Jakob Langen

PhD Project (2022–2024): Constitutional references to God – Religious semantics in a political context. The cases of the German Grundgesetz and the South African Constitution (Research Area National Identity)

  • M. A. Religion and Culture, Humboldt-University Berlin (including a one-year stay at University of Lisbon, Portugal)
  • B. A. Political Science, Free University Berlin (including a one-year stay at University Roma Tre, Rome)
  • One year as a full-time research assistant in the German Parliament
  • Further practical work experience in the European Parliament, the German Federal President’s Office and the German Bundestag

The project proposed aims at an intercontinentally comparative study of the contexts of origin of two cases of religious semantics in the founding documents of self-professed secular states: The references to God in the German Grundgesetz of 1949 and the South African Constitution of 1996.

A historical discoursive-analytical approach will be used to test two hypotheses regarding the possible reasons for the integration of religious thinking into the political process:

Drawing on the social-philosophical thought of Jürgen Habermas and Heike Baranzke, the suggestion that religious semantics deliver articulations of moral intuitions which can’t be expressed otherwise. Connecting this basic premise with the political thought of Ernesto Laclau and Chantalle Mouffe, it will be further investigated to which extent the two constitutional references to God, exactly by representing different aspects of said moral intuition(s), might have fulfilled the role of an “empty signifier”, thus highlighting their potential to integrate discourse and produce hegemony.

The research aims to be sensitive to decolonial and interreligious perspectives and promises insights into the way religion works as situated knowledge in a political context.