Lichtenberg-Kolleg - The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study

Human Rights, Constitutional Politics and Religious Diversity

Research Focus 2017-2019


This thematic research group at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg was established in 2015 to strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation on the role of human rights and modern constitutionalism for regulating religious diversity in contemporary societies. It brings together sociologists, political scientists, legal scholars and experts in modern Islam who are working on fundamental rights, their global diffusion and their complex relationship with religious traditions. The research theme, while responding to pressing political questions in many parts of the world, bears on foundational questions addressed by all participating disciplines and helps foster collaboration in the areas of socio-legal and religious studies on Göttingen Campus.
Göttingen based scholars cooperate with junior researchers and senior visiting fellows in the following three thematic areas. (a) Secularism and constitutional reforms. Comparative research in this area focuses on explaining the politics of constitutional reform in selected European, Middle Eastern and South Asian states, focusing on secular-religious cleavages and status negotiations between religious majorities and minorities. (b) Claiming religious rights in courts. Comparative research in this area focuses on core judicial institutions, notably international human rights courts and constitutional courts, and their emerging case-law responding to claims for recognizing individual and collective religious rights. (c) Transnational religious movements and legal transformations. Research in this area scrutinizes historical and contemporary examples of transnational religious movements which mobilize to change both international and national legal regimes through political lobbying, constitutional agenda-setting or strategic litigation. Together, these three areas of research which all adopt a thoroughly transregional and transcultural perspective help understand how contemporary governance of religious diversity unfolds at the intersection of human rights, constitutional law and historically entrenched relations of state, nationhood and religion.
In the first period of this research group (2015-17), research compared legal pluralism in family law and religious freedom in Europe and in the MENA region. In the second period, research will broaden the scope of comparisons and highlight transregional and global dynamics of regulating religious diversity.

Early career fellows


  • Defne Över (Sociology)
    Research Project: Contested Secularism: Religion, Politics and Public Expression in Turkey
  • Nahed Samour (Law)
    Research Project: Freedom Rights as a Danger to the Legal Order?
  • Madeleine Elfenbein (History) University of Chicago
    Research Project: The Assembly Hall of the World: Ottomanism in the Birth of the Global Era


Mid-Career and Senior Fellows


  • Aishwary Kumar (Intellectual History) Stanford University, June to December 2017


Participating scholars at the Göttingen Campus



Collaborating research initiatives on Göttingen Campus: