Research Programme on Religious Communities and Sustainable Development

Prof. Dr. Almut-Barbara Renger

Wangari Maathai Distinguished Research Fellow in Religion and Sustainable Development


Studied Classics, German and Comparative Literature, Religious Studies and Philosophical Anthropology at the Freie Universität BerlinStanford University and Heidelberg University. 1991–1992 Erasmus Scholarship at Aristotle University of Salonika, Greece. Master of Arts in 1995 (with honors). 1995–1998 scholarship in the Doctoral Program in Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of Heidelberg. 1998–2001 Lecturer and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Ancient Studies at the University of Greifswald. Completed Doctoral Program in Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of Heidelberg in 2001 (summa cum laude). Subsequently Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor of Latin in the Department of Ancient Studies at University of Greifswald; from 2002 to 2003 Co-chair of the Executive Board of the Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies. 2004 DAAD Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Arezzo/Siena and Rome, Italy.

2005–2008 Assistant Professor of Comparative Studies/Literature (AVL) at Goethe University Frankfurt. 2009 habilitation at Frankfurt with thesis on ancient myths and their transformation in 20th-century cultural contexts; habilitation colloquium on the problem of the genre of Gregory Thaumaturgus’s address to his teacher Origen. Since 2007 Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, 2007–2010/11 Feodor Lynen research project Masters and Disciples at Harvard University. 2010/11–2017 Associate Fellow and Visiting Scholar in the Departments of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and since 2010 Co-organizer of the International Study Group Religion and Literature and its monthly blog HolyLit.

From October 2008 to September 2021 Professor of Ancient Religion and Culture and Their Reception History at the Institute for Religious Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. 2009–2019 Principal Investigator in the Excellence Cluster TOPOI – The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations. 2012–2016 Head of Reasearch Project in the Collaborative Research Center Episteme in Motion. In 2012, 2015 and 2018 short-term Guest Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Vienna. In 2013 Replacement Professor in the division of Comparative Study of Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. In 2014 Replacement Professor in the Interdisciplinary Program for the Study of Religion at the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. 2019–2020 Visiting Professor at the Department of Religious Studies of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Basel, since 2021 teaching in the same insttitution. 2021–2022 Professor of Religion and Society at the Department of Religion Studies, Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, University of Bonn.

Teaching and Research Profile 

Drawing upon a wide range of sources and theoretical perspectives in the fields of religion and literature, Professor Renger’s work focuses on the creation and dissemination of myths, legends, idols and icons in a variety of ancient and modern cultural contexts. Primarily, she is concerned with the Western classical tradition, with numerous articles and books that explore the continuing effects of Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and religion throughout history up to the present day. This work consistently centers on the use of religious and mythological themes and motifs in literary texts, film and popular culture as well as on appropriations, re-mixes and reinventions of ancient religion in modern and contemporary forms of esoteric discourse and lived alternative religion.

Another research area of Prof. Renger investigates transcultural entanglements in the history of religions between Asia, Europe and the U.S. In particular, she is interested in cross-cultural interactions and their impact on religious agency as manifested both in society and literature. Of specific concern in this connection are charismatic figures of authority, their self-conception and attraction to followers, as well as the topics of succession, discipleship and the transmission and transformation of religious knowledge in a globalizing world. Related to this, she specifically examines the encounter of Buddhism and modernity and the genealogy of the current hybrid notions of concepts such as asceticism, mysticism, spiritual exercise, meditation and enlightenment (illumination), which have become part of a global discourse on religion.

Research Collaborations and Study Groups (Selection)

(2009–2019) TOPOI: The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilisations - Cluster of Excellence 264; (2010–present) Cultural Transformations of Buddhism - International Network; (2010–present) Religion & Literature (HolyLit) - International Study Group; (2017–present) CITER - Research Center for Theology and Religion Studies, Catholic University of Portugal.

Funded Research Projects (Selection)

(2001–2005) Europa – Europa: Mythos und Idee (University of Greifswald); (2007–2010) Masters & Disciples: Meister-Schüler-Verhältnisse und ihre Darstellung in Theorie, Literatur und Film (Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation); (2009–2010) Meister-Schüler. Konstanten und Frakturen einer universalen Beziehung (Freie Universität Berlin, Innovationsfonds); (2009–2012) Genealogy, Migration Myths, & Mythotopography (Excellence Cluster TOPOI); (2009–2012) Antike im Film – Gender on Screen (Freie Universität Berlin, Frauen*fördermittel); (2012–2016) Askese in Bewegung: Formen und Transfer von Übungswissen in Antike und Spätantike (SFB 980); (2012–2017) Personal Authorisation of Knowledge (Excellence Cluster TOPOI); (2013–2016) The Reception of Greek and Roman Culture in East Asia (Fritz Thyssen Foundation); (2017–2018) Genealogy and Genetics (Excellence Cluster TOPOI); (2020) Religion, Geschlecht und Sexualität (Freie Universität Berlin, Frauen*fördermittel).

External Affiliations

Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation [Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung]; Alumni-Vereinigung des Instituts für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft der Freien Universität e.V. [Alumni of the Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin]; Deutsche Gesellschaft der Humboldtianer e.V. [German Humboldt Society]; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft (DGAVL) [German Society for Comparative Literature]; Deutsche Vereinigung für Religionswissenschaft (DVRW) [German Association for Religious Studies]; Forum Gender and Diversity Studies (IFGD) [Forum Gender and Diversity Studies]; Gesellschaft für Geistesgeschichte (GGG e.V.) [Scientific Association for Religious and Intellectual History]; Gesellschaft für Historische Anthropologie [Society for Historical Anthropology]; Internationale Vereinigung für Germanistik (IVG) [International Association for German Studies]; Modern Language Association (MLA); TOPOI – The Formation and Transformation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations (Cluster of Excellence).

Editorial Service

(2011–present, Co-editor) Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte / Journal of Religious and Cultural Studies; (2012–present; Editor-in-Chief) Metaforms. Studies in the Reception of Classical Antiquity; (2013–present; Editorial Board) Religion in Austria; (2014–present; Co-editor) Paragrana. Internationale Zeitschrift für Historische Anthropologie; (2019–present; Advisory Board) Studien zu Literatur und Religion / Studies on Literature and Religion.

Books and Special Issues of Journals

Mythos Narziß. Texte von Ovid bis Jacques Lacan, 1999; Narcissus. Ein Mythos von der Antike bis zum Cyberspace, 2002; Mythos Pandora. Texte von Hesiod bis Sloterdijk, 2002; Mythos Europa. Texte von Ovid bis Heiner Müller, 2003; Zwischen Märchen und Mythos: Die Abenteuer des Odysseus und andere Geschichten von Homer bis Walter Benjamin, 2006; Europa – Stier und Sternenkranz. Von der Union mit Zeus zum Staatenverbund, 2009; Performanz von Wissen: Strategien der Wissensvermittlung in der Vormoderne, 2012; Meister und Schüler in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Von Religionen der Antike bis zur modernen Esoterik, 2012; Ancient Worlds in Film and Television. Gender and Politics, 2012; Oedipus and the Sphinx. The Threshold Myth from Sophocles through Freud to Cocteau, 2013; Meditation in Religion, Therapie, Ästhetik, Bildung, 2013; Genealogie und Migrationsmythen im antiken Mittelmeerraum und auf der Arabischen Halbinsel, 2014; Buddhism and Film, 2014; Erleuchtung. Kultur- und Religionsgeschichte eines Begriffs, 2016; Meister und Schüler. Master and Disciple. Tradition, Transfer, Transformation, 2016; Körperwissen: Transfer und Innovation, 2016; Pythagorean Knowledge from the Ancient to the Modern World: Askesis, Religion, Science,2016; Religion und Literatur. Konvergenzen und Divergenzen, 2017; Buddhismus im Nationalsozialismus, 2017; Sukzession in Religionen. Autorisierung, Legitimierung, Wissenstransfer, 2017; Übungswissen in Religion und Philosophie, 2018; Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia, 2019; New Antiquities: Transformations of Ancient Religion in the New Age and Beyond, 2019; Buddhismus. 100 Seiten, 2020.