Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 2A

Religion, Gender and Sexuality

Chair: Lieke Schrijvers (PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21

‘Towards a More Inclusive “Dutchness”: Learning From the Intersections Between Religion, Gender and National Identity after Conversion to Islam’ – Eva Midden (Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Cultural Studies, Utrecht University)
This paper aims to investigate the relationship between religion and national identity through the experiences of female converts to Islam. Gender is essential in this conjuncture, as many national, religious and secular markers are gendered and, most of the time, specifically focused on women and their bodily practices. Through a literature review and discussion of preliminary interview results, it will be discussed how female converts negotiate their multiple belongings, especially with regard to the relationship between religion and national identity. The focus is not on self-understanding of converts, but on in/exclusion of Muslims as minority within European nations. The final aim is to explore options for more inclusive interpretations of ‘Dutchness’, in order to counter the idea that Islam and ‘Dutchness’ are not compatible.

‘Negotiating Sexuality in the Netherlands: The Dilemma of Religious Minorities of African Descent’ – Amisah Zenabu Bakuri (PhD Candidate, Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam)
This paper explores how debates on migration problematize the role of religion and ‘tradition’, particularly in relation to gender and sexuality. In this regard, religion and tradition are seen to promote unsafe practices and thus serve as sources of “taboos”. These feed into the self-representations of individuals with migrant background in the Netherlands. In this study, we focus on migrants who are predominantly Muslims and Christians from Somali and Ghana respectively. We explore how they have internalised and appropriated particular stereotypes about issues of gender and sexuality, and developed counter-stereotypes about what is “African” and “Dutch” sexuality. This paper shows how migrants make efforts to portray their personal, collective identity and correct popular perceptions by providing images of themselves, their religion, and sexual well-being. Therefore, the study looks at stereotyping and self-representation of these migrants in the Netherlands regarding issues of religion, secularism, sexuality and gender.

‘The Mipsterz Debate: Muslim Women’s Online Self-Representation’ – Laura Mora (PhD Candidate, Media Communications and Culture, Keele University, UK)
My PhD project analyses Muslim women’s fashionable self-representations and explores discourses of empowerment in discursive contexts characterised by postfeminism, neoliberalism and Islamophobia. The tidal surge of Islamophobia and associated political debates have arguably added pressure on (predominantly young) Muslim women to represent themselves online in ways that counter existing stereotypes. A pertinent example is the Mipsterz video (December 2013), which sparked heated debates on social media between Muslims who either cheered how the ‘hipness’ and ‘normalcy’ of the women in the video counters Islamophobic stereotypes, or critiqued its assumption that ‘hipness’ is the new equivalent for ‘emancipated’ or ‘moderate Muslim’ (Saeed, 2013). These debates demonstrate that, for some, Muslim women’s new ways of self-representation could be perceived as activist and empowering acts, while at the same time one could argue that these new visual codes are based on consumerism, self-branding, microcelebrity and individual remaking of subjectivity, which depoliticises women’s issues.