The Structure of Cognitive Minorities


Research project, funded by the German Research Foundation; Duration: 10/2017–09/2020

The objective of this research project is to ascertain – by means of a comparative analysis of cognitive minorities – how people maintain a view of the world that deviates significantly from the one generally taken for granted in their social environment. Using a complementary research design I aim to reconstruct how a distinctive group of religious believers (Evangelical Protestants) in a strongly secular city (Leipzig) defines its reality and how this is done by a group of skeptics and seekers (Unitarians) in a city characterized by evangelical spirituality (Dallas). Adopting a theoretical perspective based on the sociology of knowledge, I assume that definitions of reality are constructed and maintained through permanent interaction between the subjective level of consciousness and the objective level of institutions and shared structures of meaning. For investigating this interaction an ethnographic research design with a Grounded Theory methodology is chosen that combines participant observation with ethnographic interviews. Following up current debates in the sociology of religion, the project is intended, first of all, to make an empirically-based micro-sociological contribution to evaluate the relationship of city, religion and modern society and in this way, secondly, to contribute to the further conceptual development of new approaches to research on the sociology of religion.

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