Dr Marjo Buitelaar will be appointed as Professor of Contemporary Islam in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen as of 1 September 2016. Her research and teaching will continue to focus on ‘Islam in everyday life’ (the manifestation and significance of religion in the daily lives of Muslims), as was the case in her previous position as Associate Professor of the Anthropology of Islam. Her research will concentrate on the ritual practices of Muslims in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands.
In her capacity as Associate Professor, Buitelaar conducted various research projects on Islam in daily life and identity formation of Muslims: ‘In the past, I studied how practices and meanings of the fasting month Ramadan for Muslims in Morocco tie in with local gender relations and conceptions of femininity and masculinity. In a similar vein, I studied the significance of the hammâm (public baths) for women in Morocco, and later for women in the Netherlands. Another project concerned a biographical research into the impact of social mobility on the identity of highly educated women of Moroccan descent in the Netherlands. Presently, I’m leading a research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) investigating the trens in pilgrimage practices to Mecca during the current era of increasing globalization, and the significance of the pilgrimage to the religious views and identity of Muslims today, particularly in Morocco and the Netherlands.’
The new chair in Contemporary Islam has been established as a means of ensuring that teaching and research in the field of ‘Islam in every day life’ receive the attention and facilities they warrant. Approaching the subject from various angles, research projects related to the chair will investigate how, in the current globalized world, various cultural contexts and balances of power are reflected in the religious views and practices of Muslims. The emphasis will be on ethnographic field work. Marjo Buitelaar explains why teaching and researching evereday Islam is so important right now: ‘The current strong social focus on political Islam and radicalization makes it important to acquire and provide more information about how for the majority of Muslims, Islam is first and foremost a source of ethical guidance, personal inspiration and comfort in their daily lives, rather than an incentive for political activism and violence. My own research concentrates on the ritual practices of Muslims in Europe, particularly Dutch Muslims.’
In her new position
as a full professor, Buitelaar intends to continue developing the research line ‘religion in daily life’. ‘One of the ways I want to do this is by involving students in research into the part played by religion when people from different cultural backgrounds try to develop a sense of community in major cities. Questions could include: What is the role of religion in the daily contact between people in the semi-public domain? What are people’s views on the ‘moral capital’ of fellow-residents with different faiths? A PhD research project into the ‘civic integration’ of Syrian refugees in the Netherlands is about to start, which I am supervising together with Professor Halleh Ghorashi from VU University Amsterdam. I hope to be able to expand this research with projects investigating how and where religion helps or hinders refugees in their efforts to start a new life in the Netherlands.’
In the wake of her promotion, Marjo Buitelaar has also been asked to become Director of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. ‘This will involve new duties, and I’m looking forward more direct, intensive contact with Research Master’s students and PhD candidates from our Faculty. It will not affect the content of my current work, but I do feel an increased responsibility on behalf of the Faculty to help to provide adequate information about Muslims,’ says Professor Buitelaar.
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