoku University, Japan), and Tanigawa Yutaka (Kyoto University), as well as Heidelberg University's International Relations Office, the goal of the Winter School was to demonstrate the historical contingency of current formations of the secular and subject Eurocentric conceptions of state-church relationships to a critique informed by non-European and colonial experiences.

The program focused on cases from Europe, Asia, and Latin America and included perspectives from History, Religious Studies, and Anthropology.

Keynote lecturer Hartmut Lehmann

The Winter School was framed by two public keynote lectures (see titles below), which introduced theoretical perspectives on secularization by drawing on the example of modern China (Duara) and a public history spotlight on how religious history can be commemorated in the contemporary secularized era (Lehmann).

Prasenjit Duara (National University of Singapore): "How Relevant is the Concept of Secularism to Asia? Historical and Comparative Perspectives".
Hartmut Lehmann (Universität zu Kiel, Germany): "The Quincentennial Celebration of the Reformation in an Age of Secularization and Religious Pluralism".

The rest of the Winter School was conducted not as lectures, but in interactive workshop units. These threw lights on various aspects of the overarching issue of state–religion relations (see program below). One workshop (5: Lehmann) was devoted to the historical origin of modern narratives of secularization in the European reformation. Two were devoted to the major means of transmission of European ideas of state–church relations to the non-European world, namely missions (6: Krämer & da Silva) and migration (3: Rocha). Three workshops pursued the trajectory of these ideas within Europe (8: Date & Le Grand Ticchi) and Asia (4: Duara & Schicketanz; 7: Hoshino & Josephson). Education was singled out as the most important site of negotiation of modern secularism (2: Hayashi & Le Grand Ticchi), while the first (1: Josephson) and last (9: De Roover) workshop focused on methodological and theoretical considerations, stressing especially the importance of how we conceptually frame our investigations into the realm of the religious and the political.

Workshop Overview

Workshop 1: Jason Ānanda Josephson (Williams College, USA): "Religion as Discourse".

Workshop 2: Hayashi Makoto (Aichi Gakuin Daigaku, Japan) & Sylvie Le Grand Ticchi (Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, France): "Religion and Education in modern Secular Societies".

Workshop 3: Cristina Rocha (University of Western Sydney, Australia): "Migration and Religious Institutions".

Workshop 4: Prasenjit Duara (National University of Singapore) & Erik Schicketanz (Tōkyō Daigaku, Japan): "Religion and Nationalism in Modern China".

Workshop 5: Hartmut Lehmann (Universität zu Kiel, Germany): "State and Religion in Reformation-Era Germany".

Workshop 6: Hans Martin Krämer (Universität Heidelberg, Gemany) & Eliane Moura da Silva (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil): "Christian Missions in Latin America and Asia".

Workshop 7: Hoshino Seiji (Kokugakuin Daigaku, Japan) & Jason Ānanda Josephson (Williams College, USA): "The Invention of 'Religion' in Modern Japan".

Workshop 8: Date Kiyonobu (Jōchi Daigaku, Japan) & Sylvie Le Grand Ticchi (Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, France): "Laicité in Late-19c France".

Workshop 9: Jakob De Roover (Universiteit Gent, Belgium): "The Religious Shapes of Secular Politics: From Europe to India".

Workshop led by Cristina Rocha (Sydney)

Participants at the Winter School

The doctoral students came from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds and with diverse topics, but all of them could relate closely to the overarching theme of the Winter School, as became evident not only in discussions during the workshop units, but also when they presented their own research over the last one and a half days of the School (see list below).

  • Christiane Banse (Universität Heidelberg, Germany): "Buddhist Charity Work in Japan – Establishment, Development and Reflection in Modern Japan in a Transcultural Perspective".
  • Antonio Genivaldo Cordeiro de Oliveira (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil): "Resistance in times of submission: the development of a local Church identity in Japan".
  • Vinicius do Valle (University of São Paulo, Brazil): "Religion and Politics – case study in a religious community in 2014 elections".
  • Bivitha Easo (University of Hyderabad, India): "Understanding Caste-Community Formation: A Study of Syrian Christians in Kerala".
  • Giulia Falato (Sapienza – Università di Roma, Italy): "Introduction of Western Pedagogy in late Ming China, through Alfonso Vagnoni’s work Child Education (童幼教育 Tongyou Jiaoyu)".
  • Tathagato Ganguly (University of Hyderabad, India): "Debates on Indegeneity and Indigenous Peoples: A Sociological Review".
  • Ulrich Harlass (Universität Heidelberg, Germany): "Western Esotericism and Indian Nation – Alfred Percy Sinnett".
  • Huang Yanjie (National University of Singapore): "The Sun-Yatsen Mausoleum and Transformation of Sacrifice in Modern China, 1895–1930".
  • Karim Javan (University of London, United Kingdom): "Resurrection and the End of Sharia in Ismaili History of Alamut".
  • Katō Masato (University of London, United Kingdom): "Japanese new religions’ cultural negotiation in overseas contexts".
  • Cila Lima (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil): "Islamic Feminism: discursive mediations and practical limits".
  • Ambili Anna Markose (University of Hyderabad, India): "Christianity and Popular Culture in Kerala".
  • Sayantan Mondal (University of Hyderabad, India): "Comparative Study of Colonial Governmentality and Public Sphere".
  • Stanislau Paulau (Universität Göttingen, Germany): "Creating and Transcending Borders: Constructions of Otherness in the Encounter between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the German Lutheran Hermannsburg Mission in the Ethiopian Empire (1927–1959)".
  • Barbara Silva (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile): "National identities, imaginaries and representations around the 'Chilean Popular Front'"
  • Pavlo Smytsnyuk (University of Oxford, United Kingdom): "Religion and Nation. A Comparative Study of Aurobindo and Yannaras".
  • Tay Wei-Leong (University of Oxford, United Kingdom): "Sacralizing the Nation: Confucian Religion and Nationalism in Republican China".
  • Catherine Tomas (University of Oxford, United Kingdom): "The Liberating Mystic: a re-conception of mysticism that prioritizes political action".
  • Anna Zschauer (Universität Heidelberg, Germany): "Japaneseness Identified as Aesthetics".
Doctoral students debating during a workshop unit

Issues in Focus

Prasenjit Duara's keynote address

Discussions during the Winter School centered around three issues that were seen by many to be crucial both to the overarching theme and their individual research papers. One was a point already raised by Prasenjit Duara in his opening keynote lecture, namely the attention we have to give to what he called "circular histories". The same point was stressed in the title of the Winter School where we spoke of a "transcultural perspective". That is to say, it became clear in many case studies and examples throughout the Winter School how supposedly "Western" or "Asian" ideas were already informed by having learned from the other. This is a process predating the era of high colonialism in the nineteenth century, although processes of exchange were most obviously identified for this period. The second issue was the focus on concepts. It was illuminating for many participants how their research becomes much clearer once we distinguish between concepts on the meta level (our concepts, or etic terms) and those on the object level (concepts in our material, or emic terms). Equally, the realization that "religion", and all its opposite and corollary terms, is not a transparent term but has its own history proved to be an eye-opener. This latter point was stressed throughout the Winter School, starting from the first workshop by Jason Josephson and reaching to the last one by Jakob de Roover; it was also prominently referred to in the student presentations.

Lastly, the question of the neutrality of the modern secular state was raised by Prasenjit Duara and Erik Schicketanz in their workshop on modern China and came up repeatedly in reference to several Latin American states, to modern Germany, and to modern India. The People's Republic of China is remarkable for placing a positive truth claim at the heart of the nation state, something that is anathema to liberal democratic political theory. Yet, the question is whether this is also the case in practice. Almost all examples raised during the Winter School showed that this question must be answered in the negative, be it in the Catholic, but nominally secular nations of Latin America, Western Europe, the United States, or Japan. Indeed, this point was well demonstrated by the current events referred to in the beginning, which made abundantly clear how supposedly secular states are still struggling with their claims to religious neutrality even today, thus immediately demonstrating the relevance of the Winter School to urgent contemporary political issues.

Participants at the farewell dinner.

Additional information

About the Winter School

"What Is Caesar's, What Is God's? A Transcultural Perspective on the Legitimation of the Political and Religious Spheres" was the title of the Santander Winter School taking place from March 9 to 18, 2015. It was organised by Heidelberg University and conducted at the Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University. 19 doctoral students and twelve teachers participated.

About the organisers

Hans Martin Krämer is Professor at the Institute for Japanology in Heidelberg. He is also coordinator of research group MC7 "Political Legitimation".

Orion Klautau is Associate Professor at Tohoku University, Japan. Formerly, he was member of research group MC7.

Tanigawa Yutaka is Professor for Japanese history at Kyoto University.

About the authors

This report was written by Hans Martin Krämer.

The pictures in this report were taken by Takao Ōmori.




  • Students present their research at the Winter School.