Is this the Theology Library or the Catacombs? Refugee Research in Vienna, Austria

My summer of research and study began on May 23, and I have not stopped reading, writing, and interviewing since. Because my project is focused on understanding how Christian refugees perceive of crisis, theology, and faith, I have been spending my time working with local Christian organizations here in Vienna. My days tend to follow a common pattern: my mornings are filled with readings on the political and social state of Iran, Afghanistan, and the European Union, my afternoons are spent preparing for or transcribing interviews, and my evenings are spent pouring over Christian theological works.

Researching in a foreign country is defiantly a beautiful adventure. Cathedral spires grace the skyline. Coffee shops are my home-away-from-home. The massive gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn are always a welcome place to walk, think, and ponder. But the library system here is a bit odd. Of course, research means books and articles, but tracking down books in a foreign country is a bit like a scholarly scavenger hunt.

I went to the main university library to apply for a library card, and then I made my way across the city to the Theology Library. This is where the adventure begins! I had written down the call numbers for the books that I needed, but figuring out the filing system was quite confusing. In the Theology Library, they file books first according to subject, then the book is given a letter, followed by a number, followed by a decimal, followed by a fraction, followed by a color—whew. And to make things more adventurous, they keep all of the shelves and stacks of books in individual chambers (or rooms) in the cellar of the Theology Library. Nevertheless, I was able to find all of the books that I needed!

The joy of finding theology books!

The joy of finding theology books!

I know that the reminder of my time here in Vienna will be just as exciting. I am currently wrapping up the interview portion of my research, and I will move to a more “critical phase,” where I will analyze the theological trends found in the interviews that I have conducted with local Christian refugees. I am also beginning to draft a paper that I will present at the Baptist World Alliance Annual Meeting in Zürich, Switzerland in July. I cannot wait to see where the research leads me!


  1. aswhitlock says:

    Your research sounds very interesting, especially considering contemporary events. As I just finished up the portion of my research conducted at archives in England, i can relate to the struggle of figuring out foreign library systems. In regards to your interviews, how are you approaching the interview process? Do you have a set of general questions for each interview or do you have more tailored questions for each respective interview? I find the interview portion of your research extremely interesting, as with my research (First World War), I am having to rely on interviews conducted in the 1960s-1990s. Good luck with the rest of your interviews and enjoy your time in Vienna!