Research at ZRWP

The research at the ZRWP focusses on interactions between religion, economy, politics, and the public sphere. The Centre includes different Universities and research groups, each with their specific research foci. Research at the University of Basel focusses on the relationship between economy and religion. The team places a particular emphasis on the role of religious and grassroots actors in sustainability transitions. Research groups at the other universities address politics and religion (Lucerne) as well as media and religion (Zurich).

Research at ZRWP Basel

Research Team Excursion

Parts of the research team on an excursion in the Swiss Alps in 2021: Prof. Jens Koehrsen, Lasse Kos, Nadine Brühwiler, Fabian Huber, Anabel Da Pra, Ann-Lea Buzzi and Julius Malin (from left to right)

Research at the Centre in Basel focuses on topics related to religion, sustainability transitions and grassroots innovations.

Research at the ZRWP in Basel includes the following areas:

  1. Religion and Environmentalism (e.g. ARG project)
  2. Social coordination in sustainability transitions (e.g. EVIST project)
  3. Religion and development in the Global South(e.g. fellow program below)


Ongoing research projects

The team at the University of Basel currently conducts two SNF-funded research projects under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen.

  1. Ecovillages as Incubators of Sustainability Transitions(EVIST): This project examines if and how ecovillages are able to diffuse their sustainable innovations to their local social environments.  
    Please find more information about the EVIST Project
  2. Are Religions Becoming Green? (ARG): This project investigates the role of religious communities in sustainability transitions.
    Please find more information about the ARG Project

In addition to being involved with both of the above projects, Julius Malin is conducting doctoral research on sustainable Christian agriculture in the United States, supervised by Prof. Jens Koehrsen and Prof. Max Bergman.

Finished research projects

The finished research projects at the ZRWP include:

For a full list of projects, please see:


This research area investigates the role of religion for development with a focus on Faith Based Organisations and Pentecostalism.

We examine the role of Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) in the context of international development. FBOs are Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). However, they differ from secular NGOs due to their relationship with a religious tradition. The fellow program “Religion and Development” has studied the potentials and challenges of Faith Based Organisations. We have published two edited volumes on this topic: “Faith Based Organisations in Development Discourses and Practices” and “Does Religion make a Difference? Religious NGOs in International Development Work”.

The rapid expansion of Pentecostalism in the Global South may have an impact on the socio-economic development of the given countries. Scholarship supposes that Pentecostalism has a disciplining effect on its members: Pentecostals are encouraged to work hard, be honest, punctual, and abstain from alcohol and gambling. Hence, researchers often assume that Pentecostalism enables its members to accommodate to the changing socio-economic structures (e.g. neo-liberal capitalism) and thus eases upward social mobility. Yet, critics point to its limitations, suggesting that Pentecostalism does neither promote social upward mobility nor facilitate accommodation processes to Western modernity. Drawing upon this research debate, we study the role of Pentecostalism within social transformation processes in the Global South.  

Researchers: Prof. Dr. Andreas Heuser; Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen; Dr. Claudia Hoffmann


  • Heuser, Andreas. 2013. ““Refuse To Die in Poverty”: Armutsüberwindung und Varianten des Wohlstandsevangeliums in Afrika.” Theologische Zeitschrift 69 (1/2): 146–71.
  • Heuser, Andreas, ed. 2015. Pastures of Plenty: Tracing Religio-Scapes of Prosperity Gospel in Africa and Beyond. Studien zur interkulturellen Geschichte des Christentums volume 161. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition.
  • Heuser, Andreas; Koehrsen, Jens (ed.) (2020) Does Religion Make a Difference? Religious NGOs in International Development Work, Zurich/Baden-Baden: Nomos, ISBN: 978-3-8487-6706-9.
  • Hoffmann, Claudia: The Roots of Christian Motivated Development Work. A Theological Perspective, in: Anthropos Special Issue, 2019, pp. 23–39.
  • Koehrsen, Jens. 2016. Middle Class Pentecostalism in Argentina: Inappropriate Spirits. Leiden/Boston: Brill; open access:
  • Koehrsen, Jens. 2017. “When Sects Become Middle Class: Impression Management among Middle-Class Pentecostals in Argentina.” Sociology of Religion 78 (3): 318–339.
  • Koehrsen, Jens; Heuser, Andreas (ed.)(2020) Faith Based Organizations in Development Discourses and Practices, London: Routledge, open access:

Sustainability transitions involve different types of actors: politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, local authority employees, engaged citizens. These actors come from different spheres (e.g. politics, academia, business). Accordingly, they have diverse aims (e.g. votes, economic gains, academic publications), operate in accordance with specific norms and use their own terminologies. Despite these differences, these actors must attune themselves to one another to facilitate encompassing transition processes. This research area investigates these mechanisms of coordination and collaboration and analyses them with the aid of social science models (e.g. boundary work, field models, regional innovation systems).

Researchers: Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen, Dr. Rebeca Roysen, Lasse Kos, Nadine Brühwiler

Ongoing research project
Ecovillages as Incubators of Sustainability Transitions(EVIST): This project examines if and how ecovillages are able to diffuse their sustainable innovations to their local social environments.  Please find more information about the EVIST Project here.


  • Koehrsen, Jens. 2017. “Boundary Bridging Arrangements: A Boundary Work Approach to Local Energy Transitions.” Sustainability 9 (424).
  • Koehrsen, Jens(2018) “Exogenous shocks, social skill, and power: Urban energy transitions as social fields“, in: Energy Policy 117, p. 307–315;
  • Koehrsen, Jens; Huber, Fabian (2021) “A field perspective on sustainability transitions: The case of religious organizations”, in: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions40, p. 408–420,