Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 5B

Islam, Art and (Self-)Essentialism

Chair: Erik Meinema (PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Stijlkamer, Janskerkhof 13

‘“I Know What a Muslim Really Is”: The Perceived Need for an Objective Religious Identity Among Western Muslim Young Adults’ – Tarek Younis (Postdoctoral Researcher, Division of Psychiatry, University College London)
This paper explores the process by which Western Muslim young adults develop the need to experience an ‘objective’ religious identity in light of their socio-political circumstances. We interviewed 20 Western Muslim young adults from Montreal, Berlin and Copenhagen within an age range of 18 to 25, exploring their religious identity development. The interviews were semi-structured and open-ended. Thematic content analysis was used to explore patterns in their narratives. Our participants disliked the perceived ethnocentric Muslim identity of their parents, which they sought to ‘purify’ for themselves from ‘cultural contamination.’ There were two important elements underlying their process of religious identity objectification: experience of anti-Muslim rhetoric in public discourse, and exposure to the wide variety of Muslim community practices found in these major cities.

 ‘Disengaging Culturalism: Artistic Strategies of Young Muslims in the Netherlands’ – Bregje Termeer (Institute for Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University)
This paper examines to what extent young Muslims in the Netherlands are able to exit the dominant integration discourse by means of artistic production and investigates what kind of images, stories and subjectivities are generated in the practice of opting out. It analyzes young Muslims’ positionings vis-à-vis the dominant discourse as a process of authorship, which is understood as a process of self-definition and self-realization. The paper will highlight that in this process young Muslim artists in the Netherlands develop subjectivities that resist the form of legibility that is demanded from the dominant discourse, and do not fit within a binary logic that posits the religious against the secular, the allochtoon against the autochtoon, the modern against the backward, etc. However, the paper will also show that these subjectivities are susceptible to being drawn back into the dominant discourse in attempts to be made legible within its parameters.