Why the world needs anthropology of religion

by Thijl Sunier According to Dutch media, the Netherlands has reached a milestone these days. For the first time in history, the country has a majority of inhabitants who are ‘non-religious’. This is how journalists summarised the outcomes of a recently published report by the Dutch think-tank SCP (Report SCP). It is the third report in a series. The first two were published in 2018 about Christians and Muslims in the Netherlands. The third one focuses on people who are not any more affiliated with ‘traditional’ religious denominations. A smaller part of this category consists of people who are engaged …

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Positioning your position

By Joost Blokker In the picture above, you see me reading along with Hebrew psalms and prayers during a synagogue (shul) service on simchat torah. Simchat torah is a festive day celebrating the reception of the Torah. On this day, shul members actually dance while holding Torah scrolls, and there are even alcoholic drinks available during the service. This was the second time I ever participated in a shul service inside a synagogue building, after joining online Zoom services for half a year during the research period of my master thesis. I was able to practise my Hebrew during online …

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Rethinking difference: Muslim and Christian lives in comparative perspective

Image credit: David Evers, Flickr, Creative Commons. By Daan Beekers, Hansjörg Dilger and Daniel Nilsson DeHanas. In recent decades, the anthropology of religion has produced detailed and diverse insights into the experience of religious groups living in societies across the world. Whereas most efforts to research two such groups in a society have focused on points of interaction, we call for a comparative ethnographic approach. Studies of Christian and Muslim groups in a shared social space will improve our understanding not only of these subgroups but of society as a whole. While many in our globalizing world seem preoccupied with …

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Islam Nusantara: Conferentie over een vreedzame Islam.

Door Freek Colombijn. Van 27-29 maart vond in Nederland de “1st Biennial International Conference on Moderate Islam in Indonesia” plaats. De conferentie was georganiseerd door de Nederlandse afdeling van Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). NU is een traditionele, Soennitische beweging in Indonesië, die claimt 40-90 miljoen leden te hebben (de cijfers verschillen nogal). De eerste dag vond plaats op de Vrije Universiteit, waarna de conferentie zich verplaatste naar Den Haag, Leiden en Badhoevedorp. De conferentie was deels een interne NU aangelegenheid, maar had vooral op de eerste dag een duidelijke boodschap aan de buitenwereld. De Islam is groter dan het Midden-Oosten en, …

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Aesthetics or Ethnography? Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

By Matthias Teeuwen            When one thinks of a Muslim artist in the Netherlands one naturally thinks of someone who, with his or her art, tries to address issues of integration, tensions between Islam and secularism or the clash between Islamic and western society. Because that is what art by Muslims in the Netherlands is supposed to be about. Right? In last week’s AALS lecture Dr. Bregje Termeer came to talk to us about her dissertation research on artistic strategies of young Muslim artists living in the Netherlands. What she discovered was that these artists did not subscribe to the definition …

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What war? Whose war?

By Thijl Sunier            The day after the attacks in Paris, the French President François Hollande declared war to Islamic State. In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte also declared that ‘we are now at war’. Not with Islam, he added. What bewilders me is that these declarations suggest that we are only now dragged into a conflict we supposedly have no part in. Baffling and indeed cynical. The Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State are monsters that the West and Russia have co-created in a decades-long struggle for power, influence and resources. This war has already started a long time …

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The here-and-now-after is online: death and afterlife in virtual gaming worlds

“EVE is real. It’s as real as real life,” says a player of the online science fiction game EVE Online on a forum. “I can’t wait until there is technology with which I can upload myself and live in the universe of EVE forever, ” he reflected. By Peter Versteeg    The virtual world as hereafter. Except as a space in which the impossible can happen and players can master dragons or conquer solar systems, the virtual reality of the ‘massively multiplayer online’ game (MMO) touches our imagination of eternity. It is the experience of virtuality itself that evokes images …

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Little room for Jesus in Bethlehem: The situation of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem

By Elizabeth Marteijn. The Palestinian people have usually been associated with Islam. People often think of politically dominating groupings like Fatah and Hamas. However, those who visit the Palestinian town Bethlehem at the Westbank, a town world famous as the birthplace as Jesus, will sooner or later be confronted by the facts: Christianity is evidently present in Bethlehem. In the centre of Bethlehem, the towers of different church denominations flaunt proudly in the sky. This summer I visited Bethlehem to conduct a research, in collaboration with the ‘AEI’ (Arabic Educational Institute), on the Arab Christianity of the Palestinians. In this article, …

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Dancing Bamboo

Another fieldwork 2013 report! By Ulrike Scholtes  Walking up the little hill in Yokohama to reach the studio my Sunday-workshop takes place at, I have to pass a bamboo forest. On sunny days, which are common here in Japan, it looks nicely illuminated, showing all the different shades of brown and green it has to offer. Towards the centre the forest turns extremely dark, but I am still able to see the many rows of bamboo trunks, that appear almost artificially organized. From here I have to walk a few meters straight and turn right at the massive orange tree, …

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