Beyond ‘Religion versus Emancipation’. Gender and Sexuality in Women’s Conversions to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Contemporary Western Europe

In post-9/11 Western societies and academic debates, the notion that religion and women’s emancipation are fundamentally conflicting has regained plausibility. Consequently, women’s deliberate religious conversions are a pertinent academic, religious and socio-political issue. In face of this religion/emancipation paradox, this research project will apply interdisciplinary methods to study women’s processes of conversion as the acquisition of new religious subjectivities in which gender and sexuality play a formative role.

  • Project leader: Prof. Anne-Marie Korte
  • Duration: June 2016 - May 2021
  • Funding: NWO
Parables and the Partings of the Ways

Parables are short religious narratives based on situations from daily life. This study compares the parables of Jesus with those of the rabbis, both being rooted in a shared narrative culture. Central to the course is the question of why Christendom canonised the parables, so creating a fixed collection, while the rabbis continued to create new ones.

Contested privates: homosexuality and religion

Religion and homosexuality are often regarded as irreconcilable. This research analyses the polarisation in political debates and popular culture and compares the current situation in the Netherlands with recent history in Serbia, Spain and Sweden.

Currents of Faith, Places of History: Religious Diasporas, Connections, Moral Circumscriptions and World-making in the Atlantic Space, (CURRENTS)

The transatlantic slave trade led to religious diasporas in America and Europe in which the spirit world plays an important role. For their followers, these spirits form a link with their African forefathers and so must be cherished as living heritage. Christians on the other hand – and in particular members of Pentecostal churches – see them as dangerous demons that must be eradicated. This sub-project at Utrecht University explores the complex attitude towards these spirits in the Netherlands and Brazil.

  • Project leaders and partner institutions: Prof. Birgit Meyer, Ruy Blanes (University of Lisbon/University of Bergen), Dr David Berliner (Universiteit van Brussel), Dr Ramon Sarro (Oxford University)
  • Project members: Dr Markus Balkenhol, Dr Bruno Reinhardt
  • Duration: 2013-2016
  • Financed by HERA 
Iconic Religion. How Imaginaries of Religious Encounter Structure Urban Space (ICOREL)

Religion is clearly present in the public space. Apart from characteristic historical buildings such as Christian churches, in the wake of the advancing cultural and religious diversity the cityscapes of cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and London are now strongly influenced by the visible presence of new religious communities. This project analyses the discussions surrounding these transformations in a comparative perspective. In addition to academic research, this project is working together with photographers from the Folkwang Universität der Künste (Essen) to organise an exhibition of photographs of iconic locations in the three cities.

  • Project leaders and partner institutions: Prof. Birgit Meyer, Prof. Volkhard Krech (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Prof. Kim Knott (Lancaster University)
  • Project member: Daan Beekers MSc
  • Duration: 2013-2015
  • Funding: HERA 
Faultline 1700. Early Enlightenment Conversations on Religion and the State

How did accepted views on the true nature of religion, and on its proper relation to the state, assume a new shape around 1700? This project studies how the early Enlightenment produced a radical rethinking of ‘true religion’, in a time when societal authorities generally upheld the orthodoxies of the established churches, and discouraged open debate on the foundations of their legitimacy.

  • Principal investigators: Dr Jo Spaans and Prof. Wiep van Bunge (EUR)
  • Project members: Dr Jetze Touber, Dr Henri Krop (EUR), Trudelien van ‘t Hof, Frank Daudeij (EUR)
  • Partner: Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Duration: 2010-2015
  • Funding: NWO
Habitus and Habitats. Politics and Aesthetics of Religious World-Making

Generally speaking research into Christianity and Islam in Africa (and elsewhere) takes place in separate circuits, as a result of which the multi-religious field as a whole is barely examined. This project aims to create a new conceptual framework for the comparative study of Muslims and Christians in urban settings. 

  • Project leader: Prof Birgit Meyer
  • Project assistants: Murtala Ibrahim, Hanna Nieber
  • Duration: 2012-2017
  • Located in the Zentrum Moderner Orient
  • Funding: Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (Anneliese Maier-Forschungspreis 2012 for Birgit Meyer)