New associate professor in the field of religion and society

Jens Köhrsen is joining the Faculty of Theology as an associate professor from July 1. ‘With its Religion and Society degrees, the faculty offers programmes that raise highly relevant questions around the relationship between religion and the broader society’, Köhrsen says.

Jens Köhrsen. Photo
Jens Köhrsen. Photo: University of Basel

Köhrsen grew up in a small town in Northern Germany, close to the sea. In early adulthood, he discovered an interest for religious and ethical questions’ importance for societies.

‘For this reason, I chose sociology as a major and protestant theology and philosophy as minors,’ Köhrsen says.

After finishing his degree, Köhrsen pursued a PhD in sociology of religion. He now wanted to undertake empirical field research, and decided to study the Pentecostal movement in Argentina. Conversations with a Pentecostal flat-mate first sparked his interest for the movement.

‘I found the expressive and emotional style of living and celebrating one’s religion fascinating,’ Köhrsen says.

In Argentina, Köhrsen focused on how the middle class relates to the Pentecostal movement, and he experienced that Pentecostalism can be expressed in different ways.  

‘I observed that middle class churches cultivate a sober style of worship that is less emotional and expressive than that of lower class Pentecostals. Middle class churches ban specific spiritual practices such as exorcisms from their church services, as these could be perceived as inappropriate by the public,’ Köhrsen explains.

Now Köhrsen looks back at his time in Argentina as an enriching experience.

‘But it was also emotionally intense and different from what I had seen before,’ he adds.

Religion and environmental sustainability

Köhrsen undertook his post-doctoral research at the University of Basel in Switzerland after he finished his PhD. Here, he got the opportunity to work on sustainable transformations in cities.

‘I conducted research about how cities manage to become more environmentally sustainable and how actors from different social spheres, such as politicians, researchers and public administrators, participate in these transformation processes,’ Köhrsen says.

A major part of this research relates to the role of religion.

‘I tried to figure out in what ways religious actors and eco-spiritual worldviews contribute to these urban transformations.’

Conducting field research in this project, Köhrsen could see how cities seek to restructure themselves and how different actors grapple with these transformations, pursue different interests, and try to enforce their own transformation agendas, which again can lead to local conflicts.

‘When I focused on religious actors, I was able to witness how they try to increasingly engage in these power games,’ Köhrsen says.

Even though Köhrsen has finished his post-doctoral research project, he will continue his work on religion and environmental sustainability in the time ahead.   

‘The Faculty of Theology and the University of Oslo are great places to work on sustainability and on the changing role of religion in modern societies, as many excellent colleagues are working on these subjects,’ he says.

Eager to meet students and colleagues

Köhrsen’s first day at the Faculty of Theology is coming up soon, and he looks forward to stimulating research and teaching collaborations. In addition to this, he is also excited to meet his students when the fall semester begins:

‘There are many fascinating topics about the changing role and status of religion(s) in modern societies we can address,’ Köhrsen says and continues with a few examples:  

‘How do different religious bodies and leaders relate to politics and the public sphere? What is the appropriate place of religion in public and political debates of modern societies? I look forward to meet the students and to discuss these and other questions with them!’  

By Marie R. Midtlid
Published June 23, 2021 11:18 AM - Last modified June 23, 2021 2:28 PM