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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 forthcoming book as well as information on research projects and conferences, ongoing and completed PhD supervision, and further select publications. 


“Learning Morality, Inequalities, and Faith: Christian and Muslim Schools in Tanzania” (Cambridge University Press & International African Library, forthc. 2022)

My forthcoming book “Learning Morality, Inequalities, and Faith: Christian and Muslim Schools in Tanzania” has developed from my longstanding interest in religion 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 everyday morality and ethics, religious development and schooling, and inter-religious encounters in Africa, 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; 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 urban Tanzania. 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.

Learning Morality, Inequalities, and Faith: Christian and Muslim Schools in Tanzania (The International African Library)

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

  • Müge Akpinar: ‘In Quest of Lost Remedy': Body, Health and Identity in an Islamic Medicine Inspired Healing Movement in Turkey
  • Lu Chen: The Moving Temples: A Study on the Religious Organizations of Fishermen in the Eastern Part of Tai Lake (Funding: Graduate School East Asian Studies & DAAD)
  • Aslı Gücin: Assimilation by Dispossession: Eco-Political Implications of Transforming the Sacred Nature of Dersim (Funding: Heinrich Böll Foundation & BGSMCS)
  • Liese Hoffmann: Politics and Meanings of School in Post-Colonial, Coastal Kenya
  • Sarah Hartmann: The Role of Islam in the Informal Education Sector – An Ethnographic Study of Private Tutoring Centers in Egypt
  • Binyamin Lawal: Expansion of the Sacred into the Public Space: Spatial Contestation between Muslims and Christians in Plateau State, Nigeria (Funding: DAAD & BGSMCS)
  • Kristina Mashimi: Beyond Classrooms: Education and Ethics in Schools of the Gülen Movement in Tanzania. An ethnographic case study
  • Dauda Abubakar (compl. 2014): "They Love Us Because We Give Them": Zakat, the Distribution of Wealth and the Making of Social Relations in Jos, Nigeria
  • Rosa Cordillera Castillo (compl. 2017): Imagining Violence: Productions of the Subject under Conditions of Violence in Muslim Mindanao
  • Omar Kasmani (compl. 2016): Off the Lines: Fakir Orientations of Gender, Body and Space in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan
  • Nasima Selim (compl. 2018): Learning the Ways of the Heart in Berlin: Sufism, Anthropology, and the Post-Secular Condition (Funding: DAAD)

Research projects:

  • "Governing Religious Diversity in Berlin. Affective Dynamics of In- and Exclusion in Urban Space" (Extension of Project C03 within SFB 1171 "Affective Societies"; PI: H. Dilger, Research Associates: Omar Kasmani, Dominik Mattes; 2019-23). More...
  • "Religious Reform, Faith-Based Development and the Public Sphere in Sub-Saharan Africa (Lagos, Dar es Salaam and Cape Town)" (in Collaboration with Abdulkader Tayob, University of Cape Town; Felician Tungaraza, University of Dar es Salaam, and Marloes Janson, SOAS University of London; Doctoral Students: Fungai Chirongoma, UCT; Mussa Muhoja, UDSM; 2017-20). More...
  • "Embodied Emotions and Affective Belonging in Migratory Contexts: Sufi Orders and Neo-Pentecostal Churches in Berlin" (Project C03 within SFB 1171 "Affective Societies"; PI: H. Dilger, Research Associates: Omar Kasmani, Dominik Mattes). More...


Collaborations and Links:

Select publications (Hansjörg Dilger)

2020. H. Dilger, A. Bochow, M. Burchardt and M. Wilhelm-Solomon (eds.): Affective Trajectories: Religion and Emotion in African Cityscapes. Durham: Duke University Press.

2020. O. Kasmani; N. Selim; H. Dilger; D. Mattes: Elsewhere Affects and the Politics of Engagement across Religious Life-Worlds. In: Religion and Society 11 (1), Theme Section "Elsewhere Affects": 92-104.

2020. Governing Religious Multiplicity: The Ambivalence of Christian-Muslim Public Presences in Postcolonial Tanzania. In: Social Analysis 64 (1), Special Issue "Toward a Comparative Anthropology of Muslim and Christian Lived Religion" (ed. by Daan Beekers): 125-132.

2019. D. Mattes; O. Kasmani; H. Dilger: 'All Eyes Closed': Dis/Sensing in Comparative Fieldwork on Affective-Religious Experiences. In: A. Kahl (ed.): Analyzing Affective Societies: Methods and Methodologies. London: Routledge, 265-278.

2018. H. Dilger; O. Kasmani; D. Mattes: Spatialities of Belonging: Affective Place-Making Among Diasporic Neo-Pentecostal and Sufi Groups in Berlin’s City-Scape. In: B. Röttger-Rössler and J. Slaby (eds.): Affect in Relation: Families, Places, Technologies. London: Routledge, 93-114.

2017. Embodying Values and Socio-Religious Difference: New Markets of Moral Learning in Christian and Muslim Schools in Urban Tanzania. In: Africa – Journal of the International African Institute 87 (3): 513-36.

2014. R. Van Dijk, R., H. Dilger, M. Burchardt and T. Rasing (eds.): Religion and AIDS Treatment in Africa: Saving Souls, Prolonging Lives. London: Ashgate Publishers / Routledge.

2014. 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. H. Dilger, M. Burchardt and R. van Dijk: 'The redemptive moment': ART and the formation of new religious spaces. Introduction. In: African Journal of AIDS Research 9(4): 373-383.

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.

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

SFB 1171 Affective Societies
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture