The plurality of academic disciplines and the diversity of research fields in the field of religious sciences often hinder interaction between teachers and researchers of the same university, especially when the institution groups together several thousand individuals. This is certainly the case at the University of Strasbourg (2,755 teacher-researchers, 35 faculties, 71 research units), which has a large pool of researchers working in the sciences of religions (more than in the Section des Sciences religieuses of the École pratique des hautes études de Paris) but has never succeeded in bringing them together, at least until now.
However, there has been no lack of attempts in the history of the university. In their time, Prosper Alfaric (1876-1955) and Marcel Simon (1907-1986), both professors of comparative history of religions, had some success when they respectively gathered their colleagues around the question of religions and created the Centre de recherches d'histoire des religions within the Faculty of Historical Sciences, which allowed Unistra to become "one of the main centers for the study of religious ideas and systems" in France1.
By focusing on religions, the HiSAAR ITI will finally structure the group of teacher-researchers in Strasbourg and thus complement other thematic approaches already existing in France, particularly in Paris. For example, the Labex RESMED (Religions and Societies in the Mediterranean World), supported by the Sorbonne Community of Universities and Institutions since 2011, addresses the diverse themes of conversion, sanctification and destruction of sacred spaces, philosophical conceptions against Christianity, medicine, music, culinary traditions and even law. The Labex HASTEC (History and Anthropology of Knowledge, Techniques and Beliefs), supported by the École pratique des hautes études since 2011, analyzes the historical correlation between knowledge, techniques and beliefs from antiquity to the 21st century. Within the framework of the HiSAAR ITI, it will develop a historical-critical, comparative and anthropological approach to the religious phenomenon by drawing on the interdisciplinary skills of its members: history, archaeology, philology, anthropology and sociology. Thanks to the scientific wealth of its Strasbourg members, it will be able to consider a vast group of religious systems whose long history is characterized by both doctrinal and spatial interactions (Americas - Europe - Mediterranean - Middle East - South Asia - Southeast Asia - Far East).
Given the quality and quantity of Strasbourg's teacher-researchers participating in the HiSAAR ITI, as well as the support provided by the nearby Rhine network (EUCOR) and European and international networks, this innovative research will be at the forefront of knowledge and know-how in the field of religious studies and will thus open up new perspectives on the understanding and apprehension of the religious phenomenon, including in European societies as spectators and actors.
This interdisciplinary and comparative approach will strengthen the master's and doctoral programs which, until now, have been largely disciplinary and included only one or perhaps two religious systems. The know-how in this field, developed by the Institute of Comparative History of Religions of the Faculty of Historical Sciences and its Master's program since the LMD reform, and supported by sociological and anthropological comparatism, will guarantee the epistemological and methodological processes used in the master classes and the summer and winter schools.
The conferences, workshops and congresses organized within the HiSAAR ITI will give us the opportunity to invite colleagues whose research is highly recognized by the international scientific community, thus contributing to strengthen this pole of attraction for researchers, post-doctoral fellows and undergraduates at local, national, European and international levels.
In the main areas of its axes and transversal themes, the IIT will support surveys and collective projects and will award doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships for research with an interdisciplinary dimension. The ITI will facilitate international research collaboration with partners from the Upper Rhine and beyond.
The valorization and dissemination of research will be a strong concern of the ITI, allowing its influence to extend beyond the academic world. The institute will be endowed with human resources (including technical skills) and dedicated materials in order to produce: a data platform, training tools, pedagogical manuals, open and massive online courses (MOODLE), notably for secondary school teachers and other professionals impacted by the religious fact (social and health sectors, local communities, etc.) as well as for information and self-training purposes. ) as well as for information and self-training purposes.
As such, the students of the master's program will make both an educational and a productive contribution. Indeed, part of their evaluation (possibly in teams) could be to produce elements for dissemination and outreach purposes - e.g. video clips, multiple choice questionnaires, web pages - the best of which, once validated and modified, would make a significant contribution to this outreach component.
This collective dynamic of researchers will significantly strengthen, diversify, and expand partnerships with local actors involved in local government, social work, prisons, radicalization prevention, health, education, training, culture, volunteer groups, social bonding, and interfaith and interreligious dialogue; these partnerships have already been initiated by several IIT members via research contracts and training initiatives. The ITI will also respond to a growing demand for the popularization of religious sciences and the development of relevant tools. In addition, a close collaboration will be established with the actors of digital humanities in partnership with the National and University Library of Strasbourg (Collex Religious Sciences) and UnivOAK. The ITI HiSAAR will thus be able to benefit from a privileged access to collections of manuscripts and ancient works related to religion, which it will be a question of making known and of developing through its research and the joint organization of conferences.