Problematizing “Muslim Marriages”: Ambiguities and Contestations
ERC-funded Research Project
During the last two decades, in the North as well as in the global South, unconventional forms of Muslim marriages, such as unregistered, visiting, temporary, polygynous, early or late, love or arranged, interreligious and otherwise ‘unequal’ or ‘mixed’ marriages, have become the target of public debate. A wide variety of actors, including state authorities, religious scholars, women’s organisations and parents express concern about youngsters, and especially young and not so young women, entering into such marriages.
In some cases, these forms of marriage are discursively linked to sexual exploitation and religious radicalisation. But how do those involved in these new marriage forms evaluate them? This ethnographic project starts with an investigation of how particular forms of marriage have become problematized and become subject to public debate. Who are the main protagonists, what are their lines of argumentation, and under which conditions did this happen? The main focus is, however, on concluding a marriage as a social practice. What kinds of more or less controversial marriage forms and wedding celebration are emerging, who are participating in them, and how are they performed? Particular attention is paid to the intersections of gender and religion, and whether and how new, unconventional marriage forms are authenticated, authorized or contested as Muslim marriages.
The wider question this project addresses is what economic, political, religious and cultural work these new Muslim marriages do. Neoliberalism has turned livelihood increasingly precarious (linking the marriage crisis to that of the male provider), while neo-nationalism and, more generally, the culturalization of citizenship, has solidified divides between in-groups and out-groups. What kinds of subjectivities and socialities do these new marriage forms produce? How do they shape economic relations, group boundaries, religious ethics, and cultural forms?
Fieldwork is currently conducted in the Netherlands, Central-Asia, Indonesia, and the Middle East / North-Africa. These research sites, linked through the circulation of persons, goods, and ideas, can be productively compared in terms of majority/minority positions, religious traditions, economic and migration histories, state-religion relations, gender structures, and cultural styles.
The project is funded by an ERC advanced grant (PI: Annelies Moors) and hosted at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research.