Prof. Dr. Susanne Lanwerd

Religious and Cultural Studies

IPU Berlin
Stromstr. 3b - Room 1.10
10555 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 300 117-753
E-Mail: susanne.lanwerd(at)


Ever since studying religionswissenschaft and ethnology at the university I have focused on the history of religion especially from the nineteenth century to the present day as well as on Greek mythology, psychoanalytic positions and processes of constructing the Other. Later I grew interested in gender studies, which brought the exciting opportunity to give a new and different reading of the world, the sciences as well as their “classics” – a reading that even rubs the wrong way or goes against common wisdom. In my masters thesis I discussed, in Montaigne’s sense, “how one learns to die”; in my PhD dissertation I examined fundamental concepts of theology (myth, magic); in my habilitation I analyzed studies on the relationship between symbol and sensuality (the aesthetics of religion). My current research encompasses religion in media as well the theory and practice of aesthetics.

In more recent projects (The Experimental Field of Museology; How to Exhibit Religion) these research findings are also being presented and implemented in exhibitions.  Along with these various themes and foci, I also teach.  In my seminars I regularly address current social dynamics and conflict situations, e.g. image politics or public discourses on Islam, in order to convey religio-historical bodies of knowledge through an examination of their structures. My enthusiasm for both religious studies and psychoanalysis lies in their potential for analytically linking history with the present – and also because large and small things/facts are of equal significance!  I understand both perspectives as highly promising attempts to confront people and things with intellectual curiosity. And my seminars create a space to repeatedly put critical thinking to the test.

Do I have a personal slogan or favorite saying?  There are any number of them – which, depending on my life situation, I might take up or let fall, and I allow for small changes to them.  For instance one saying which I frequently bring to consciousness is Nietzsche’s difference with a sense of well-being.  Favorites of the moment are Hannah Arendt’s thinking without banisters as well as to everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Research Focus Areas

Research Field I (since Fall 2018, intensively as of April 2019)
The Decentration of Religion and Fashion 
Current Exhibitions from the Perspective of a Serendipitous Aesthetic

In 2018 the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City) held the exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, which enjoyed great popularity.  Later in the year an exhibition entitled Contemporary Muslim Fashions was presented in San Francisco; in April 2019 the exhibition, under the same title, came to Frankfurt am Main and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst where it stayed until September.  During this time there were at least three other exhibitions in Europe which addressed the subject of religion and fashion.
With the museal presence of the (unusual) combination of religion and fashion there is being correlated here an extensive inventory of research literature.  Both require a critical working through.  The project seeks to make a contribution to the transcultural critique of religion and in this way can make productive use of the serendipitous-aesthetic approach.

Research Field II (presentation on 7 July 2018 in the IPU’s research forum)
Fragile Alliances
The Fascination of Oceanic Images

Climate research gives the label of “ocean conveyor belt” to a specific deep-sea circulation that is driven by temperature and salinity; this oceanic current shifts thermal energy on a global scale and in this way attempts to bring equilibrium to the global climate.

In societies of the twenty-first century there are people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds living together, this coexistence constantly oscillates between consensus and conflict, and it is often the case that religions function as a marker of difference.  Present social coexistence thus increasingly challenges both an individual’s ability and that of the sociality to abide and configure difference.  Here is where the projected research plans enter in.

Fragile Alliances aims to intervene in the predefinitions.  In contrast to clearly hierarchized difference-relationships as laid out in Enlightenment and religion, reason and belief, the project attempts to communicate indeterminacy, ambiguity and gaps. In view of the consolidation of clear boundaries, the project focuses on processes that (again) make these permeable.


  • Exhibition Images, Voices and Clichés: SS Wardens in Women’s Concentration Camps – Artistic Interventions in the Ravensbrück Memorial Site (2019/2020) in collaboration with students of IPU and the Universität der Künste Berlin and in cooperation with the memorial site’s artistic management and project leaders  
  • “The Urban Sacred: Urban-Religious Arrangements in Amsterdam, Berlin and London” / “How Religion Makes and Takes Place in Amsterdam, Berlin and London”. Kunstmuseum Bochum, 28 February – 3 April 2016; Menier Gallery, London, 12 – 23 April 2016; Kunstraum Bethanien, Berlin, 7 – 22 May 2016, Ignasius Hus, Amsterdam, 4 – 30 June 2016; and online:
  • “Veiled! Scenographical Reconnaissances in the Streets of Neukölln,” an exhibition-situation undertaken together with university students from Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, October 2012 (conception)
  • “New Arrivals: Migration Histories in Berlin Collections – A Laboratory Exhibit,” cooperative project with the Bezirksmuseum Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Stadtmuseum Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin, and the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, 29 January – 27 March 2011
  • “The Language of Commemoration: A History of the Ravensbruck Memorial Site 1945 – 1995” (in collaboration with Sigrid Jacobeit and Insa Eschebach), Ravensbrück memorial site (Germany), November 1999 to May 2010

On the subject of religion and psychoanalysis – since 14 December 2018 publicly available in various formats (, Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Podcasts)

Radio Interview
7 March 2018, Deutschlandradio, the program “Tag für Tag: Aus Religion und Gesellschaft” (“Day by Day: From Religion and Society”), a ten-minute interview on the theme Religion on the Couch: Psychoanalysis at the University