From Belonging to Belief: Living Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia
In cooperation with Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
How do people in the small post-Soviet town of Bazaar-Korgon, Kyrgyzstan, explore, debate and live Islam? How can insights from fieldwork in the region help us understand practices of religion and secularism, far away, and close to home? With: Julie McBrien, Michael Kemper and Sarah Bracke.
In From Belonging to Belief. Modern Secularisms and the Construction of Religion in Kyrgyzstan Julie McBrien explores varying practices of Islam, discourses of extremism, and the role of the state, to explain the everyday experiences of residents in the town Bazaar-Korgon. Based on years of fieldwork, she shows how Islam is explored, lived, and debated in both conventional and novel sites. McBrien demonstrates the ways that Soviet atheism and post-Soviet secularism have impacted how Muslims interpret and live Islam in Central Asia from the kind of rituals they participate in to the ideas about Islam they articulate. Ultimately she argues that religion is not always a matter of belief— sometimes it is essentially about belonging.
First, anthropologist Julie McBrien will outline some of the insights from her book and her fieldwork. Two speakers, a historian and sociologist, will then respond to the lecture and book: Michael Kemper, historian of Islam in the former USSR, followed by Sarah Bracke, expert on secularism and Islam in Europe.
About the speakers
Julie McBrien is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and director of the AISSR research program group 'Globalizing Culture and the Quest for Belonging'. She is currently co-coordinator and Senior Researcher in the ERC funded program ‘Problematizing Muslim Marriages’.
Sarah Bracke is Associate Professor of Sociology of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Amsterdam. Bracke has written extensively about gender, religion (Islam and Christianity), secularism, and multiculturalism in Europe, with a focus on questions of subjectivity and agency.
Michael Kemper is professor and chair of Eastern European Studies. His major field of expertise is Islam in Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, as well as the history of Oriental Studies in Europe. Kemper studied Slavic and Islamic and Oriental Studies at Bochum University, Germany.
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