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Religionsethnologie: Religious Diversity in Transnational Context

(Hansjörg Dilger)


This site provides an overview of the various research activities that I have initiated and supervised in the field of “religious diversity in transnational context” at FU Berlin. Much of my current research is oriented towards the exploration of religious diversity in Eastern African cities (see below), but I am equally interested in the way religious practice and organization have been affected and transformed by processes of globalization in rural and urban places in other parts of Africa and beyond. The main focus of my ongoing work on religion is on “new” Muslim and Christian organizations, but I am also concerned with the reconfiguration of ritual and “traditional” religious practice (including aspects of religious healing) in an interconnected world. In the following, you will find a summary of my current book project as well as information on research collaborations and conferences, ongoing PhD supervision and select publications and conference presentations.




Book project: “Religion, Education and the (Transnational) State: Unequal Histories and Subject Formation in Christian and Muslim Schools in Dar es Salaam 

My current book project on “Religion, Education and the (Transnational) State” has developed from my longstanding research interest in religion, HIV/AIDS and community-building in urban Tanzania (see publications below) and explores how the city of Dar es Salaam has become a site of religious vitality and trans-secular engagement in the wake of economic and political liberalization and transnational development. By drawing on critical approaches to the study of inter-religious relations, development and neoliberal reform processes, the manuscript examines whether and how religious actors’ involvement in the field of higher education have led to a re-positioning of “faith” and “religion” in the context of wider society and politics in Tanzania; and how this re-positioning correlates not only with longstanding histories of religious engagements in the field of education, but also with current global discourses and financial politics which have come to shape the field of “faith-based development” in Eastern Africa. The project considers also how the growing presence of faith-oriented education has been shaped by the increasing politicization of Christian-Muslim relations in the country, as well as by the potentials for social exclusion and conflict in the highly diverse and increasingly stratified (religious) urban landscapes of Eastern Africa. Finally, the project adopts an actor-centered approach and explores how these larger social, economic and political processes have become entrenched in individual and collective biographies; and how students, teachers and families understand and negotiate “faith” and “religion” in the context of newly established religious schools in Dar es Salaam.

Methodologically, the project relies on extended periods of field work in Dar es Salaam (2006-10) which include interviews and conversations with representatives of ministries and development organizations, as well as semi-structured and biographical interviews with students, family members and the staff of Christian and Muslim schools. Extended participant observation was conducted in six faith-oriented schools (Pentecostal, Muslim and Catholic), focusing on the interactions between staff, students, and families and the presence of “faith” and “religion” in the everyday workings of higher education institutions. A detailed mapping of specific organizations’ institutional histories and their entanglements with religious as well as non-religious actors within and outside of Dar es Salaam was undertaken. Finally, the project relies on secondary and archival literature, as well as the analysis of articles in major Kiswahili newspapers and the collection of statistical data and policy documents. Research stays in Dar es Salaam in 2008 and 2009 were partially funded by Freie Universität Berlin, Department for Political and Social Sciences. A previous research trip in 2006 was funded by the University of Florida.


Ongoing PhD supervision (PhD projects funded through the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, except indicated otherwise)


Research collaborations


Selected publications and conference presentations (Hansjörg Dilger, downloads here)

2014 (in print): Claiming Territory: Medical Mission, Interreligious Revivalism, and the Spatialization of Health Interventions in Urban Tanzania. In: Medical Anthropology 33(1), Special Issue "Turning Therapies: Placing Medical Diversity" (ed. by David Parkin, Kristine Krause and Gabi Alex).

2013. H. Dilger, D. Schulz: "Politics of Religious Schooling: Christian and Muslim Engagements with Education in Africa," Introduction to Special Issue of Journal of Religion in Africa 43 (4) (guest editors: D. Schulz, H. Dilger): 365-378.

2013. "Religion and the Formation of “Unequal subjects” in an Urban Educational Market: Transnational Reform Processes and Intertwined Histories of Christian and Muslim Schooling in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania". Journal of Religion in Africa 43 (4): 451-479.

2010. "Religion, Staat und soziale Ungleichheit: Christliche und muslimische Schulen in Dar es Salaam, Tansania." In: Schulz, Dorothea und Jochen Seebode (Hg.): Spiegel und Prisma: Ethnologie zwischen postkolonialer Kritik und Deutung der eigenen Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Ute Luig. Hamburg: Argument Verlag, 217-234.

2010.“Zwischen Health Citizenship und der Hoffnung auf Heilung: Urbane Lebensentwürfe im Kontext neoliberaler Gesundheitsversorgung in Dar es Salaam, Tansania“. In: Dilger, Hansjörg and Bernhard Hadolt (eds.): Medizin im Kontext. Krankheit und Gesundheit in einer vernetzen Welt. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang: 351-370.

2009. “Doing Better? Religion, the Virtue-Ethics of Development and the Fragmentation of Health Politics in Tanzania. In: Africa Today 56 (1): 89-110.

2008. “‘We Are All Going to Die’: Kinship, Belonging and the Morality of HIV/AIDS-Related Illnesses and Deaths in Rural Tanzania.” In: Anthropological Quarterly  81 (1): 207-232.

2007. “Healing the Wounds of Modernity: Community, Salvation and Care in a Neo-Pentecostal Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania”. In: Journal of Religion in Africa 37 (1): 59-83.

2007. “Moral, Politik und Heilung: Zur Transnationalisierung afrikanischer Pfingstkirchen”. In: Historische Anthropologie 15 (1): 132-143.

2004. (B. Obrist, H. Dilger; W. Bruchhausen) "Kranksein, Heilen und Gesundbleiben im Schnittpunkt von Religion und Medizin.” In: Curare 27 (1-2), Special Issue ‘Medizinethnologie im deutschsprachigen Raum ’: 27-39.

2001. "‘Living PositHIVely in Tanzania’. The Global Dynamics of AIDS and the Meaning of Religion for International and Local AIDS Work.” In: afrika spectrum, 36 (1) 2001, Special issue ‘AIDS in Africa. Broadening the Perspectives’: 73-90


Organization of Workshops and Conference Panels

2013. International Summer School "(Re-)Configurations of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Summer School on Islamic Practices, Imaginations, Groups, and Actors in the African Context", organized by doctoral students of the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies & the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies; Academic advisors: Hansjörg Dilger, Rüdiger Seesemann. Berlin: August 12-16, 2013.

2013. Hansjörg Dilger & Malgorzata Rajtar: International Workshop "Religion Inside Medicine: Epistemology, Law, and Everyday Experience and Practice" (Concluding workshop of the Alexander von Humboldt research project "Refusal of Blood Transfusions: Religious Identity and Modern Medical Authority"). FU Berlin, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology: February 15-16, 2013.

2011. Erdmute Alber, Hansjörg Dilger, Amber Gemmeke & Kai Kresse: Workshop "Transforming Social Orders in African Muslim Contexts. (Re)constructions of Identities, Institutions, Movements, Markets", organized by the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS) & the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS). Berlin, BGSMCS: June 9-10, 2011.

2011. Hansjörg Dilger, Dorothea Schulz (Cologne): Panel "The Politics of Religious Schooling: Christian and Muslim Engagements with Education in Africa". 4th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Uppsala: June 15-18, 2011. Panel description


Lectures and Conference Presentations

2013. "Religion and the Formation of “Unequal subjects” in an Urban Educational Market:  Christian and Muslim Schooling in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania". Universität Münster, Institut für Ethnologie: April 24, 2013.

2013. "Between 'Dirty Data' and the Search for Evidence:  Doing Fieldwork on Christian and Muslim Schools in Dar es Salaam". Workshop "Habitats and Habitus: Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World-Making", Zentrum Moderner Orient: January 11-12, 2013.

2011. "No Public? Class Dynamics, the Politics of Extraversion, and the 'Failures' of (Religious) Aids Activism in Urban East Africa". Lecture Series Transnationale Öffentlichkeiten. Formationen von grenzüberschreitenden Kommunikations- und Handlungsräumen, University of Mainz: December 13, 2011.

2011. "'Collateral Religion'? Transnational Reform Processes and the Inequalities of Christian and Muslim Schooling in Urban Tanzania". 4th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Uppsala, 15.-18. Juni 2011.

2011. "Claiming Territory: Medical Mission and Histories of Inequality in a Religiously Diverse City". Internationaler Workshop "Medical Diversity and Its Spaces", Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen: 28.3.-29.3.2011.

2010. "Heavenly Action: Religion, Class and the 'Failures' of AIDS Activism in Urban Tanzania". Keynote Lecture bei der Summer School "Religion, AIDS, and Social Activism in Africa", Kampala, Makerere University: 05.-09.07.2010.

2010. "Ungleiche Geschichte(n): Christliche & muslimische Bildungseinrichtungen in Ostafrika im Kontext geopolitischer Transformationsprozesse". Ringvorlesung "Spaces in Motion. Regional and Transregional Dynamics  in a Multipolar World". Freie Universität Berlin, Center for Area Studies: 24.06.2010.

2010. "Religion macht Staat: Transsäkulare Verflechtungen und religiös motivierte Entwicklung im urbanen Tansania". Vortragsreihe "Afrikanisches Echo", veranstaltet vom Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig und Institut für Ethnologie der Universität Leipzig: 06.01.2010.

2009. "Religion, Staat und Bildung: Christliche und muslimische Schulen in Dar es Salaam, Tansania". Ethnologisches Kolloquium der Universität Bayreuth: 15.12.2009.

2008. "Religion, the Virtue-Ethics of Development and the Transnationalization of Health Politics in Neoliberal Tanzania”. Workshop "Regimes of care, relations of care: anthropological perspectives on the changing order of public health in Africa"; University of Cambridge, Department of Social Anthropology and African Studies Centre: 7. Juni 2008.

2008. “Tradition in Disguise: The Politics and Science of Religious Healing in Urban Tanzania”. Workshop “Religious Engagements with Disease Past and Present”; University of Copenhagen: 28.-29. April 2008.

Berlin Southern Theory Lecture