The DFG Research Unit 1765

The Research Unit, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and located partly in Göttingen and partly in Munich, initiated its research on the ethical role of Protestantism in the Federal Republic of Germany in June 2013. Amongst others, the group examines the public disputes on rearmament, economic system and welfare state, conceptions of marriage and family or ecology and peace in West Germany between 1949 and 1989. Which influence did Protestantism exert in these controversies? Which backlash can be noticed with regard to the form and the self-concept of West German Protestantism itself?

The work of the group fills an academic void concerning a comprehensive analysis of Protestantism in the ethical debates of the West German Federal Republic. Exceeding the existing studies on rather isolated topics, the group demands to survey and map the complex entanglement of Protestantism and society in post-war West Germany. In order to unveil such involvements, the Research Unit studies publicly settled ethical debates in their context of historical, political, legal and economic issues. Therefore the Research Unit involves scholars of Protestant theology, political science, law and contemporary history, and intends to promote the interdisciplinary exchange between theology and the humanities. The group of scholars strives to contribute to a socio-politically informed history of religion in the Federal Republic of Germany. Therefore the concept of Protestantism is programmatically conceived on a big scale. The Research Unit does not only focus on the Protestant church but also considers a broad variety of collective and individual Protestant protagonists such as Protestant Academies and individual protestants in their respective political offices as well as their involvement in particular debates. In this line of thinking a major focus of the research work is to illuminate the fundamental transformation of the Protestant Christianity in the modern age. Nonetheless the socio-political impact of Protestantism in West Germany is portrayed with a view to continuities and discontinuities in the period after the German reunification in 1989.

The group presented the first results of its specific research projects in a number of publications and in high-profile research journals. On this occasion the well-respected German academic publisher Mohr Siebeck launched a new series named Religion in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. The first volume of this series Teilnehmende Zeitgenossenschaft offered an interdisciplinary outlook on the first results of the research group concerning West German Protestantism and its involvement in selected ethical controversies [Christian Albrecht und Reiner Anselm (eds.): Teilnehmende Zeitgenossenschaft. Studien zum Protestantismus in den ethischen Debatten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1949-1989 (Religion in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2015.] Over the next years further detailed and intensive studies deriving from the work of the individual projects within the Research Unit will continue the series.

The first phase of the Research Unit will be complete in Summer 2016. A second phase has already been granted by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and will continue the work for an additional three-year period beginning Autumn 2016. While the organisational and theoretical framework will remain mainly the same implementing only a few minor adjustments which developed from the insights and experiences of the first stage, the particular research projects within this framework will focus on new debates. In general, the Research Unit will also shift its chronological focus from the 1950s and 1960s to the later centuries of the Cold War era in West Germany.