VDTR Praedoc University Assistants

The promotion of excellent young scholars from various theological and religious studies disciplines contributes significantly to making the VDTR internationally visible. Our Prae-Docs come different disciplines and have prevailed in competitive application procedures against a large number of international applicants.

Muhammad Bilal

»It is an honor to be a part of the VDTR, a distinguished academic institution that provides a unique opportunity to connect with students from diverse fields of research. My dissertation will greatly benefit from the transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary clusters facilitated by the VDTR, ultimately fostering my growth as a diligent researcher.«

As of 01 July 2023, Muhammad Bilal has started his work as VDTR Prae-Doc. Muhammad Bilal studied Islamic sciences (Dars-i Nizami) at Madrasa (institute of traditional Islamic sciences). He holds a master's degree in comparative History from Central European University Budapest. His research focus at CEU revolved around 19th-century Sufi Jihad movements in North Africa, specifically exploring the concept of jihad in Abd al-Qadir’s (1808–1883) thought.

Based on the theory of “Habitus” by Pierre Bourdieu, Bilal intends to explore the process of identity transformation within the Madrasas in Pakistan. By employing discourse analysis and participant observation, he seeks to explore the intricate interplay between the syllabus and the social milieu of madrasa in shaping the identities of the students of madrasas. Drawing from his personal experience as a madrasa graduate, he aspires to provide an insider's perspective and amplify the voices of students of Madrasas within contemporary academic discourse.

Martin Eleven

» A special feature of the VDTR that appeals to me in particular is the opportunity to network with doctoral students from different fields of studies on religions, as well as the opportunity to draw on the expertise of numerous supervisors to enhance the profile of my own dissertation.«

Martin Eleven studied Philosophy and Advanced Theological Studies in Vienna. From 2018 to 2022, he worked at the research centre "Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society" (RaT, University of Vienna), where he took on the administration of personnel and financial matters as well as editorial tasks for the RaT book series. Of particular research interest for him are religious-philosophical questions in the light of postmodern theories and current psychoanalysis. As a young scientist, it is particularly important to him to make a contribution to scientific discourse at the interface of religion and society.

Based on Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of the body and the flesh, his doctoral project aims to explore the theological topoi of Creation, Shekinah and Incarnation. For doing this he will undergo an innovative reading of selected biblical texts and show their genuinely affective dimension.

Chris Uwe Gamrot

»The role of the VDTR as an interdisciplinary vehicle allows me, in addition to a lively trans- and interdisciplinary exchange, to examine my work within the spectrum of a broadly conceived field in order to generate future-oriented research.«

Chris Gamrot is a PhD student at the University of Vienna specializing in Jewish studies. Previously he studied political science (MA) and Jewish studies (MA) in Regensburg & Vienna with a focus on the compatibility of religion and democratic systems. He concentrated on the countries of the Middle East and took into account the EU's Mediterranean policy regarding the state of Israel, as well as the ongoing Middle East conflict. Other research interests are the EU's Economic and Monetary Union and the Central Eastern and Eastern European region.

His thesis deals with the two major thematic blocks of conversion and martyrdom in the context of Jewish history of ideas, using the famous narrative of Ger Tsedek Walentyn Potocki (Abraham ben Abraham), set in 18th century Poland-Lithuania, as a case study. For this purpose, all available texts dealing with the incident will be analysed and related to each other, taking into account the conversion theory according to Lewis Rambo as well as theoretical studies on the topic of martyrdom and its Jewish counterpart, Kiddush ha-Shem. In a further step, the Potocki texts are compared with common Jewish-Rabbinic conversion and martyrdom stories and examined for similar structural, linguistic and narrative elements.

Alisha Saikia

»Being a part of the VDTR is an amazing opportunity for me to pursue my research and benefit from the abundant resources, networks of scholars and esteemed faculty that this institution has to offer.«

Alisha Saikia is a doctoral student in the Religious Studies Department, University of Vienna. She holds a BA in sociology (2010), an MA in East Asian studies (2012), and an M.phil in Japanese studies (2014), all from the University of Delhi, India. She also holds an MA in Religious studies from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, where she was a Monbukagakushō Fellow. Her research in Japan focused on Japanese religion and popular culture (Kyara in Japanese Religious Spaces) where she looked at the embeddedness of kyara, or mascots, in certain religious spaces in Japan and the impact on the practice of religion in those spaces.

Her current dissertation project is on studying dolls from a religious studies perspective, where she explores the field of doll collecting and doll making as alternative means of meditation, healing and spirituality. Apart from being an avid doll collector herself, she also enjoys traveling, singing, cooking and dabbling in slam poetry.

Sabine Wolsink

»It is a great opportunity to become part of the rich interdisciplinary and internationally orientated research environment of the VDTR. The opportunities for exchange and cooperation with other PhD candidates and faculty will hopefully help me to develop as a researcher and to contribute to academia.«

Sabine Wolsink works as a university assistant (pre-doc) in Protestant systematic theology. She is from the Netherlands and studied historical, literary, and cultural studies with minors in theology in Nijmegen, Amsterdam, Leiden and Halle/Saale (Germany). Recently she worked as a research fellow at the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle. Her main research interest is 19th century Dutch and German theology and its relation to contemporary questions on transcendence, subjectivity, religion and art in liberal theology, as well as radical and postmodern theologies.

Her PhD project deals with the 19th-century Dutch intellectual Allard Pierson (1831-1896), who resigned as a church minister and became a professor in art history and aesthetics, in relation to the contemporary postsecular discourse. The research thereby questions the concept of religion beyond merely institutionalised and dogmatic forms and in relation to hermeneutics, transcendence, and art.