From Belonging to Belief: Living Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia

In cooperation with Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

14mei2018 17:00 - 18:30


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, Sophie Roche 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 will then respond to the lecture and book: Sophie Roche, deputy professor in social anthropology of Islam, 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.

Sophie Roche is Deputy Professor in social anthropology of Islam at the Goethe University of Frankfurt.

Enno Maessen (moderator) is PhD Candidate at the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES). He is currently finalizing a PhD dissertation on social institutions and urban landscape in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul (1950-1990).


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Location: SPUI25