Dr. Markha Valenta

Locke Hall (C)
Campuslaan 1619
Kamer JJ
3584 ED Utrecht

Dr. Markha Valenta

Universitair docent
Wetenschappelijk Personeel
030 253 9456

* During the spring of 2021, I will be at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) as Urban Citizen Fellow, working on my project "The Citizenship of the Non-Citizen"*

My work takes shape at the intersection of politics, anthropology and history. Its focus is on how the large-scale systems organizing our world – nation-states, racial capitalism and imperial science – entail a complex interdependence of violence and liberation; of often quite brutal state power and human resistance to that brutality; of vicious borders and stubborn human mobility; of dehumanizing exploitation and fierce cultural, aesthetic and intellectual creativity.

My points of entry to these large questions are religion, world cities, race and (geo)politics. In particular, I focus on forms of public religion, citizenship and social movements by denigrated minorities that democratically pressure majoritarian cultures and politics at the level of cities, nation-states and globally. In the process, public religions challenge secular imaginaries; minorities challenge ethno-religious supremacy; and migrants denaturalize borders – making the question of community a difficult, painful engagement central to current events. We are in transition from a world of nation-states to a globalized world society without yet knowing what shape it will take. My work seeks to make sense of this complex and violent process, while pinpointing where our possibilities lie for creating a global open, pluralist society that guarantees dignity, well-being, equality and justice for all. To imagine such a thing is not foolhardy but necessary.

Trained in American Studies, my research is internationally comparative with an emphasis on the US (North America), the Netherlands (Western Europe), and India (South Asia).

In this regard, world cities become especially important. The growing economic significance, socio-cultural dynamism and political innovation in such cities means that they offer not only urban iterations of everyday multi-national, multi-racial and multi-religious ways of life, but also alternatives to a reactive and violent nation-state system. Precisely because these possibilities are only emergent, it is difficult yet essential to grapple with them.

Do world cities offer viable and vital possibilities for the future that nation-states cannot imagine and at moments violently resist and destroy? Can their ethos be translated into institutions and forces powerful enough to constrain states – without destroying what is most valuable in the identities, convivialities, arts and politics of world cities? And how are we to understand the relation between such world cities, the aspirations and limits of democracy, and the variously secular and religious life-ways that would persuade us of what is most vital and most meaningful in life?