Research Programme on Religious Communities and Sustainable Development

Carolin Hillenbrand

Carolin Hillenbrand is a doctoral candidate and research associate at the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics" at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) Münster. She is writing her doctoral thesis on the topic: "Religion, a bridge or barrier? The role of religion in social cohesion from an empirical cross-country perspective." For her research project, she receives a doctoral scholarship from the Studienstiftung as well as the Cusanuswerk.

Curriculum Vitae

  • 2016 - 2019

Master of Arts in Political Science (major) and "Christianity & Culture" (minor) at the Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg

  • 2013 - 2016

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (major) and Catholic Theologie (minor) at the Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz

  • 2015 - 2015

Semester abroad at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth (South Africa)


  • 2018 - 2019

Cooperation with the "German Development Institute" (DIE) for the Master Thesis, Bonn

  • 2017 - 2019

Research Assistant at the Chair of International Relations at the Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg

  • 2016 - 2016

Research Associate for the Bachelor Thesis at the "German Corporation for International Cooperation" (GIZ), Eschborn

  • 2015 - 2015

International internship at the NGO "Masifunde Learner Development", Port Elizbaeth (South Africa)

  • 2012 - 2013

International internship at the GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation) in Lima (Peru)


Scholarship for dissertation - Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

Scholarship for dissertation - Bischöfliche Studienförderung Cusanuswerk

Award for the best degree at the Institute for Political Science - Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg

Scholarship for dissertation exposé - Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

Career promotion program for women

Award for the best degree at the Institute for Political Science - Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz

PROMOS-Scholarship for studying abroad - DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)

Scholarship for studies, talent promotion program - Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

Scholarship for studies, talent promotion program - Cusanuswerk


Research Areas
  • Politics and Religion
  • Religion and ecology
  • Research on societal / social cohesion, social capital
  • Sociology of religion, empirical research on religion
  • Empirical methods, statistical regression & multi-level analysis, survey research
  • Mixed Methods
  • International relations, development policy, Global South
  • Peace and Conflict Studies, Transitional Justice, religion and conflict/peace


Doctoral Thesis

Religion, a bridge or barrier? The role of religion in social cohesion from an empirical cross-country perspective


The timeless question of what holds the world, a society together, is particularly urgent in the face of current challenges such as polarization, civil wars, and state collapse. While the factor "religion" is increasingly perceived in the social sciences, there is still a need for research on the empirical analysis of different aspects of religion with regard to the cohesion of countries in a global comparative perspective. Thus, I examine the role of religion for the social cohesion of states worldwide in a multi-level empirical analysis. For that, "social cohesion" is understood as a multidimensional construct that manifests itself in socio-political relations between citizen-citizen (horizontal level) and citizen-state (vertical level). Core dimensions are social/institutional trust, inclusive social/national identification, social/institutional responsibility and social/political engagement. "Religion" is conceptualized at the individual level with the dimensions believing (intensity/content of faith), behaving (private/social religious practice) and belonging (religious affiliation). At the macro level, religious vitality, religious diversity and state-religion relations are examined. For empirically measuring these dimensions, I use data from international surveys (e.g. World Values Survey, International Social Survey Programme) and databases (e.g. World Bank, Pew Research Center, State and Religion Project by J. Fox). The results of my thesis shall make both a scientific and socio-political contribution to a highly topical field.



Articles in Journals

Articles in Edited Books


  • Hillenbrand, Carolin (2020): ‘Religion: a curse or blessing for the socio-ecological transformation? A research design for global cross-country analyses of the role of religion in ecological attitudes and behaviors’. 40. DGS Kongress "Gesellschaft unter Spannung", Digital, 16/09/2020.
  • Hillenbrand, Carolin (2020): ‘The role of citizens’ religion for the cohesion of societies from a global comparative perspective’. ECPR General Conference - Section "Religion and Politics Across Boundaries", Virtual, 24/08/2020.
  • Carolin Hillenbrand (2020): „Religion as bridge or barrier? A cross-country multi-level analysis on the role of religion in the social cohesion of staties with varying level of democracy“. Sicherheit, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft - Theorien und Problemfelder internationaler Politik - 14. IB-Nachwuchstagung Internationale Politik, Akademie für Politische Bildung Tutzing, 12/03/2020.
  • Carolin Hillenbrand (2019): „Religion, contact and xenophobic attitudes in Germany“. Religion & Vorurteil , Universität Leipzig, 05/12/2019.
  • Carolin Hillenbrand (2019): ‘Citizen’s Religiosity and the Cohesion of Society’. Conference "Religiosity in East and West – Conceptual and Methodological Challenges", Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster, 26/06/2019.