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This programme fosters inter and transdisciplinary research into the interplay between religion and other cultural manifestations – past and present.

The focus on “transcendence”, in all its iterations and myriad understandings, allows for a broad scope of perspectives and methodological approaches – historical, theological, linguistic, philosophical, anthropological, and sociological. In doing so, it hopes to stimulate the critical analysis of meaning and meaning-making. The ways in which people look for meaning and grapple with changing structures for understanding the transcendent are a key focus of this research programme.

Climate change, the rapid pace of technological advances, growing radicalization, and increasing poloraization are clear and present threats facing societies and individuals world-wide. How do people face these threats? What role does belief play in how, where, when, and why people address these issues? How have people used beliefs and practices drawn from an understanding of the transcendent in the past? What does the transcendent even mean in our current world? To take just one example, Artificial Intelligence raises pressing questions about sentience and what it means to be human. Are robots conscious? What are the ethical implication of living with them in the future?

This programme seeks to contribute to answering these questions by:

  1. Building a community of researchers from a variety of scientific domains, ranging from anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, literature, classics, heritage, theology, and religious studies who are engaged in research related to meaning, meaning-making, and the search for the transcendent.
  2. Working closely with societal partners to find and help answer questions of relevance in and beyond academia;
  3. Actively developing frameworks to allow for inter-disciplinary cooperation, research, and academic and societal outputs. 

We plan to:

  • Have twice monthly lunch meetings in which we present our research, give feedback on publications, grants, proposed collaborations, and future projects within the programme;
  • Have a monthly reading session in which a “classic” chosen by a programme participant is read ahead of time and discussed;
  • Put on a seminar or workshop at least three times a year. A vital part of this will be the participation of a “real world” practitioner. At least one seminar/workshop will be geared towards a broader/non-academic audience.


This initiative will be supported primarily by a student assistant, who will be in charge of

  • developing an inventory and contact list of affiliated researchers who want to engage in the programme’s activities, these include MA and PhD students.
  • organizing the monthly events and making them known to the affiliated researchers

For matters related to CLUE+ context, we can also rely on the CLUE+ research institute staff, in the persons of Rita van der Schriek-Hermans (policy officer and financial coordinator), Margot Bakkes (student assistant; website and communication) and Bert Brouwenstijn (graphic designer; poster etc.).

Featured Projects

Research Coordinators: Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte and Jessica Roitman

Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolt, Faculty of Religion and Theology,

Jessica Vance Roitman (Faculty of Religion and Theology) is the deputy research coordinator of the Traces of the Transcendent programme. She took on the role when the programme was established in 2022. She is Professor of Jewish Studies and is also active in research on the (Dutch) Caribbean and colonialism. She connects the Religion and Theology Faculty and the Traces of the Transcendent programme’s focus on societal engagement with current challenges such as the legacies of slavery and colonialism, antisemitism, and islamophobia, and minority/majority dynamics in diversifying societies.

Featured Researcher: Vanessa Englert, PhD researcher

Featured Researcher: Vanessa Englert, PhD researcher

As a part-time FRT PhD scholar at the overlap of Management and Spiritual Studies, I apply qualitativemethods to discover what it is like when we have shared spiritual experiences in the office, class room, in doctor’s consultation etc. - termed “collective spirituality in organizational settings.” I am convinced that how organizations are set up should serve human kind to be their full self – including their spiritual side.