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Problematizing ‘Muslim Marriages’: Ambiguities and Contestations

Mid-Term Report Summary - MUSLIMMARRIAGES (Problematizing ‘Muslim Marriages’: Ambiguities and Contestations)

Starting with an overview of how particular forms of unconventional Muslims marriages have come to be problematized both in the global North and South, the main focus of ‘Problematizing “Muslim marriages”: Ambiguities and Contestations’ is on concluding marriages as a social process and practice. What kinds of more or less controversial marriage forms and wedding celebration are emerging, who are participating in them, and how are they performed? Particular attention is paid to the intersections of gender and religion, and whether and how new, unconventional marriage forms are authenticated, authorized or contested as Muslim marriages. The wider question this project addresses is what economic, political, religious and cultural work these new Muslim marriages do.
This explorative, qualitative research project is process-oriented and interactive, cyclical rather than linear, and hence partially open-ended. It is grounded in the anthropological tradition of participant observation, with as starting point not a particular category of people, but particular practices. We combine participant observation with more specific methods, that is discourse analysis to understand how particular kinds of marriages are problematized, interviews with experts and activists, topical life story conversations focusing on the conclusion of marriages, and internet research that includes online dating and private online chatting.
We have developed a network of over 120 researchers involved in work on Muslim marriages, have forged relations with relevant research projects abroad, and established an elaborate educational program for our PhD students. We have started research projects in the Netherlands, Kyrgyzstan , Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Ceuta/Spain, Indonesia, Israel, and Tunisia. Fieldwork is conducted by the PI, five – part-time – senior researchers, five Phd students, and three juniors. Currently we are also working together with a visual anthropologist to produce a documentary on the intersection of conversion and marriage in the Netherlands.
The PhD students have all had their substantial pre-fieldwork papers approved by international experts, have presented their research outlines at a Dutch research conference, and are at present almost half-way their fieldwork period. The senior researchers are currently writing up the material. Two papers have been published: One about unregistered Muslim marriages in the Netherlands, contrasting the perspectives of policy makers and the women involved in such marriages and the other (in Anthropology Today) about the marriages of women migrating to IS-held territory in Syria. So far, the main cross-cutting themes that have emerged are processes of problematization, dating/non-dating practices, concluding religious and state-recognized marriages, unregistered marriages and attempts at regulation, and mixed marriages, especially those involving religion and ethnicity. Our work also reaches non-academic audiences through blogposts and presentations for a wider public.