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Problematizing ‘Muslim Marriages’: Ambiguities and Contestations

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

Starting from public and academic debates on controversial forms of Muslim marriages, our project set out to investigate two sets of practices, first, how particular kinds of Muslim marriages are turned into a problem, and second, how the parties involved enter into, experience and evaluate these marriages. In this horizontally organized research programme all researchers engaged in theoretically informed anthropological fieldwork, with each project cyclical, interactive and partly open-ended. Regular reflective moments allowed for adapting the project to unforeseen insights and developments.
Our highly diverse team of researchers conducted fieldwork in Europe, the Middle East and North-Africa, and in Central and South-East Asia. They have focused on different kinds of unconventional marriages (such as unregistered marriages, mixed-faith marriages, early marriages, political marriages and non-marriage), have engaged with different populations (born Muslims and converts, Sunni and Shia Muslims, non-practicing and strictly practicing Muslims) and have included various forms of mediation, such as internet, legal documents, newspaper reports, rumors, film, and narratives. In the field of theorizing, building on their fieldwork experiences, the researchers have taken part in and contributed to debates about secular governance and the bureaucratization of marriage; ethical-religious positionings and the intersections of marriage with the world of politics; the production, strengthening and subversion of group boundaries; and the materialities of marriages, including its aesthetic forms.
This is a strongly interdisciplinary project. Firmly based in the field of anthropology (including visual and online anthropology), our researchers actively engaged with other fields. Hailing from religious studies, political science, communication studies, Islamic law, medical anthropology, and Arabic studies, our researchers produced a highly dynamic collaborative research environment. With partners from Islamic legal studies, religious and cultural studies, and social work, our work has also contributed to these different fields, as we have published in journals in the fields of anthropology, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern studies, legal studies, Islamic studies, sociology, and women and gender studies.
We have developed a network with over 130 scholars, have organized seven international conferences/workshops in Amsterdam and three international conferences abroad (Cairo, Malta and Leicester). Up to date, we have published more than 20 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and academic edited volumes. We have co-edited three special issues (Journal of Mediterranean Studies, Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, Sociology of Islam), and have two under contract (Hawwa and Contemporary Islam). Currently we are completing two book manuscripts, one under contract with Pittsburg University Press on Shia Marriages, the other a substantial synthesis of our research project. Our auto-ethnographic project has also resulted in Guidelines for Anthropological Research, published in Ethnography (2019).
Our researchers have actively contributed to teaching programs and presented their work at various non-academic sites, have written longer blogposts and brief articles for a more general public. They have produced an exhibition, a documentary film, ‘Marrying Before Allah: Personal Narratives of Converts’, and eight video-portraits of male and female converts in the Netherlands. The documentary has been screened at a wide range of venues, varying from the public library to Muslim self-organizations. Although produced for a general public, it has also been successfully screened at academic institutions in Europe and beyond. Our researchers have also presented their work in the setting where they conducted fieldwork, often in the local language. The responses this invited have been used as input for our academic work.